Gazing at this vintage 1950’s George Nelson desk, I am transported to Palm Springs, California with visions of the iconic Kaufmann house that Richard Neutra designed and built in 1946.

Department store magnate, George Kaufmann Sr., asked his son, a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright, to recommend an architect more modern than Wright to design his Palm Springs, CA estate. Kaufmann Sr. ultimately selected California modernist, Richard Neutra, who built him a masterpiece of modernism.

Neutra’s vision is evident in the design of the building and in his choice of materials: wood, aluminum and lots and lots of glass. The Nelson desk utilizes the same combination of materials in a similar modern context. Just as Neutra incorporates a cantilevered roof supported by light metal columns, Nelson purposes the metal desk legs to support the top of the desk in order to mimic the floating effect Neutra perfected.

Neutra loved wood and employed it in all of his buildings with delicate refinement. Nelson does the same with his wood desk drawers – a simple solution that juxtaposes shape, color and material. Best of all is Nelson’s use of the new material, formica, for the desk top. The smooth, bright formica echoes Neutra’s inspired technique of incorporating shimmering sea shells (capiz) into plaster walls.

Nelson and Neutra – two brilliant originals of American modernist design speaking the language of the era.