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Sideboards, we got sideboards!

April 9, 2009

I just finished one blog and abandoned my laptop for an eye-refreshing walk through the factory, but what I saw has driven me back to the keyboard.  Obviously our clients plan on a lot of partying soon, as we are almost finished with six sideboards.
As background, let me share with you that Joe designed our basic sideboard carcass with my partying habits in mind.  I like to invite 6-8 people for a buffet, during which I too can enjoy the party.

Niermann Weeks’ sideboard tops are large enough to hold all the necessary food, condiments, plates, glasses, drinks, silverware and napkins. That way, we can all self-serve and mingle and enjoy, until it’s time for dessert and coffee.  Then Joe and I must make some quick changes to the buffet top.  By that time, however, most guests help us clear the dirty dishes into the kitchen, and put the final course on the sideboard.
As variations on my theme, our company features many standard designs for an enclosed sideboard:

Bowfront Commode in a painted finish, Celadon and goldleaf


Renishaw Commmode in a stained finish, Italian walnut and goldleaf, with metal grilles overlaid on the doors. Two shelves are within.


Scalloped Edge Commode
in a stained finish, Southern mahogany with the top in Dark mahogany. Two shelves are within.


I just love to watch how our clients play around with our standard designs.  Many clientsaccept my standard dimensions for a sideboard, but sometimes a custom shape is just their ticket.  We’re also asked to also mix and match finishes from one design to another, or to develop custom finishes perfectly adapted to their residence.
Here’s a custom greige on our standard Bowfront Commode carcass.  Look at the bottom right leg to see our master strike-off that controls how our artists complete the custom finish.


This Bowfront carcass was finished in real silver leaf .  When its doors are leafed, we’ll then glaze and seal the entire piece to stop the tarnishing process.


This Renishaw Commode features the standard dimensions, but is finished in Circassian walnut with goldleaf accentuating the door grilles.


Isn’t this a fun shape?  The finish is a weathered oak with matte door insets and painted zinc on the grilles.


And this commode includes the elongated shape of the Bowfront, the grilles of the Renishaw, and a custom finish.  Once more look to the bottom right leg to see the strike off control we use to match the designer’s special finish.


Copyright 2009 Niermann Weeks Company. All rights reserved.


Designs and Finishes

April 8, 2009

Our patron Rodgers Menzies and my husband Joe Niermann once more developed a wildly successful product in 1997 with the debut of our Biarritz Ceiling Fixture.  Again, Rodgers gave us specific parameters:

– a ceiling fixture
– with five arms
– floral looking
– the final product ready to install in Memphis in three weeks (OMG!)

By then, fax machines existed and enabled sketches to fly between Joe in Maryland and Rodgers in Tennessee.  When they settled on a sketch, Joe then made a 3D model cut out of manila folders, which is his preferred way to work out a prototype.


We photographed the paper model, fedexed a Polaroid to Rodgers for his approval, and then started the really hard part of working out the details.


Translating a scale model from paper into an actual product from sheet metal is no easy task. When you think you have it right, then you work out the beading details, which forces you to re-make the arm, which forces you to re-do the bead sketch, etc.  I’m not a detail freak, and so it wasn’t me finessing the design.


And presto….

Rodgers was pleased with the result, and consequently so were we. Since then, other designers and architects have been fascinated with this basic design, leading us to present it as a standard chandelier with 5,10, or 20 lights, and a sconce with 1 or 3 lights.

The 1 arm sconce

The 5 arm chandelier

Several times we’ve custom beaded this chandelier with amber beads, giving out a gloriously mellow light.  I do wish we’d get photos of the final installations, hint, hint.
We introduced the triple-tier with 20 lights in our Washington, DC showroom, and Veranda showed the 3 light, 3 arm sconce in a story in luxury goods.  Remember when  luxury goods were all the rage?

