Lurelle Guild was a prolific industrial designer, producing useful and beautiful objects that modernized the American home spanning from vacuum cleaners to canapé plates. Guild’s usual method was to invent or develop the new product, patent it, and then assign the patent to the manufacturer, charging a fee and royalties. In 1933 and 1934 he designed a variety of bathroom accessories and furniture for the C.F. Church Manufacturing Company of Holyoke Massachusetts that also operated a showroom at 40 West 40th Street in New York. These patented products ranged from a towel stand and a make-up mirror to this vanity stand (Patent No. Des. 91,113) and bench (Patent No. Des. 91,029). A 1933 advertisement for these Church Ensemble Bathroom Furnishings boasted, “At last you can bring beauty into your bathroom piece by piece – knowing that each and all will match perfectly in color, finish, and design.” The ensemble was available in seven color combinations. With this array of consumer products, C.F. Church employed Guild to update the offerings for the bathroom, turning this “forgotten room,” as the advertisement calls it, into a modern coordinated space worthy of consumer attention and investment.
Guild’s appreciation of early American antiques can often be detected in his design decisions. A related patent drawing for a larger “vanity console” in the series shows this “vanity stand” flanked by two quarter-circle segments; this larger furniture form then assumed a half-circle profile similar to that of a Federal card table. The mirror’s raised and lowered positioning even mimicked the opening and closing of a card table’s top.
Guild’s historical references for this series can also be identified in his “Neo-classic bathroom chair” with a V-shaped back splat. The robust stepped outline on the legs of the vanity stand and bench recall the setback profile of a skyscraper and are therefore an update on the slender fluting of furniture legs of the Federal era.
Emily Orr is Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary American Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.