Baker Furniture, Inc.
1903 - present
Allegan, Holland, and Grand Rapids, Michigan
1903: Name changes from Cook, Baker & Co. of Allegan, Michigan, to Baker & Co.
1927: Name changes again to Baker Furniture Factories, Inc.
ca. 1929: Baker is sold to Peck & Hills, national furniture wholesaler.
1933: Factories move from Allegan to Holland, Michigan.
ca. 1934: Peck & Hills declares bankruptcy; Hollis S. Baker buys company back.
1941: Baker Museum for Furniture Research established in Grand Rapids’ Keeler Exhibition Building.
1948 – 1967: Baker purchases Grand Rapids manufacturers William-Kimp Furniture Co., Grand Rapids Chair Co., Barnard & Simonds Co., and Kozak Studios.
1969: Baker sold to Magnavox, Inc.
1972: Baker, Knapp & Tubbs formed as design showrooms subsidiary.
1986: Baker sold to Kohler Co. Continues to operate as Baker Furniture, Inc.
2006: Baker Furniture announced on July 20th the closing of its warehouse distribution and corporate offices in Grand Rapids. Baker said it would consolidate its operations in N. Carolina.
Update: Press releases for Baker Furniture, Inc. from 2001 - 2011 are available.
Through most of its history, Baker Furniture was controlled as a family business. Siebe Baker was a founder of Cook, Baker & Co. in 1890, and became sole owner in 1915. Upon his death in 1925, presidency fell to his son Hollis S. Baker, Sr., who expanded the company and the number of factories, and made frequent trips abroad to collect books and furniture pieces as style examples for his designers. These form the nucleus of the Baker Museum and Library for Furniture Research. Under his presidency Baker established the Millington Road Shops and later the Manor House in New York, exclusive showrooms of reproduction furniture. Frank Van Steenberg became president in 1953, and was succeeded by third-generation president Hollis M. Baker, Jr. in 1961.
William Millington, an Englishman with credentials from Waring & Gillow and W. & J. Sloane, became head designer in 1927. Millington designed the Millington Road shops, and many lines of authentic Georgian period reproductions. Millington Roads Furniture operated as a division of Baker Furniture, Inc. Well-known Modernists who designed for Baker include Finn Juhl and T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings.
The earliest lines of Baker and its predecessors were bookcases and desks in Golden Oak, with vague Mission or Art Nouveau influences. By the 1920s bedroom and living room suites had been added to the inventory. Authentic period reproductions of Duncan Phyfe designs were made from pieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as early as 1923, and soon afterwards Baker became established in its niche of mahogany, walnut, and maple period reproductions from 18th-century England and France, and Colonial and Federal America. In 1949 the “Far East Collection” was introduced, followed in the 1950s and ‘60s by a series of reproductions and adaptations from Italy, France, England, and the Netherlands. The “#789 Chippendale” ribbon-back chair, introduced during this period, remained in production for decades.
Baker departed into Modernism with its Art Deco “Twentieth Century Shop,” which was introduced in 1925 and produce cd in rosewood and olive burl, as well as several pieces designed by Donald Deskey. Later Modern designs included several Danish pieces by Finn Juhl in 1951, and a Modern Neo-classical dining and bedroom group by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings in 1961.
A renewed commitment to reproduction came with the “Stately Homes (of Great Britain and Ireland) Collection” in 1981. In 1990 Baker became the licensed manufacturer of the furniture reproduction line from Colonial Williamsburg. Baker entered the contract market in its early days with large runs of bedroom furniture for hotels and ocean liners. Traditional and modern styled office furniture is today make by the Baker contract furniture division.
The Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Grand Rapids Public Library have collections of Baker trade catalogs. For further company history SEE ALSO A History of Furniture: Celebrating Baker Furniture, 100 Years of Fine Reproductions, by Sam Burchell, 1991.
MARKS AND LABELS
“Baker Furniture Factories” was printed in a distinctive Gothic script from the late 1920s through the early 1930s, and furniture from the same period (post-1927) carried an octagonal “shopmark”. The company name “Baker Furniture, Inc.” appears in a script with flourishes as early as 1937, a variation of which is still used. In the 1940s Baker adopted the logo of a crown (signifying tradition) and tulip (signifying Dutch craftsmanship) over a “B” which is also in use today. Milling Road Furniture bore its own mark consisting of an upper case “M” and “R” divided by a tree sampling.
The source, with permission of the author, is Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America’s Furniture City by Christian G. Carron, published by the Grand Rapids Public Museum. 1998.
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