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My favorite Biarritz, however, is the giant version of which we made 6 for the Dallas Ritz Carlton.  In our standard ceiling fixture, each arm is about a foot long, but for them we made each arm 6 feet long.  The fixtures hang in their grand ballroom, where I took this photo.  The hotel was recently ‘refreshed’ and our chandeliers replaced, so their website unfortunately no longer gives me bragging rights.


Thank you, Rodgers, for leading us down this long, beautiful path!

Copyright 2009 Niermann Weeks Company, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Making It Specially for You

April 7, 2009

Niermann Weeks has always been fortunate to attract patrons, designers and architects who come to rely on us for their special needs.  This is the case study of one of our most special relationships.

In 1976 Joe and I moved to Memphis, TN, where the roots of our company lie.  We were lucky enough to receive support and training from three major patrons: Rodgers Menzies, Jimmy Graham, and Roland Gerhardt, from all of whom we still get orders.  Rodgers and Joe have developed an especially productive relationship that resulted in many new products.

Our first bed together in 1977 was so labor-intensive that we soon quit making it.

Rogers Menzes Tole Bed

Rodgers Menzes Tole Bed

Rodgers created a bedroom for Memphis’ prestigious Madonna Circle Antique Show.  True to his style, he designed fruo-fruos and decorative details in profusion. Joe painted innumberable tiny floral swags on the headboard (visible here) and on every other surface of this bed.  The elaborate draperies create a cocoon in which the bed’s owner sleeps, and only she gets to enjoy all the details.  The tester detail was all hand-cut tole, which today we’d order from a laser cutter.  Then, I bought boxes of bandages and saw blades, so we could all cut, cut, cut.  We made three of these beds for Rodgers until finally our artists rebelled.  This is the only product for which Joe ever destroyed the patterns.  I’m glad I saved a Polaroid of the original.

Gustavian Klismos Chairs – Reader Response

April 1, 2009

Just for you, in response to reader requests, here are two photos of the Gustavian Klismos Chair.

This first photo shows its debut in a Trend House room in the Washington Design Center.


Interior designer Frank Babb Randolph loved the proportions of this chair, but I love its comfort.  The chair is generously sized with a back that hits me and most people just right for perfect support.  Incidentally all the other furniture in this room is by Niermann Weeks also.


The second photo shows it in our showroom in Los Angeles at the Pacific Design Center, a showroom we share with Nancy Corzine.

Today’s post is just a little bite for you.  I hope you enjoyed!

Trends Seen In Our Workshop

March 26, 2009

Our world seems turbulent right now, and people are making every penny count. So I’ve been watching how they are spending their money at Niermann Weeks on:

· Silvery, shiny finishes

· Comfortable, traditional furniture

· Wild and crazy upholstery

Part 1, Silvery, shiny finishes.

For many years now, silver has been the dominant finish in our workshop. Silver on tables, lighting, cabinets, whatever. In our three decades in business, we’ve seen finish popularity wax and wane, but silver has been on top for almost ten years. From a designer’s point of view, it’s a wonderful chameleon finish. When uncrated on site, the product looks all shiny and new; and when it’s put into the décor, it reflects everything around it.

Our mirrored Monaco Chandelier almost vanishes in this heavily patterned black and white room, prepared for a DIFFA showhouse in 2006.


Photo courtesy of James Druckman, The New York Design Center.

We rejected this view for our 2008 ad campaign, but it does a good job showing off our mirrored Valois Bed and the mellow silverleaf finish of the Carlotta Commode. The overall look is light and airy.


In 2002 Washington, DC designer Joseph Paul Davis used the mirrors in our Quatrefoil armoire with lots of light tones to make a small corner room look like an inviting nook. I could settle right in there with some friends and some drinks.


Another Washington, DC designer, Brenton Bacari, placed our Venetian Console in the middle of this placid front room. This console is finished with both silverleaf and antiqued mirror, both of which give this space quiet zing.


Photo courtesy of Brenton Bacari

My final photo pays homage to the now-defunct House & Garden Magazine. For their Christmas party Niermann Weeks decorated a table in tones of silver on the tabletop and the chairs. Joe even designed the New York skyscape in slightly mirrored glass panels. When your eye scans this room, however, it is clearly a red room for the winter holidays.


