how to identify Paul Frankl furniture

If you are preparing to buy that one quintessential, beautiful piece to complete the look in a room, you may be wondering how to identify Paul Frankl furniture.

Or maybe you have inherited some furniture you would like to authenticate.

Before you drag yourself to Antiques RoadShow, we have compiled an easy guide to help you distinguish if your piece is an authentic Paul Frankl design.

There are several ways to identify Paul Frankl furniture. You can trust your seller, find a marking on the piece that identifies it, and research your piece in published books.

Paul Frankl

the paul frankl

Paul Frankl became a household name in the 1950s and 60s.

His pieces are still highly sought after, which may lead you to wonder how to distinguish Paul Frankl furniture from other designers popular during the Art Deco era.

Paul Theodor Frankl was born in Vienna, Austria,  in 1886. After relocating to the United States in 1914, he became a set designer for the New York Theater Guild. Later, he moved on to furniture design.

His style contributed to some of the most iconic designs in American history.

New York

In his early furniture design days, Frankl found inspiration in the celestial skyline of the city.

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You’ll find pieces in his Skyscraper line that echo the height and defined corners of the buildings.

new york idea

These wooden pieces include tall and stately bookcases, cabinets, and dressers.

The coffee tables and side tables are prime examples of Art Deco style.

Los Angeles

Paul Frankl later moved to California, where he had a gallery on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

During this time, his style evolved from skyscraper furniture to relaxed, casual designs.

Pieces from this era typify the Mid-Century style. These sleek pieces were enjoyed by Hollywood celebrity clients such as Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, and Katharine Hepburn.

During his lifetime, he authored several books and became one of the foremost authorities on American Modernism.

He worked in two visual arts styles, Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern.  You’ll see plenty of overlap in the design elements of both styles.

Design Styles

the design style

The sleek lines and bold colors of the Art Deco and Mid-Century modern design era offered a breath of fresh air from the frills and ornamentations of Victorian times.

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Clothing and architecture reflect changes in society and culture. Humans have come a long way from animal skins and cave drawings.

Two schools of design stand out in recent history so much that pieces from that era are still highly sought after.

Current designers also produce in the style of Paul Frankl for today’s furniture customers.

Art Deco

The visual style that became known as Art Deco originated in France in the early 20th century.

It captured the American imagination during the 1920s and 30s.

Precise lines with bold edges and iconographic geometric shapes define this style. You’ll find many neutral colors but also bright, strong pieces.

Mid-Century Modern

the mid century modern

The Victorian-style had morphed and lasted for most of the 19th century.

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The modern family was ready to leave behind the highly ornamented and frilly style that had dominated design up to the turn of the century.

Flowing naturally from the Art Deco era, the Mid-Century Modern style continued with clean, linear designs into the 1950s and 60s.

You’ll find simple and functional wooden pieces with delineated edges. If this is the style you’re looking for, you may be wondering how to identify Paul Frankl rattan furniture as well.

Furnishings in the typical American home during this era reflected the needs and mindset of the post-WWII population.

They were eager for simplicity and functionality. The influence of Art Deco was already carrying them in this direction.

Tip: If a piece was manufactured anytime between the 1920s and 1969 that has smooth lines and seems like a minimalist piece, it’s probably Art Deco or Modern.

Manufacturers

the manufacturer

While Paul Frankl had a gallery in Beverly Hills, he also designed furniture for well-known manufacturers of the time.

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Two of these were the Johnson Furniture Company based in Grand Rapids, MI, and Brown and Saltman of California.

Johnson Furniture Company

Operating from 1908 to 1983, Johnson Furniture Co. was best known for wooden bedroom furniture and library suits.

Many pieces bear the company marking. It consists of two concentric circles with the words Johnson Furniture Co. Grand Rapids, MI, between the lines. Three curved lines flow from the inner circle to meet at the center point of the logo.

Johnson produced several lines of Modern furniture, including those designed by Paul Frankl.

If you have a Johnson piece from the 1950s or 60s, it was possibly designed by Frankl. You’ll have to delve deeper into the piece’s history to pinpoint the designer.

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Brown and Saltman Collection

brown and saltman

Based in Los Angeles, Brown and Saltman used mass production and the minimal style of Modern design.

Paul Frankl was among their class of designers whose works were brought to life in the 1940s.

You’ll find a distinct logo on Brown and Saltman pieces. The company name in a script font overlays an art palette shape.

The right side of the logo bears the word California in bold all capital letters. As in the case of Johnson furniture, the piece will not bear Frankl’s name specifically.

A piece manufactured at that time could have been designed by him, but you need more research to know for sure.

Tip: Look at the underside of tabletops and inside top drawers to find manufacturers’ stamps

How To Identify Paul Frankl Furniture

Now that you know some Frankl history and some design elements to look for, here are some strategies for identifying Paul Frankl furniture.

identifyng paul frankl

Trust Your Seller

Looking online, you’ll see the vast price difference between an original Paul Frankl piece and one that is made in the style of.

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Buying from a reputable vintage and antique furniture seller will instill you with confidence that you are getting what you are paying for.

Well-known sellers have their reputations to think about and are not in the business of ripping people off.

Find a Marking

When you find a logo such as a Johnson or Brown and Saltman, you are getting closer to finding the true origin of your piece.

Some items are also marked with manufacturer reference numbers that you can look up to authenticate your furniture.

Research

do research

Frankl wrote several books, and others have written about him. He truly helped to define the style of the mid-20th century.

You can purchase guidebooks for vintage furniture online or look for them at your local library.

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These guidebooks are full of photos that may help you identify your item.

Price Tag

While having an authentic, vintage piece of furniture sounds delightful, it may not be within your budget.

Dropping ten grand on a coffee table is not within reach of most household design budgets.

There are many gorgeous pieces from the Art Deco and Mid Century period that bring this style back to life without the hefty price tag.

If you are not looking to authenticate a piece you already own, you could opt to furnish your Modern room with an unauthenticated item.

Tip: Browsing online or in local antique stores may bring the furniture piece of your dreams right before your eyes.

Conclusion

This popularity will have you wondering how to identify Paul Frankl furniture.

Luckily, Frankl pieces have distinct markings, and with research and a trusted seller, you’ll be on your way to authenticating the design piece of your dreams.

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Designing an Art Deco or Mid-Century Modern room is like a walk through American history.

The iconic shapes, vibrant colors, and bold lines bring brightness and a pleasant simplicity to a space.

Finding one or more original era items is like a crown jewel and many designers from the early 20th century remain popular today. 

Kristina D
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