Known for its durable vintage display cabinets, nightstands and dressers made of cherry, oak, walnut and more, Century Furniture of Hickory, North Carolina, began as an upholstered goods company in 1947 but added case goods and sophisticated mahogany dining-room furnishings shortly thereafter.
Launched by Harley Ferguson Shuford Sr., a Hickory native who was born to a family of textile mill owners, Century Furniture was intended to be “the best furniture company in the world.” With respect to speed and efficiency, the brand found its footing midway through production on a government contract that Shuford had secured in the early days to manufacture thousands of five-drawer chests. The effort was significant, but it was also a teachable moment as far as Shuford and his team’s learning the ropes of running a factory.
After hiring designer Raymond K. Sobota in 1950 and introducing the enormously popular Citation Collection in 1954, Century established its reputation as a leader in stylishly designed high-quality furniture. Sobota had furniture in his blood — after graduating from Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he worked for his uncle Karl Schmidt, who was at the time a well-known furniture designer for Berkey and Gay and other makers in the Grand Rapids area, then known as America’s furniture capital. Sobota soon launched his own studio, designing furniture as a freelancer for various local manufacturers. Shuford found him by happenstance, journeying to Michigan’s second-largest city to offer a job to another designer who turned him down but recommended Sobota instead.
Century’s Citation line — a sizable collection for the brand that spanned furnishings for the bedroom, dining room and more — is revered in the world of vintage mid-century modern furniture collectors. The pieces sold very well during the 1950s, and the line is an oft-cited success story for Sobota, who would go on to win awards for his work and whose own catalogue of designs for the brand is massive.
In his 40-year career at Century, until he retired in 1995, he designed well over 100 furniture lines. Sobota’s nightstands, cabinets, side tables and more are characterized by his interest in Asian design, distinctly and brilliantly expressed in his Hollywood Regency–style Chin Hua line, which debuted during the 1970s. With its geometrically decorative brass drawer pulls and door handles as well as dining-chair seat-back carvings — all inspired by Asian motifs — this collection has rendered vintage pieces that saw Century’s craftsmen working with alluring ebonized walnut and more, some of the company’s most sought-after work today.
Also in the 1970s as well as in the 1980s, Manhattan interior designer Jay Spectre introduced an Art Deco–informed spirit at Century Furniture, creating oversize, inviting lounge chairs and bentwood benches that featured plush tufted leather cushions. Spectre’s Eclipse collection was at one point among the largest-selling lines for the brand.
Century licensed collections with celebrity interior designers such as Thomas O’Brien, Charlotte Moss and Bunny Williams among others. In 2013, when Alex Shuford III was named president of Century Furniture, the move marked the succession of the third generation to lead this company, which is today one of the world’s largest privately held manufacturers of high-end furniture.
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- 1stDibs ExpertSeptember 25, 2019
Some of the most famous mid-century modern furniture designers were Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Eames, Paul Evans, Poul Kjærholm, Florence Knoll, George Nakashima, Giò Ponti, Hans Wegner, Charlotte Perriand, Sergio Rodrigues and Eero Saarinen.
- 1stDibs ExpertMay 22, 20191stDibs ExpertFebruary 22, 2021Mid century modern furniture refers to pieces designed during the middle of the 20th century — specifically 1930s through the mid-1960s. This period represents a design and architecture movement characterized by simple shapes, clean lines, and organic materials. Some of the most famous mid century modern designers include Ray Eames, Charlotte Perriand, Isamu Noguchi and Eero Saarinen.
- What is mid century furniture?1 Answer1stDibs ExpertFebruary 22, 2021Mid-century furniture is furniture created within the period of 1933 to 1965 but most would argue that the style began to emerge in the postwar years. This style of furniture is known for its sleek lines and organic shapes. The creators most frequently associated with mid-century modern furniture believed that good design meant good living. Mid-century modern is today by far the largest category of furnishings on 1stDibs.
- 1stDibs ExpertApril 5, 2022A variety of furniture was used during the 16th century. Items commonly found in homes include high-backed armchairs, chests, stools, benches and cupboards. Most European artisans active during the time period produced pieces out of oak wood. Find a large collection of antique furniture on 1stDibs.
- 1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022Yes, Century Furniture still exists. The brand operates from its corporate headquarters located in Hickory, North Carolina. The company was founded in 1947, and RHF Investments, Inc., acquired the company in 2013. You'll find a range of Century Furniture on 1stDibs.