Stanley Furniture’s American Forum line – a 12-page catalog from the company’s archives

Vintage-Stanely-American-ForumWhen I interviewed Stanley Furniture’s Randy Wells about the company’s project to collect and refurbish some classic Stanley pieces, I also extracted a promise. As part of the project, the Stanley team has been collecting vintage Stanley Furniture catalogs — and they said we could publish them here! Stanley’s scans are now in our hot little hands… and today, to get started: A look at The American Forum line. Designed by resident-designer H. Paul Browning, the American Forum line appears to have been designed with the “compact living” spaces of terrace apartments in mind. The lines are relatively simple… the wood stain, medium-toned, about as timeless as it gets. 12 pages follow. 

Design-21-vintage-stanley-furnitureAbove: I don’t have an exact date for this furniture line, but a scribble on the back suggests early 1960s. The brief at the front of the catalog is kind of… weirdly written. Seems like the American Forum line — either by itself or as part of a larger “A Principium of Design 21” series — is meant to forecast design for the 21st century. I looked up “principium” and it means ‘fundamental principles.’ Hey: Considering today’s revitalization of mid-century modern design, this Stanley forecast was not too far off. Here is this page in text for the google bots and for your ease of reading, too:

Design 21 — by Stanley

An exciting, stimulating forecast of the 21st century’s architecture, science and way of life. The changing big city living, with suburban innovations. The ever changing suburbia of metropolitan terrace apartments, give evidence to the increasing compatibility of furniture and architecture. H. Paul Browning, resident-designer, has reached the ultimate in this new concept of “compact living.” A freshness of perception is evident in the “cosmopolitan” wood finishes, created to blend with the wonderful lift of lighthearted color — the flash of red — the warmth of sunny yellow or the drama of stark white. These rare combinations fill every demand of “round the clock” cosmopolitan living, assuring a maximum of comfort with a minimum of care — Design 21 — by Stanley. A stride forward in contemporary living.

vintage-stanley-furniture-catalogAbove: What a wonderful graphic. Again — I think this was meant to be forecasting what our dwellings might look like in the 21st century.

vintage-Stanley-furniture-triple-dresserAbove: One of the pieces spotlighted in the catalog — a long dresser.

stanley furniture american forum buffetAbove: A buffet that Stanley purchased vintage and totally refurbished — like new condition, ready to go for another 50 years.



Above: Catalog pages. The fact that the furniture is set on tall-ish legs speaks to its intended use in smaller spaces, I think. Sitting high off the ground like this makes the furniture seem less heavy, less blocky, makes the rest of the space feel larger.

Stanley-American-Forum-FurnitureAbove: Scribbles on the back of the catalog indicate some final production occurred in 1964.

Readers, what do you think about Stanley’s early-1960s forecast about living in the 21st century?

Many thanks to Stanley Furniture for providing these wonderful archival materials!

Readers: More vintage Stanley Furniture catalogs to come!

Slide show — larger images — of the Stanley Furniture American Forum catalog:

To view slide show click on any thumbnail; it will enlarge; move forward or back via the arrows underneth the photo; you can start or stop at any image:

  1. Jeanie says:

    We have had our bedroom set since 1964. At the time, we didn’t pruchase the King headboard…..now my husband would like to build one that would match as closely as possible. Would anyone with this headboard mind sharing a picture of it?

    Our three pieces do not have legs, but have the Stanley stamp.

  2. Stacy Browning says:

    I just bought a Stanley mix n match dining room table and chairs and an American Forum Buffet. I did not know what I was buying I just loved the style. I was going to refurbish it myself, but now feel I need help. How do I go about finding someone to help me properly restore it??

  3. Marg Lor says:

    We have this bedroom set! Headboard/footboard, triple dresser, tall chect, night table, desk, and chair. Purchased in 1964. We’ve been married 50 years and still use it!

    1. Joe says:

      Very cool. My parents got married in 1962 and bought the tall boy and long dresser. They gave them both to my wife and I and now we’d like to restore.

