Fabulous Finds: Stumbling Upon a Mid-Century Modern Treasure

This four-drawer vanity with a very stylish round back chair, upholstered seat and beveled mirror in the Kent-Coffey Futura style, also has a tempered glass top. It was part of a nearly complete bedroom set the author stumbled upon at an estate sale.

I was not “on the hunt,” like I was for the 1969 Porsche 911 coupe I discovered in a dusty Northern California garage not too many years ago.

In fact, I wasn’t hunting at all on a hot day last summer. I merely stopped by an advertised estate sale to poke around. I learned later that I happened to be at the right place at the right time. The mother of three daughters had recently passed away in Medford, Ore., and each of the sixty-something daughters had traveled home to help liquidate all that they could no longer use or cherish.

I soon discovered that these daughters hadn’t traveled from far and wide to put on a traditional long-term estate sale, then clean and put the house on the market. In fact, it would take a large U-haul trailer to get any collectibles back to their homes in Southern California. Instead, they were “there to deal” and wanted no middleman posting unrealistic high prices while selling their mom’s goods.

I went from garage (nothing of interest), to kitchen (even less), looked out back at the patio and still nothing.

Then I walked back through the narrow hallway to the ranch-style home’s four bedrooms. Two of the sisters were explaining how their mother had bought each of them a “nice” bedroom set when they turned a certain girl-appropriate age. It was the classic American family thing to do back then, if you could afford it. A good bedroom set provided a girl’s growing-up years with furnishings that built an appreciation of character and beauty. This bedroom set took me by surprise. It was a 60-year-old classic retro, solid-wood example of an East Coast designer I would later learn about.

Before I knew quite what had happened, the three sisters had sold me on most of the bedroom set at a price that I could not refuse! They worked very hard to help me disassemble drawers, mirrors, wrap and load so fast, I could barely keep up with them. It was a very good- condition, six-piece Kent-Coffey “Futura” series bedroom set. It featured perfectly-kept mirrors, hardware, clear, tempered glass tops for the tall-dresser and vanity in perfect condition, and not a blemish to the wood finish to betray how dated the pieces really were. The curves, craftsmanship, modern angles and round, tapered legs all contributed to give the furnishings their intrigue. First site gave the true value away.

The Kent-Coffey bedroom set is in the Seaspray color and includes two night stands, a nine-drawer horizontal bureau with mirror, a five-drawer tall bureau with a tempered glass top and a four-drawer vanity.

I soon discovered it was Kent-Coffey furniture and I looked it up on my smart-phone (a good collector’s trick, by the way). It was designed as the Mid-Century American Dream Home Lines of Modern American Furniture. The Kent-Coffey Manufacturing Company opened in 1907 by Harold Coffey in Lenoir, N.C. and remained a powerful influence in American furniture design through the 1900s.

Kent-Coffey would continue to offer lines of furniture spanning bedroom sets, office furniture, and living room pieces all with the Kent-Coffey coordinated modernist styling. The cartoon-inspired “Jetsons” could live with most any of these sets. Some of the lines produced include:

• The Viking Line;
• The Perspecta Line;
• Goldenaire;
• The Continental Collection;
• The Sequence Collection;
• The Tableau Collection.

Kent-Coffey furniture from the 1950s and 1960s was actually designed to be reasonably priced, well built, and marketed to the swelling number of Baby Boomer families. It left a lasting impact for a new generation of Mid-Century Modern enthusiasts.

This stunning Mid-Century modern high boy dresser was created by Kent Coffey for his “Perspecta” collection in 1963. It was built with iconic Rosewood three-dimensional arches on the face and is made of Walnut veneer with dovetailed solid wood construction. It could offer the versatility of a great office piece in the right setting.

I found my Kent-Coffey pieces to have a well-marked logo inside at least one major drawer. If anyone opens a drawer to find this brand, you will see it well stamped in solid wood, looking like a branding iron-type impression.

It’s difficult to find price valuations as many people retain much of their collection or sell them piece by piece at either online marketplaces or store front auction and consignment shops.

Last year, a pair of Kent Coffey Perspecta nightstands sold for $895, a headboard for full-sized bed brought $400 and a “Tableau” high boy dresser realized $750.  A few years ago, a Kent Coffey tall and low chest of drawers offered as a set brought $475 each at Westport Auction.

It’s always nice to find the maker’s label and the design style listed right in the drawer. This marks the set as “The Futura” by Kent-Coffey.

The Futura collection was manufactured in different consumer color offerings from the factory. The set I found is called Seaspray and is just beautiful. It includes two night stands, a nine-drawer horizontal bureau with mirror, a five-drawer tall bureau with a tempered glass top and a four-drawer vanity with a very stylish round back chair, upholstered seat and beveled mirror. It also has a tempered glass top.

So, this great buy that I stumbled upon that hot day in Medford was a rare find. I would estimate the value, at a minimum for this partial set, to be $3500 (since I did not purchase the headboard and footboard pieces or the bed frame, I have deducted that value).

Maybe I should poke around more often at estate sales on hot summer days.

M. Kim Lewis is a writer, photographer and collector of rare furniture, sports cars and more. He and his native Oregonian wife, Ginny, reside on the same pioneer ranch that was settled by Ginny’s great, great, grandparents in 1856. They arrived on the Oregon/Applegate Trail. The Lewises offer guided wine country and outdoor adventures in the famous Oregon Shakespeare town of Ashland. To learn more, visit Ashland-Tours.com.

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