Note: In our Vintage History blog feature, a Community Forklift pricing team member will tell us about something in the reuse warehouse, with particular attention paid to its style, history, and function.
These fully carved antique dining room set pieces in the style of R.J. Horner are spectacularly unique! Both the mirrored sideboard and china cabinet feature gorgeous wood grain and intricate carving work in a beautiful turn-of-the-century style.
The most eye-catching feature is the profusion of masterfully done woodcarvings. A total of six winged griffins support and adorn the two pieces and these enigmatic sentries are joined by carved acanthus leaves, scrolls, shells, and faces on a stippled background. Even the feet are adorned: heavily carved big bulbous toes with little nails carved into them!
The china cabinet has three curved glass panels that follow the graceful lines of the windows and door. Inside, four shelves provide ample storage and display space, and the upper portion is backed with a mirror, creating a lightness in an otherwise heavy, stately piece.
The sideboard also features a mirror, which has very little wear and was possibly replaced in a recent restoration. The two griffins supporting the upper shelf of the sideboard have fantastic pointed wings. Toward the bottom, a long drawer spans the length of the piece and is ideal for storing table linens to minimize folds and creases.
Another fantastic feature of the sideboard are the carved handles and pulls for the drawers and doors. The cupboards can be opened by pulling on the open mouths of the faces that decorate the fronts. The center cupboard door will need repair: each piece needs to be removed from the center panel and reassembled to properly fit and swing. The drawer pulls are also carved, though the pulls on the two outer drawers are damaged. However, one of the missing pieces to the pulls comes with the sideboard and could be reattached by a skilled artisan or used to mold new pulls.
Both the sideboard and cabinet feature beautiful tiger oak wood graining. Tiger oak has a beautiful striping pattern that is created by cutting the oak log in a special way at an angle called “quarter sawing” which creates a tiger stripe effect with the wood grain. It’s especially noticeable on the flat sections of the drawer and door faces and the top of the sideboard.
Likely over 100 years old, these pieces were probably built between 1890 and 1920. A few decades earlier, Japan ended its isolationist foreign policy and opened up regular trade with the West. With this opening, a strong interest in Japanese techniques and motifs depicting flora and fauna began to arise.
These Japanese styles influenced the Aesthetic Movement, which began around the same time. This movement emphasized the creation of art for art’s sake and swept quickly through architecture, furniture, and interior design. American design was highly influenced by the movement around the turn of the century when these pieces were likely made.
One of the furniture makers who created furniture in this style was Robert J. Horner, who established the furniture company R.J. Horner & Co. in 1886. He made a name for himself selling masterfully carved pieces featuring winged griffins, acanthus leaves, and other opulent woodwork. This sideboard and china cabinet are in that style, but the label on the back of the sideboard is incomplete and obscures the maker, though the style of the label does conform to labels from the turn of the century.
Regardless of the maker, these two stately and spectacular pieces of history would make a fine addition to any home. They would be stunning in a period dining room or displayed in a modern setting like the works of art they were designed to be. The china cabinet has already sold, but for more information and photos of the sideboard, visit the listing on the Community Forklift Marketplace.
Every time you donate or shop at Community Forklift, you’re helping us lift up local communities through reuse. We turn the construction waste stream into a resource stream for communities in the DC region – by keeping perfectly good items out of the landfill, preserving historical materials, providing low-cost building supplies, and creating local green jobs.