Monterey Transitional Smokey Maple armchair with new leather upholstery.
With its echoes of Spanish colonial style, the Arts &Crafts Movement, and often playful referencing of the Wild West, romance is a strong element of Monterey Furniture design, and romance has certainly crept into the story of its origins. What is certain is that it was produced from 1929 until the 1940s by the Mason Manufacturing Company for Barker Brothers Furniture. The story that it was designed by the owner’s son, young George Mason, is belied by Barkers Brothers’ very strong in-house design team, who in fact designed and oversaw every item sold at their stores during the 111 years the company was in existence. It was to these designers that customers turned to for custom designs in the style and it was they who in fact designed the line from its inception. Designers such as Kem Weber, a future pioneer of California modernism, can be invoked to give an idea of the brilliant and uncredited young talent that passed through Barker Brothers’ design departments in the years between the wars, and may serve to explain that other underlying quality of Monterey, its utilitarian modernity, for under that enchanting skin, so evocative of the California Dream as it first took shape in the 1920s, is the revolutionary modernity and essential practicality, the exciting livability, that became the essential touchstone of California design.
What is interesting is that the Mason company most probably created its own variations on the line. Were they granted some degree of design autonomy by their client? It is known that Monterey furniture from their factory was sold through other outlets, often unbranded. We do not know at this time whether this was under license from Barker Brothers, by arrangement with them, or whether Mason Manufacturing was able to act as a free agent in these cases, corporate histories often being opaque or non-existent, especially in the case of companies that have ceased operation. Fabulists and unreliable narrators may have further obscured the fading outlines of this history.