The Full Nelson. George Nelson’s Gate Leg Dining #4656 for Herman Miller.
George Nelson’s gate leg dining table #4656 was designed for the Herman Miller Company in 1946. The table illustrated was recently restored by my friends at Tim and Anne Donn at TC Woodcrafters in Traverse City Michigan. Woodcrafters beautifully restored the finish and damages that occurred from normal use. The table was produced from 1947-1960 and is shown in American Walnut. It was also manufactured in South American Prima Vera solids and veneers. The underside of the table top is stamped with #17. It is unclear if this a factory “batch” number or the 17th table produced.
This type of table gate leg table converting from a console table to a dining table borrows from traditional designs as far back as the 17th century Jacobean period. The table stylistic departure from traditional furniture as well as Nelson’s design accentuating the joints function into a design detail is unique in American mass produced casegoods of this period. The top featuring large notched style rule joint “knuckle joint” creates a beautiful interlocking pattern across the width of the top. The more refined rule joint with hidden hinges would have been the only acceptable method traditionally used on high-quality furniture. Here Nelson makes a feature of the joint on both top and the gate leg supports. More research needs to be done to see if Nelson borrowed this technique from Danish cabinetmakers or this construction detail unique to his work. This type of exposed knuckle joint was later widely adopted on dining tables by American Craft Furniture makers in the 1970’s. The Nelson table #4656 is in the permanent collection of the Vitra Design Musem in Germany. Dimensions H. 29.5″, W. 18.5″ – 65″ D.40″
The dining table was one of Nelson’s very early designs for Herman Miller. He was appointed the company’s first Director of Design in 1945. Max Depree the president of Herman Miller sought out George Nelson after the death of the great American designer Gilbert Rohde in 1944. Note: click on images to enlarge.