Part 2, Comfortable, traditional furniture.

The second trend I’m noticing right now is a return to pre-twentieth century furniture forms, but often dressed up in a silverleaf finish. This Hollywood renaissance finish crisply dresses up the traditional forms.

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Joe was inspired to create our Carved Italian Commode by classic Venetian chests of drawers. In addition to the custom finishes, we’ve made this style as to hold sweaters, to protect a wine rack, and to hide a tiny refrigerator in an office. Normally, this commode holds three drawers and has a chinoiserie finish in browns and pale blues.

Customers are also asking for simple metal beds, which they may or may not swag with fabric. Personally I like them better as architectural forms in a room, but that’s because dust caught in fabric makes me sneeze. We make them so they’re study enough for adults to roll and play in, and the testers hold racks of clothing really well. I also hang my freshly ironed linen towels on the teesters to air-dry.

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Our Loire Bed in Queen; silverleaf finish         Our steel 4-post bed in Full; natural steel finish

However our beds do look smashing with lots of fabric on them, which makes my alternative uses more difficult. Look at how the incomparable Mario Buatta used our Loire Bed in a NY showhouse several years ago. A better view of this room was published in Architectural Digest.


Loire Bed

Part 3, Wild and crazy upholstery.

As we all know, people are being much more conservative in their spending habits right now. I think that has let them express their inner wildness in some wonderful mixing of traditional upholstery forms with wonderful fabrics. Look at these pictures, and wish happiness to the houses that own them. This COM makes the furniture ever so much more fun than the plain fabrics of years past.

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March 17, 2009

Hi Everybody!

To date, the most popular search term that lands people on our little blog is “Klismos Chair”, so let me show our most popular chairs in this style.

If first you need a definition fo the klismos style, Wikipedia says:

image002From the mid-fifth century BCE onwards ….A vase-painting of a satyr carrying a klismos chair on his shoulder shows how light such chairs were.[2] The curved, tapered legs of the klismos chair sweep forward and rearward, offering stability. The rear legs sweep continuously upward to support a wide concave backrest like a curved tablet, which supports the sitter’s shoulders, or which may be low enough to lean an elbow on. The seat was built of four wooden turned staves, morticed into the legs; a web of cording or leather strips supported a cushion or a pelt. The klismos was a specifically Greek invention, without detectable earlier inspiration.[3] For illustration, they show a portion of the stele or burial stone of Xanthippos, an Athenian, ca. 430-20 BCE.

For more information, see the entire entry here.

Starting in the 1790’s, the klismos chair has been popping up time and time again.  People like its gracefully tapered legs that splay outwards, while its backrest curves around the lowr back.  The downside, however, is that this chair design often does not sit comfortably, especially for a large person.  So when we design a klismos, we must incorporate ergonomic research into how we sit today.  Our test: can you sit restfully during a ninety minute dinner party?  If not, we must redesign our prototype.  So here are some of our best klismos chairs.

image004Our Elgin Chair is shown here on the right.  According to House Beautiful’s survey in December 2007, our chair has the sexiest leg in the market.  For your convenience, we offer the Elgin with lots of options:

–  With or without arms

–  In a large or small scale; think NY apartment vs. California hacienda

–  In a pale pearlescent finish accented with goldleaf (shown here) or the painted or stained finish of your choice

The delicacy of this chair means you can’t abuse it, so no tipping backwards while sitting in it!

