You may never have heard of Martinsville, Virginia, but furniture aficionados know that the shining gem that hails from the tiny town is American of Martinsville. Established at the turn of the twentieth century, American of Martinsville is about as American as mid-century modern design gets, and has earned its place among the pantheon of American furniture makers. Its midcentury designs are some of the company’s most striking. They’re alluringly sophisticated, yet simple, while also showcasing the exceptional craftsmanship for which American of Martinsville is known.
Want to add a bit of American of Martinsville midcentury style to your collection? This guide offers a little of the backstory to the family-run brand and highlights the maker’s most collectible designs.
From tobacco to the bedroom: The origins of American of Martinsville
The story of American of Martinsville begins in 1906, when two intrepid businessmen, Ancil Witten and Charles Keesee, decided to build a business together. The two were well established in the tobacco industry, and they used their clout to set up a new furniture brand. Their initial focus was creating striking bedroom furniture sets but due to increased demand, by the 1920s they expanded their offerings to include dining sets too.
Mid-Century Marvel: American of Martinsville Grows
By the 1950s, American of Martinsville had grown exponentially, both in the scale of production and in the crafting of new styles at the height of the midcentury era. Expanding their product line once again into the realm of living room furnishings, American of Martinsville embraced the international excitement for the clean lines and sophisticated profiles of midcentury design. At the same time, the brand upheld its commitment to using materials of exceptional quality to ensure that American of Martinsville furniture would stand the test of time. This blend of cutting-edge trends and craftsmanship resulted in an explosion in the popularity of American of Martinsville’s wares over the latter half of the twentieth century.
American of Martinsville Today
The American of Martinsville brand lives on today as a division of the Akin Furniture Group and devotes most of its contemporary design function to furniture for the hospitality and healthcare fields. From a collector’s perspective, though, the brand’s mid-century creations are some of the most compelling.
Identifying American of Martinsville Furniture
Those ready to seek out American of Martinsville furniture can use a couple of clues to determine if they’ve found the “real deal.”
1 Brand Stamp
The easiest way to identify a piece is by the brand stamp that often appears on an interior panel or drawer side. Three such examples can be seen below.
Further design characteristics also include the following.
2 Quality materials
American of Martinsville furniture was typically crafted from the finest cherry, walnut, and oak wood. These woods often give the brand’s pieces a rich, warm wood tone that complements accents in glass and bronze.
3 “X” Marks the Spot
One of the frequent additions to American of Martinsville designs is an inlaid brass “x” motif on tabletops and dressers.
4 Seek out slatted doors
American of Martinsville furniture also usually features slatted or louvered doors and cabinet fronts that accentuate the sleek profiles and precise crafting of each piece.
Best Bets for Collecting American of Martinsville Furniture
Any American of Martinsville design is sure to enhance the design aesthetic of your home, but there are some of their more collectible sets and types that demand higher (although still modest) prices at auction. These comprise:
The first line of furniture to be created by the brand, American of Martinsville’s mid-century bedroom sets are some of the most sought after by collectors. Finding a complete set can be challenging, but even a partial suite conveys a striking midcentury feel.
American of Martinsville Dressers and Credenzas
An American of Martinsville dresser, hutch, or credenza would be ideal for those seeking just a hint of mid-century flair. The sheer variety of these styles means any taste (and budget) can be met.
American of Martinsville Dining Sets and Tables
A reflection of the brand’s significant moves into dining and living room furniture over the years, American of Martinsville’s striking table and dining sets that appear at auction today have a captivating appeal.
American of Martinsville furniture is highly collectible, but provides a pop of midcentury style without breaking the bank. The quality behind its manufacture means that its modern appeal will endure for many more years to come.
Explore the American of Martinsville furniture coming to auction on Invaluable now.