It may not look very practical or stylish in its original state, but vintage metal office furniture is being reclaimed and beautifully restored and is finding its way into stylish homes and offices. Steve Mogol, owner of Past Present Future in Minneapolis, has created a business of restoring this kind of metal furniture. He started collecting office furniture 28 years ago when he was in the antiques business. He found that what he really enjoyed searching out and collecting was antique and vintage office furniture, and he's been at it ever since.
Finding metal office furniture is not very difficult. It was produced in mass quantities beginning in the 1920s and can be picked up very inexpensively at tag sales, consignment shops, and some antiques shops. The pieces often need extensive restoration, but once they've been cleaned up and repainted, they can be put to use in the home. Typewriter tables, for example, can be used in the living room, and medical cabinets can be used in the bathroom to hold towels and other supplies. Steve also converts desk drawers to open up and hold computer keyboards.
Martha had the furniture for her office at the Westport television studio painted at Kalbacher's Auto Body Shop in East Hampton. Kalbacher's usually doesn't refinish metal furniture, but the desks, library tables, cabinets, and chairs can be stripped and repainted much the way a car would be, so Kalbacher's has the expertise to do the job. Kalbacher's mixes the paint to match the color Martha has chosen, then it sprays it on the furniture in a sealed room.
Metal office furniture is often very well made, and after it's restored, it can continue to be useful for another 50 or 100 years or more. So the next time you see a piece of metal furniture you might not have given a second thought to, take another look. Although it was mass-produced, it was probably sensibly and thoughtfully made. A piece that catches your eye can be customized just as Martha has done for her office.