Fancy Chickens & Fine Furniture: The “Mysterious Mr. Limbert” at the National Arts & Crafts Conference

Grove Park Inn

The Grove Park Inn (itself a fascinating example of Arts & Crafts design) is home to the Arts & Crafts Conference organized by Bruce Johnson (Photography by Bill Murphy, Asheville, N.C.).

For someone who built one of the most successful furniture companies of the early 20th century and was a tireless promoter of his company and furniture, surprisingly little is known about the life of Charles Limbert. His obituary in the July 11, 1923, edition of the Grand Rapids Herald noted his “retiring disposition” and cited his “pleasure in quiet pursuits.” One of those hobbies was the raising  of “fancy breeds” of poultry. I’m thrilled to be talking about “The Mysterious Mr. Limbert” at the 2015 National Arts & Crafts Conference in Asheville, N.C. While I won’t dwell on fancy chickens, I will explore what we know of Limbert’s life and the company and furniture he built.

It looks to be a fantastic program with a great mix of speakers, workshops, and vendors in a fascinating venue, the Grove Park Inn (you can read more about the GPI and its astounding collection of Arts & Crafts furniture in Bruce Johnson’s under-appreciated book “Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Furniture” (now out of print, but available on the secondary market). If you do attend, please look me up – I’ll be signing copies of my book on Limbert furniture, “Building Classic Arts & Crafts Furniture” throughout the weekend and geeking out to lots of Arts & Crafts goodness (I’m especially looking forward to Frank Glapa’s metalworking workshop).

If you can’t attend the conference but want to know more about Limbert and other important-but-lesser-known Arts & Crafts makers, you might be interested in my webinar on “Unknown Arts & Crafts.” One of most interesting aspects of Limbert’s designs is how Modern they can appear, likely a result (at least in part) of the traces of C. R. Mackintosh and the Vienna Secessionists visible in Limbert designs. But I think it goes beyond that overt influence: researching my forthcoming “Making Mid-Century Modern Furniture” and article on building a Mid-Century Modern display case, I’ve been struck by the impulse to minimalism that Arts & Crafts and Modern design share. But that discussion’s probably better left for another post here or at 1910craftsman.com.

— Michael Crow