Sessions Incorporated - NOHO MODERN

Sessions Incorporated - Provo, Utah 1950
NOHO MODERN - North Hollywood, CA 2005
Imagine over 5000 square feet of fine furniture, a gift shop, and appliances, all in one setting. Sounds normal enough, but then throw in the latest designs by the likes of T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, George Nelson, Hendrik Van Keppel, Taylor Green, Tommi Parzinger, and Paul Frankl, and the setting appears a little less common, but not unheard of, especially on one of the coasts. In 1950 this might have been typical in such a place as Robertson Blvd in Los Angeles, or on the Manhattan's upper east side, but what about Provo, Utah? "Extremely expensive furniture -- in a little tiny town," is how my grandfather Sterling Sessions describes "Sessions Incorporated," an emporium of fine modernist design located near the Rocky Mountains in the 1950's.

I'm not sure that my great-grandfather had such visions when he beckoned young Sterling back from Flushing, Queens where he had been residing with his wife and the first of seven children, while finishing an MBA at New York University. He just needed a little help in the family furniture business; orders had to be filled, furniture had to be bought, and why not arrange the furniture nicely in the showroom as well while he was at it? Never one to go about something in a half-hearted manner, the recent graduate proceeded to purchase the latest in modern design and tastefully decorate the showroom with the expensive furniture. These photos, from the spring of 1950, give us a sense of what was being sold in Provo at that time in this daring furniture store. Looking back, we aficianados of modern design see clearly that this furniture, expensive as it was in 1950, has become vastly more so today. This is a testament to the fact that quality furniture and superior design not only stand the test of time, but prove to be a more than solid investment. I've tried to lay my hands on old client lists from the Sessions Incorporated showroom, or discover a secret furniture depot somewhere in Provo, but with no success.



Even my grandfather's former friend, fellow Utahan Milo Baughman, who is experiencing a posthumous renaissance in terms of public appreciation of his design, cannot speak to tell us where the buried treasure lies.

And so the tradition continues, 55 years later, in the form of NOHO MODERN, where my partner Thomas Hayes and I seek to unearth the jewels laid before you in these photos. My grandfather took the photos, with typical foresight, on a high quality Linhoff camera and with Kodak Ektachrome film, so that this record of the past may be well-preserved.

After awhile, my grandfather felt it ready to move on, and so in 1958 he took on his next challenge, this time in Boston. He packed up a station wagon with my grandmother and the 5 children and they headed to Sudbury, Massachusetts, where they were to reside while my grandfather studied for his PhD at Harvard. He left the world of furniture behind momentarily, and began a trek that was to take him back to Utah many years later, but not before stays in Peru, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, London, Carmel Valley, and many places in between. In the close to 30 different houses and apartments they called home during this journey, he still found a way, with the help of my grandmother, to decorate with taste and high style.

When my good friend Thomas settled his little family here in Los Angeles, I was just another jobless actor with plenty of time to help out a friend starting a business. In the past I had worked for another friend, selling his furniture designs in High Point, North Carolina, at furniture shows, and I had done some decorating and house painting. I thought I knew a little about fine art thanks to my artist Mother and living in Europe. But like many life experiences, not knowing what we are getting ourselves into is often best, for I might not have left my budding penniless independent film career for one in the dealing of modern furniture and art had I had known what it entailed in advance.

This has prompted me to imagine what my grandfather must have felt, full of promise yet needing to provide for a growing family when he returned home to Utah in 1950 to partner with my great-grandfather in business. I can relate to him, more than 50 years later, as I try to make sense of a 2300 square foot showroom (no appliances or gift shop at present), and as Thomas and I work through the challenges of owning and operating our business.

When my aunt Elizabeth handed these slides to me 2 years ago, it was as though she was passing the baton. I looked at the slides briefly and then put them in the back of desk drawer. I knew they were there, but what to do with them? I was too busy trying to learn about good design by looking at it first-hand. Yet with the recent purchase of a printer equipped with a scanner, I knew exactly what my first task would be. After scanning the images to our computer, I excitedly showed them to all who came in the gallery and we took turns attempting to identify the furnitures' designers. That was interesting, but was not enough. And so now I am proud to share these images and this story with you. Please enjoy.

Jeremy Sessions Petty
North Hollywood, March 2005