Starting in about 1885, plants were among the decorations in a house because central heating kept homes - and plants - warm in the winter, and glass windows let light into most homes.
Only a small group of plants were popular, partly because of the look of the foliage, partly because they could tolerate the dry air of the home. Boston ferns, Maidenhead ferns, palms, jasmine, citrus trees, aspidistra and mother-in-law tongue's (sansevieria) were most common. A houseplant required a large decorative pot, so ceramic jardinieres consisting of a pedestal and bowl were made by many companies like Roseville and Weller. Wooden pedestals to hold potted plants were made by Victorian cabinetmakers like Mitchell & Rammelsberg of Cincinnati, and companies like Bradley and Hubbard of Meriden, Conn., made metal plant stands. Because fewer plant stands were made than more common furniture forms like chairs, it is hard to find an interesting vintage stand. Prices are high.
Q: About 25 years ago, I bought a modern-looking side table just because I liked it. The other day I noticed that it's signed "Johan Tapp." What do you know about him?
A: Johan Tapp (1888-1939) was a Dutch designer. His furniture designswere apparently manufactured and sold by various companies. Today his pieces can sell for $200 to $2,000 or more.
Q: I have a pyrography-decorated wooden wall plaque of five kittens. It's about 12 by 8 inches. On the back, it's marked “Flemish Art Company, New York” and “866.” Can you tell me anything about it or its value?
A: The word “pyrography” means “writing with fire.” It's sometimes called “pokerwork” because the design is burned into the wood with a thin pokerlike tool. The earliest examples were done in China more than 2,000 years ago. The technique became popular in the United States in the late 1800s, when a method of coloring the designs by using benzoline was developed. By the early 1900s, boxes, candlesticks, plaques, novelties and furniture were being decorated with pyrographic designs. The Flemish Art Co. was the major producer of pyrographic items in the United States. The term "Flemish art" is sometimes used generically to refer to any pyrographic work. The company was in business in the late 1800s and early 1900s and sold finished pieces, unfinished pieces, woodworking supplies and pyrographic kits through Sears catalogs. Pyrographic wall plaques usually sell for less than $10 today.