We’ve customized this chair in many ways, once as a set of bar stools painted black with gilt decoration.  We’ve also made them in aluminum for outdoor use.


image008Our Circolo Chair is a little heavier and sturdier klismos.  It too is available in both an arm or a side chair, but only in one scale – 22″w x 22.5″d x 33.5″h, with a seat height of 19.5″.  While we call our preferred finish Circassian Walnut and Goldleaf, we fabricate the chair from farm-grown cherry wood.  A motif of interlocking goldleafed circles decorates the curved back slat.

image012Our Jacob Chair is even sturdier, although the light painted finish camouflages its inherent toughness.  Its sophisticated elegance mimics the lines but not the riot of decoration that marks furniture from the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  My husband designed this chair in 1992 for the late, wonderful designer Antony Childs of Washington, DC; Tony added the scalloped skirt as a summary touch.

image009Another designer wanted a set of Jacob Chairs for an attorney’s office, so we made the look more masculine in a blackened cherry finish.  Goldleaf detailing lightens the mood somewhat.

image014Our Russian Chair owes it inspiration to an 1820s chair from Moscow.  We went through eleven different prototypes until the original antique transformed into a larger, more comfortable chair.  You would never have lasted through a dinner party in the original; I think its function was more as a perch.  Our chair back shows interlocking circles composed of a pair of mythological creatures whose heads eternally chase their tails.  We make the chair frame in cherry finished to look like Circassian Walnut with goldleaf detailing.  Our seat comes in black leather or the COM of your choice.

image016Our Empire Side Chair started life in the early 1800’s as a narrow little chair with raised sides.  Only the tiniest of people could find its seat.  We made the chair to the scale of today’s people and changed the upholstery to easily support the derriere.  Joe bought the original chair out of a dusty warehouse where a previous owner had buried it.  We show it here in a distressed black finish with goldleaf piping and covered in muslin.  I’ve used it as a dining chair in my home, where it easily passed the fanny test.  Our muslin can be replaced with a much more interesting COM.

image017Our English Club Chair keeps the splayed back legs of the Grecian Klismos while the curve of its fully upholstered back gives blissful support.  This chair works well in the bedroom, dining room, library, and living room.  The mother of our chair came from a neo-classical club for leisured gentlemen in London.  We make ours in mahogony with leather upholstery.

image019Just today at the factory, we completed upholstering two different orders, both in eye-popping orange colorways.  Sherlock Holmes would not have approved, be we may be seeing the birth of a trend.


image023Our Malmaison Chair comes in stainless steel for indoor and outdoor use.  The original was a poor rusty derelict from the late 19th Century that we have transformed.  Our seat is perforated so rain runs right through it.  Both of our daughters use this chair in their outdoor gardens, and I have used it in our dining room.

image028And finally, my favorite, the Gustavian Klismos Chair.  Joe and I were shopping for cool, light furniture with a Swedish look and found this wonderful chair in New Hope, PA.  The way Joe has re-designed the chair, it holds one’s body comfortably in the spine and the seat.  I’ve used this at home for dinner parties, and not one of my guests were squirming.  While we normally finish the chair in a pale finish with a pale linen or silk, a customer recently asked us to silverleaf the frames.  What a great look!  I hope the designer sends me a photo of them fully upholstered in their final setting.  I’d love to see them in their home.


Joe Niermann and Eleanor McKay in Washington Spaces Magazine

March 3, 2009

Our Friend Jennifer at Washington Spaces recently wrote a wonderful article on my husband Joe and I for Washington Spaces Magazine:

Read the blog post here.

The article is all about American-made furniture in the DC region, and features Joe and I in our Millersville, MD factory.  Please feel free to leave comments for either Washington Spaces of for me!

Which also brings me to an AP article that ran in mid-February in many local and national publications about whether or not the United States manufactures anything anymore.

Read the Article here.

The thesis of the article can be summed up with this snippet:

“But manufacturing in the United States isn’t dead or even dying.  It’s moving upscale, following the biggest profits, and becoming more efficient, just like Henry Ford did when he created the assembly line to make the Model T.”

U.S. manufacturing companies, just like Niermann Weeks, are focused on high-end products and producing quality goods that other countries simply cannot.  Like the article states, for every $1 of value generated in a Chinese Factory, an American Factory will generate $2.50.  Supporting on-shore manufacturing adds value to the products that you buy, and Niermann Weeks manufactures all of our products by hand in the United States!