  4. I have the Stanley teak table with leaf and 6 chairs pictured on the front cover, plus a side server, end table, plus high and low dresser with mirror and the King headboard. I got all of these from an estate for $250. They are all in pretty good shape and they were happy I was willing to take it all off their hands.

  5. Eileen Herlihy says:

    I think the house on the right is the Frank Lloyd Wright house on Scenic Drive in Carmel, California. Very interesting house, great views, but would be a huge challenge to actually live in. It looks incredible, but not very functional.

  6. Lynne says:

    I want it all. Why don’t manufacturers reproduce this clean lined sort of furniture? You could buy a whole houseful of the same line. Now, its all big puffy recliners with cup holders…..

    1. Robin, NV says:

      Big, puffy, over-embellished – that seems to be the trend today. As I shop for a new living room set, that’s all I see. I live in a modestly sized (by today’s standards), 1300 sq. ft. house, big puffy, oversized recliner couches wouldn’t fit if I wanted them to. And I don’t.

      1. dkzody says:

        I too live in a small house and am always on the lookout for smaller furniture with clean lines. I find a few pieces but nothing like we had in the late 60s and early 70s. Most of my furniture is from that era and I’m hanging on to it.

        1. Mary Elizabeth says:

          We had to do a lot of shopping before we found a sofa and loveseat that would fit in our ranch house living room. We walked away from the big furniture stores, all of which seemed to be featuring row after row of the big, puffy sofas and sectionals with four couch-potato recliners and auto-like consoles for drinks, etc. Don’t you feel like you’ve been shrunk to kid size, then swallowed by a giant bag of marshmallows?

          At the small, local furniture store, they listened to what we wanted, showed us a couple of sofas and also went into their manufacturers’ data bases to find just the right thing. And the furniture was made in the US.

    1. Dan T says:

      Definitely Marina City — though it looks like an architectural model, rather than the completed building. Makes sense; the building wasn’t completed until 1964.

      Probably the model pictured here, in fact:

      It’s a fascinating midcentury building itself — and the site has some nice snapshots of life at the time it opened.

  7. Ranger Smith says:

    I’ve always appreciated those bookcase headboards. Especially with the little cubbies to hide clutter such as reading glasses, pen and paper or whatever. This collection has nice clean lines. I like it!

    1. Randy says:

      I am looking for extra pieces to the Stanley American Forum Design 21 set. My grandmother originally owned this set, but her set did not include the bookcase headboard or desk. I would like to purchase these pieces if possible and have them restored if needed. I have given this set to my 3 year old daughter and the extra pieces will complete her bedroom set while she grows up. I am hoping it will be a set that she can pass down to her children and so on. It is beautiful and is priceless to me.

  8. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for wheeling and dealing and getting the catalogs for us to look at.

    I think what is striking about their vision for 21st century living is that it sees high-rises blooming in the suburbs. Actually, in my view the suburbs in most metropolitan areas (with some exceptions, such as Stamford, Connecticut) have remained very similar to the suburbs of the 1960s in types of single family homes, with one exception. I don’t see any townhouse condos pictured in the Design 21 catalog, and around here (Northeast) that’s what has dominated the suburban landscape from the 1980s on. Plus, the suburbs have spread out even further into the rural countryside.

    I love the cliff-hanging oceanside country house. Little did the Stanley designers imagine that we would be either living in our granny’s (or someone else’s granny’s) ranches, colonials and capes and building traditionally themed “McMansions.”

  9. vegebrarian says:

    I love the double mirrors over the long dresser! These catalogs are v. exciting news – I just purchased a vintage Stanley hutch with distinctive drawer pulls that I believe is from the late forties or early fifties and I can’t find anything like it, or any old Stanley catalogs online. I’m hoping it shows up in one of your stories. Yay! This made my morning. 🙂

    1. Martha Lapp says:

      I have a long dresser for sale through an estate sale I’m having this weekend! To my knowledge no scratches! Only has 1 mirror.

      Martha from Nashville TN

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