NYSID Archives & Special Collections NYSID Archives & Special Collections

Yale R. Burge Antiques and Interiors Collection Edit

Summary

Identifier
nysidar_2013_02
Finding Aid Author
Victoria S. Pace
Finding Aid Date
2016 October
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Edition Statement
Finding Aid created by: Victoria S. Pace

Dates

  • 1947-2013 (Creation)

Extents

  • 11.24 Cubic Feet (Whole)
    16 boxes

Agent Links

Subjects

Notes

  • Abstract

    The Yale R. Burge Antiques and Interiors Collection contains sixteen boxes of materials related to the career of Yale R. Burge (1917-1972) who was a leading interior designer and headed both Yale R. Burge Interiors, an interior design firm based in New York City, and Yale R. Burge Antiques, which from 1955 to 2013 was an indispensable resource of 18th and 19th Century French and English furniture and accessories for some the nation’s top designers.

  • Biographical / Historical

    Yale R. Burge was born in 1917 in New Haven, Connecticut. His parents, both Russian-born, owned and operated an antiques store in the same city. Burge was at Pratt Institute studying design when World War II broke out. He enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1940 before the United States joined the War. When the United States entered the War\ in 1941, Burge was transferred to the US Air Force where he created models and maps that were used in military operations, including the D-Day Invasion of Normandy. He traveled with the troops into France and that is where he developed a love for French country furniture, which he later championed in the States.

    Following the war, Burge enrolled in L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in order to complete his studies. Returning to New York in 1947, Burge worked in the interiors department at B. Altman & Company. In 1955, he opened his own interior design and furniture reproduction business. Utilizing his contacts in England, France and Italy, he both imported antique furnishings for his clients, and produced authentic reproductions of fine antique French and English antique furniture.

    In 1960 Angelo Donghia, who had recently graduated from Parsons School of Design, joined the firm. Burge was so impressed with Donghia’s work that in 1966, Burge made him partner and the firm’s name was changed to Burge-Donghia, Inc. The firm designed residences throughout the country but it is perhaps best remembered for commercial projects such as the world headquarters for PepsiCo, Warner Bros. and the Metropolitan Opera Club at Lincoln Center.

    When Burge died in 1972 at the age of 55, Donghia assumed the interior design business. Burge’s wife Betty took over the antiques and antiques reproduction business and the firm reverted to the name Yale R. Burge Antiques, Inc. In 1986, their son Robert Burge joined the business, and daughter Lisa Burge joined in the early 1990s. Yale Burge Antiques continued to be a family-owned business until the auction of its inventory by Doyle New York in January 2014. The firm’s clients included several generations of prominent American interior designers, among them Sister Parish, Albert Hadley, Nancy Pierpont, Mark Hampton, Mario Buatta, David Easton Ellie Cullman, Bunny Williams, Mariette Himes Gomez, Jamie Drake, Jeffrey Bilhuber, Alexa Hampton and Katie Ridder.

    Burge was among the first generation of men to enter the interior design field in significant numbers in the post-war era. In the 1950s, Burge became the first home furnishings editor for Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ), a post he held for more than a decade.

    It was not uncommon for interior designers of Burge’s time to be antique dealers as well. As Judith Gura noted, “In the profession’s early days, clients hired decorators chiefly to help them acquire furniture and antiques; the sale of antiques and accessories became the most important part of the business” (Gura 120).

    As Burge’s antiques business grew and demand outpaced supply in the post-World War II economic boom, he launched the reproductions business. Because the antiques he sold were of the highest quality, it necessitated that the reproductions meet the same standards. Many of the pieces chosen for reproduction were signed antiques by great 18th century cabinetmakers of Europe. In France, Burge commissioned cabinetmakers to create master models in much the same manner as cabinetmakers did in the 18th and earlier centuries, such as George Jacob, Henri Amand, and L. Delanoix. Some antiques were taken apart, others were measured and details sketched prior to making the master models. Select pieces were scaled and proportioned for more contemporary living. All pieces were produced in workshops in Long Island City, New York. These included Cabinet Masters, Connoisseur Finishing, Jeano Upholstery, JP Metals. Finishes were described by press as so minutely executed that only an expert could detect the reproduction from its original counterpart. Gura described Burge as a “pioneer in what later became an established genre” (Gura 120). The reproductions business gave Burge a platform to set trends in furniture design, such as the popularization of white lacquer and unfinished metal.

    Yale R. Burge Reproductions were originally sold in his New York showroom at 41 East 57th Street, which was known as the Design District. In 1961, the business moved to a larger space at 315 East 62nd Street, where it remained until 1983. As the business grew, the reproductions were sold in showrooms in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. By 1987, the firm stopped manufacturing reproductions and began importing select new European pieces to show with the collection of antiques. By that time, the antiques business was located at 305 East 63rd Street and moved back to 315 East 62nd Street, where it remained until the business was shuttered in 2013.

    Throughout his career, Burge was a champion of the interior design field. He was a founder and the first president of the National Society of Interior Designers (which merged with the American Institute of Interior Designers in 1975 to become the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)). He was also a member of the American Institute of Interior Designers and served as a member of its National Board of Governors. He also was a mentor to the interior designers such as Melvin Dwork, Gloria Kaplan, Donald Hess, Jack Hartwick, John Fitzgibbons and Ronald Bricke.

    The following source was consulted in the preparation of this biographical note:

    Gura, Judith. New York Interior Design 1935-1985: Inventors of Tradition. New York: Acanthus Press, 2008.

  • Scope and Contents

    Yale R. Burge collection consists of sales and marketing material produced from 1948 and 2013, and reflects the firm’s antiques business, design of reproduction furniture and interior design work. It includes product catalogs with price lists, product photography, negatives and color transparencies. There are also original drawings of furniture. Of note are the watercolor renderings of room designs. There is a series of illustrations for a national promotion with Sylvania in 1967, in which Burge designed cabinetry around the company’s television units. Other renderings bear the label Burge-Donghia Inc. when interior designer Angelo Donghia was a partner in the design firm. Also in the collection are color negatives of the PepsiCo world headquarters in Purchase, NY, designed by Burge-Donghia in 1971.

    The collection provides some insight into the place that Yale R. Burge had in the world of interior design. Yale R. Burge's national reputation is reflected in its advertisements in magazines such as Architectural Digest and Interior Design, some as early as the late 1950s, with a predominance of advertising tear sheets from 1970s-1990s. Publicity resulted in a number of high-profile placements in magazines and newspapers across the country, as evidenced in the number of PR clippings in the collection. Burge was considered an authority on design and in a1963 clip, Paul Palmer of the San Francisco Examiner wrote that Burge "has affected the look of today's furniture as surely as Dior put the New Look on the map."

  • Conditions Governing Use

    To publish collection material from this collection, researchers are required to request permission from the Archivist, pay any associated fees for its usage, and agree to properly cite the collection in the published work. Please refer to the NYSID Archives' Rights & Reproductions policy: http://library.nysid.edu/library/about-the-library/nysid-archives/rights-reproductions/

  • Conditions Governing Access

    The collection is open for research use.

  • Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], [date (if known)], Yale R. Burge Antiques and Interiors Collection, nysidar_2013_02, box __, folder __, New York School of Interior Design, New York, New York.

Components