Erwine and Estelle Laverne

27 May , 2019

A Mid-Century Modern couple, Erwine and Estelle Laverne were artists that designed hand-painted wallpaper, furniture and fabrics.

They met in 1932 in the Art Students League in New York where they were both studying painting. In 1934 they married and were inseparable. 

The couple formed Laverne International in 1938. During the 50's and early 60's, the Lavernes produced  90 hand-printed fabrics and wallpaper patterns titled "Marbalia". At least one still exists in the General Motors Tech Center in Michigan along with their New York Lounge Chairs by Katavolos, Littell and Kelley for Laverne International

New York lounge chairs by Katavolos, Littell and Kelley for Laverne International The Exchange Int

Laverne Interenational Knoll Saarinen GM Tech Center The Exchange Int

~Lobby of General Motors Tech Center with Laverne Seating

Image Courtesy of Ceros

GM's Tech Center, located in Warren Michigan, was designed by Eero Saarinen and the first Vice President of Design, Harley Earl. The interiors are filled with other iconic mid-century modern works by Finn Juhl, Harry Bertoia, Knoll and Charles and Ray Eames.

Finn Juhl and Eero Saarinen GM Tech Center The Exchange Int

~Finn Juhl Chairs by Niels Vodder, Model NV-53

Image Courtesy of Ceros

Harry Bertoia Screen at GM Tech Center

~Harry Bertoia Screen in General Motors Tech Center

Their "Invisibles Group" came out in 1957 and included the "Tulip", "Jonquil",  "Daffodil" and "Lilly" chair. The collection of clear formed acrylic seating received rave reviews for it's innovative and curvy designs.

The Invisibles Erwine and Estelle Laverne Jonquil Chair The Exchange Int


Metal was another material used in their furniture designs. The Lavernes designed the Philharmonic Bench with a stainless steel frame and tufted leather seat.

Erwine and Estelle Laverne Philharmonic Bench The Exchange Int

Erwine and Estelle Laverne Seating General Motors Tech Center Lobby

~Laverne Originals Seating in the General Motors Tech Center Lobby

Image Courtesy of Eric Saarinen, ASC / Peter Rosen Productions

Their works were included in the Museum of Modern Art Good Design Exhibit in 1949, 1951, 1952, 1955 and 1956. The Bench by William Katavolos, Ross Littell and Douglas Kelley for Laverne Originals is shown with a Paavo Tynell Counterbalance Ceiling Light.

Erwine and Estelle Laverne Good Design Momo

Image Courtesy of MoMA

 Bench / table William Katavolos, Ross Littell and Douglas Kelley for Laverne Originals The Exchange int

Erwine's brother, Philip LaVerne, also designed furniture with his son Kelvin. They are known for their works in patinated bronze, pewter and silver. Their functional art pieces depict etched scenes influenced by Chinese, Egyptian, Etruscan and Greek Cultures. 

Philip an dKelvin LaVerne Etruscan Table The Exchange Int

Erwine and Estelle lived most of their life on the Louis Comfort Tiffany estate, in Long Island, on over 100 acres of waterfront property. The Lavernes set up a haven for artists to live and create on the Tiffany Property. Many artists passed through the estate such as Alexander Calder. Others would go on to stay as artists in residence.

However, in 1952 the village issued the Lavernes a restraining order to cease and desist the manufacturing of wallpaper in a residential zone on the estate. They endured years of legal battles, which took them away from their design business and passion. The court case went to the Supreme Court in the late 60's, where it was refused.  After mounting legal costs and damage to their business Estelle fell ill with multiple sclerosis and the couple ultimately died penniless in a nursing home.

Erwine and Estelle Laverne Marbalia Soirée Dick Cruger The Space Detroit

~Erwine and Estelle Laverne in Soirée by Dick Cruger at The Space Detroit


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