Samson Berman was one of the leading lights of modern interior design during the 1950s, championed by such luminaries of good taste such as Betty Pepis (NYT Home Editor) who featured and promoted Berman’s designs throughout the 1950’s in The New York Times. Pepis featured the home this piece was designed for in her quintessential design book Interior Decoration A to Z published in 1965 on pg. 221.
Berman’s work can be quite difficult to find because his firm, Berman & Assoc., specialized in custom designing home furnishings for select clients and never mass produced or licensed out their designs to manufacturers. Custom pieces by a designer done for specific clients, can either be very “safe” or radical. Berman’s designs were on the cutting edge of modern design in the 1950’s and his client sought him out for his dynamic and beautiful aesthetic.
This very special piece by Berman was in need of restoration. The massive platform bench with integrated seating and lighting was produced circa 1955 for a home which Berman customized all the interiors. At some point during it’s life, or when it was installed, the platform was cut to fit a slightly smaller area than originally intended.
This represented a significant challenge in the restoration process. Not only was the top originally one piece, it had the back edge cut away. This meant walnut had to be sourced from a single tree that had the repeated patterns in order to match the sequence originally on the top. Given the size of the platform, being 121.5″ x 42″ this meant also sourcing special vacuum presses to hold the walnut together while it was applied. Solid lumber had to be obtained that was identical to the lumber used which was the highest grade. Architectural brass was set in the wood as originally performed.
We could go into endless detail to explain the 4 weeks of the precise restoration process the piece went under to return it to its former glory as Berman intended it, but nothing will express it better than photos.
The entire piece is 121.5″ wide and 42″ deep but it is also 101″ tall with the built in lamp carved from a solid piece of f lumber featuring a cut out and a triangular themed nature throughout.
The lamps shades are bow tie style lamps that are mounted through stems onto brass plates to the lamp stem. They pivot and move to illuminate any area and perhaps most importantly they highlight the lamp post as well the ceiling.
An interesting note is the chairs Berman produced for this piece; they are quite large and bold.
This oversized luxury was uncommon for modern designers of the 1950’s, with a few exceptions such as Edward Wormley. Modernist designers tended to create seating that was low and compact. These arm chairs, however, are very large measuring over 32.5″ wide and in total are 44″ tall. It provides a very luxurious feel when one is seated, being able to stretch out or curl up, and the use of throw cushions was probably intended as well.
The below photo shows a 5’8 tall woman seated to demonstrate the roomy scale of the chairs and impressive size of the towering solid walnut lamp and platform base.