Lawrence Peabody was an architect, interior designer, and furniture designer who made significant contributions to the world of design during the mid- to late- 1900’s. Most known for his use of walnut, Haitian influence, and innovative designs, Peabody’s work was sold by nationwide brands like Sears and Kohler, as well as notable retailers like Richardson-Nemschoff and Craft & Associates.
Peabody’s Life & Career
Born in 1924 in Haverhill, Massachuestts, “Larry” Peabody’s love of design was apparent from a young age. His daughter has said that Peabody’s mission in life was to “beautify everything.” After serving in WWII, Peabody took advantage of the GI Bill and was finally able to fully explore his passion for design at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. There he studied architecture and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1950. He continued his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen—to which the Scandinavian elements of his work can be attributed. There he also met his wife Bette, a professor originally from Norway. They wed in 1952, 3 years before he started his firm, Lawrence Peabody and Associates, in Boston. Later in Peabody’s life, after some professional success, he would go on to settle on the island of Haiti, and much of his work during the latter parts of his career were strongly influenced by his connection to the culture there. While Peabody is generally associated with his furniture, he also designed many hotels and buildings in the US and Caribbean, did work with interior design, and was a director at Le Centre d’Art in Haiti.
Peabody’s Furniture Designs
Lawrence Peabody was a talented designer who produced most of his work during the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Much like his design colleague and fellow sailor, Adrian Pearsall, Peabody was well known for his use of black walnut. Whereas Pearsall made a name for himself with his glass top tables with eccentric walnut bases, Peabody’s signature style included molded black walnut chairs and upholstered sofas with walnut legs. The influence of the time Peabody spent studying in Copenhagen also is evident in his designs. The thin, elegant legs shown on many of Peabody’s designs are reminiscent of scandinavian design philosophies. Later in his career, his passion for Haiti and its culture would shine though in his designs also.
Le Centre D’Art: Peabody’s Haitian Influence
After buying a 17th-century gingerbread house in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Peabody befriended the founder of Le Centre d’Art, DeWitt Peters. Le Centre d’Art was an artistic haven that not only offered education and exposure to local artists through classes and exhibits, but it also created dependable income for hundreds of Haitian artists—many of which were impoverished. Eventually, Peabody would become one of the directors of this organization. During this time, Peabody and Peters also collaborated with overseas museums to bring handcrafted Haitian furniture to the United States and create interest and awareness around the art form. Haitian art was further promoted through Peabody’s design work as it was incorporated into many of his projects. Want to see Le Centre d’Art in action? This 1950’s Haitian documentary captures its first decade perfectly.
Peabody’s Furniture Today
With contemporary design favoring functionality and minimalism, furniture like Peabody’s is once again in high demand. You can also find similar Mid-Century Modern pieces that have the same view of quality and craftsmanship that made Peabody’s work exceptional, like the Astrid Bedroom Collection and Keeler Dining Chair. After all, high-quality craftsmanship never goes out of style!
On a Personal Note…
Vermont Woods Studios was founded in 2005 by Peggy Farabaugh out of a spare bedroom in our home. A few years later, we moved into our first office space- a small sunroom on a local farm. The farm- named Malhana Farm and dating back to the early 1800’s- was owned and operated by Annette Roydon, a friend of Peggy’s in our small town of ~2,000 people.
For years, Annette let us operate our business out of her space in exchange for help on the farm. We would clean horse stalls, feed chickens, and re-paint the barn- classic Vermont chores. Once, Peggy even helped birth a mare!
Well, it just so happens that Annette is actually the daughter of Lawrence Peabody. Small world!
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