I still plan to write part two to our last installment about Sears and Ward (the dueling department stores) but could not resist the opportunity to share some of my research into Broyhill Brasilia! We are offering multiple pieces of Broyhill Brasilia in this week's drop, the most pieces we have ever had at one time!
Over on our Instagram the majority voted for a reel for the Brasilia deep dive and so I made two! But you know, I personally feel more satisfied if I write my heart out. Thank you, Office Ladies Podcast for making me feel seen as a fellow "lady who Googles". (If you are still someone who reads - please say hello in the comments so I can thank you 😁).
Broyhill Brasilia is highly collectible and sought after. But I believe most people do not know much about its background. I was really intrigued to find out that it was presented at the 1962 Seattle World's fair which was also when the Seattle Space Needle was first open to the public. This world's fair lasted 6 months and put Seattle on the map! The fair was held at a time when the United States was in the space race with the Soviet Union and it was a chance for the US to show off its innovation and wealth.
There is a whole documentary on YouTube that I plan to watch sometime, because I love this kind of thing.
Honestly, there was a lot of info about Broyhill Brasilia online, because it is so popular, but there is one article that stands out. Kyle Davis wrote a piece called "Who Really Designed Broyhill Brasilia?" And Kyle, I wish your website that you mentioned "Mid Century Spot" was still in existence because you obviously did some serious research! But apparently the website is no more and I couldn't locate Kyle online elsewhere.
Oscar Niemeyer lived to be 104! Photo from Architectural Review
Kyle wanted to set the record straight that Oscar Niemeyer, who designed the buildings of Brazil's new capital just a few years prior to the unveiling of the furniture in question, was NOT also the designer of Broyhill Brasilia. But, I mean, it is understandable that people might be confused. Take a look at some of the buildings. You can't deny the swooping, curving style doesn't look like a copy and paste from buildings to furniture.
Catedral Metropolitana de Brasilia
Photo from Good Eye Gallery
A really smart thing that Kyle did was to look at Broyhill patents to find the name of a possible designer. Nebraska might have played an important part in this story if the patent of Jerome S. Tomaskiewicz from Millard, Nebraska for a very Brasilia looking headboard actually proved he was the designer. But alas, Nebraska, he is not the designer. Still a cool fact.
Image from Google Patents
Kyle was able to locate the patents for most of the recognizable elements of Broyhill Brasilia designs and they were credited to a Melbourne F. Smith, Jr. He noted that there was a possibility that Melbourne could have been a lawyer for Broyhill, but he was noted on the patents in a similar fashion to other notable designers like Adrian Pearsall.
Patent with Melbourne F. Smith, Jr. noted
So mystery solved? Perhaps. But scrolling through the comment section of his article on Medium a Hunt Broyhill commented that his father, Paul Broyhill, who was 94 years old in 2016, was the true designer. Hunt said that Paul came up with the "inspiration and creativity" and Melbourne put the designs on paper.
Hunt Broyhill's comment on the Medium article
Hunt, are you still out there? Is Paul Broyhill still alive? Did anyone interview him? I am interested to know more about this story.
Thanks for reading guys!
I am very intrigued by this … My father designed and built a beautiful room divider in 1962 at the age of 16…. He won first place for it in the 1962 Georgia industrial arts fair. It is a family heirloom we all have cherished over the years. Today I saw one on Google and it led me here. My father designed his room divider before broyhill. We are puzzled!
Unfortunately Paul Broyhill passed away last October at the age of 97, but his son Hunt is still very much alive and you can probably reach out to him through his company and ask about setting up an interview with him. It seems he and his father were extremely close and I’d imagine he’d have no issue answering any questions to the best of his ability that you may have.