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Larkin side-by-side exhibits functional charm

In his latest Furniture Detective column, Fred Taylor tackles reader questions about a Larkin side-by-side, fold beds, and diversity of mahogany wood.

Search for Larkin Details Centers on Walt Ayars Work

This is a Larkin “Combined Bookcase and Writing Desk No. 810” from 1908. (Submitted photo)

This is a Larkin “Combined Bookcase and Writing Desk No. 810” from 1908. (Submitted photo)

QWe own a Larkin side-by-side, and are very interested in Larkin furniture. I have attempted to find the book that you mentioned several months ago called “Larkin Oak” on the internet without success. I have also searched for Echo Publishing without success. Might you let me know where I may find a copy of this book?. Attached is a picture of our side-by-side, which still has its original Larkin sticker.
— H.D., via e-mail

A The latest info I have on the Larkin book is from 2001 when I acquired my copy directly from Walt Ayars. The letterhead reads “Echo Publishing, Oak Tree Antiques, Box 279, 307 Third Street, Summerdale, PA 17093 (717) 732-9886,” Your side by side is on page 15 of the Ayars book. It is a “Combined Bookcase and Writing Desk No. 810” and was illustrated in the 1908 Larkin catalog. It was offered for 10 certificates. There are two paragraphs of description that accompany the illustration which I will be glad to pass on to you. Hope this comes in handy.

Bedroom Decor in Disney Film Leads to Inquiry

QI recently saw a hidden bed/folding bed I’d like to find more about. My younger son wants it for his bedroom and size wise it’s perfect. But I don’t have any idea what it’s called or if they are even still in captivity!

Bear with me on this. It was seen in a Disney movie “Tales from Avonlea” set in 1890s in Canada’s Prince Edward Island. The cabinet is about the size of a dresser or bureau. The top third or quarter of the front folds up to 90 degrees to the rest of the front, all of which folds down to make the back half of the bed base. The rest of the base folds out from the inside similar to any folding bed, about twin bed size. What is this thing called and where can I get more information on it (pictures, etc.)?
— S.W.

Turn to Furniture Books With Help Locating 'Folding Bed'

A What you are talking about is a variation of a “Murphy” bed, which folds up into an armoire-sized cabinet. They were very popular around the turn of the century and were revived during the Depression by such novelty furniture companies as the United Table-Bed Company of Chicago which produced the “Ta-Bed.” Regular sized Murphy beds that fold up into a wall or cabinet are still in production by a number of companies but the ones that make into a chest or small commode have been gone for many years apparently.

Speaking of 'Murphy' beds, here's Charlie Chaplin's take on them...

You can find pictures of beds similar to the model seen in the movie within the book “Furniture Made in America - 1875-1905” by Eileen and Richard Dubrow, published by Schiffer. There you will find examples made by Hale & Kilburn of Philadelphia and M. Samuels & Co. of New York. That way at least you will have something you can show to dealers and auctioneers in your hunt. Good luck.

Differences Between Mahogany of the Past and Present

Q I was wondering how the mahogany coming out of Malaysia/India relates to the other strains. I heard the British had planted mahogany there on plantations. The wood has much wider ribbons and shows more knotting – much less refined. Is this real mahogany?
— S.B., via e-mail.

A The reddish wood introduced into England in the early 18th century was primarily Swietenia mahogani of the family Meliaceae, which came from the West Indies, Cuba and Florida. More commercially available and most frequently seen since the 19th century is Swietenia macrophylla called Honduran mahogany. Another variety that has commercial quantities is Khaya, which comes from Africa. All of these trees are rain forest trees and are becoming increasingly scarce. While the English colonialists did plant some mahogany and teak plantations, they were interested in more short term cash crops like rubber. The hardwood was not planted in commercial quantities but was intended for local use.

Mixture of Woods Make Up Mahogany Today

This exceptional book from the man who brings you the Furniture Detective column in Antique Trader each issue. Get your copy of this top-seller today at ($18.95+S&H).

This exceptional book from the man who brings you the Furniture Detective column in Antique Trader each issue. Get your copy of this top-seller today at ($18.95+S&H).

The woods coming out of Southeast Asia today being labeled as mahogany are actually several different woods. The reddish tint ones come from the Dipterocarp forest regions and are known as meranti, keruing and generically as lauan. Lauan used to be called Philippine mahogany but now almost any hardwood from Asia is called “lauan.”

The wood that most closely resembles mahogany in texture and grain pattern is Gonystylus macrophyllum known as melawis in Malaysia and as ramin telur or just ramin in other locales. Ramin is a light colored wood that accepts a dark stain well and is easily substituted for mahogany. It is used extensively in furniture, flooring and veneering both in this country and elsewhere. Some supply houses even offer ramin parts such as dowels, saying they are superior to birch dowels. Ramin, like true mahogany and true rosewood, is an endangered rain forest product and we will see its use diminish in coming years.

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