Vintage Views: Brasilia Connection

Broyhill Brasilia furniture debuted at the Seattle World's Fair in 1962. The signature lines and waves of Brasilia furniture were inspired by the distinct architecture of the city of Brasilia (capital of Brazil). Anyone who’s a mid-century furniture fan has probably seen and drooled over the Brasilia line.

The Brasilia Connection is the go-to source for all things Broyhilll Brasilia, including finding Broyhill Brasilia for sale. This time on Vintage Views, we talk with Arthur Friedman, owner of Brasilia Connection.

First public viewing of Broyhill Brasilia at the '62 World's Fair. All images courtesy of Brasilia Connection.

Tell us a little about the Brasilia Connection. How do you get started selling mid-century furniture and how did you come to focus on Broyhill Brasilia?
My wife Bonnie and I were married in 1965 and lived in Alexandria Virginia. We went furniture shopping and came across Brasilia at Hopkins Furniture in Old Town Alexandria and knew it was what we wanted. Brasilia was sold by the piece so we were able to purchase a couple of pieces, including a Brasilia king headboard. We picked up some other pieces, the last one being a Brasilia desk. Shortly afterward I received orders for Vietnam and we decided that we could not afford to keep the desk and so Hopkins graciously took it back. That was a decision we came to regret as by the time I returned. Brasilia was being discontinued and we would not find another desk for nearly 30 years.

In the late 90s with the advent of eBay I came across a Brasilia desk and the rest is history. Over the next few years added other pieces we wanted. Most Brasilia was being sold in sets and we kept the additional pieces for a home we intended to buy in Florida. By the time we purchased it, we had enough Brasilia furniture to make a carbon copy of our Virginia home.

With a garage full of Brasilia we decided that we had to sell some of the excess and that was the beginning of the Brasilia Connection. We were selling individual pieces and we found there was quite a demand from folks who were looking to add pieces they could never find. We also found there was a big demand for chairs and table leaves to expand dining.

Up to this point we only sold excess pieces as received. Then we got in the buffet hutch that someone had shellacked. It was awful. We decided it had to be refinished and that was our foray into restoring Brasilia. It came out beautiful and from that point on everything we sold was restored to its original beauty. We have gotten pieces in that at first glance appeared beyond repair, but we have always been able to restore them. Over the years we have perfected our techniques and all of our pieces are as close to original as possible.


Braisila furniture is over 50 years old, but it seems to be only gaining in popularity. Have you seen the same trend?
The popularity of Broyhill Brasilia is soaring. We’ve been buying and selling for about 12 years and until a couple years ago we sold mostly to folks that already had Brasilia and were looking to add a piece or two. Now we sell entire dining rooms or bedrooms; its popularity has just exploded.
We think this is due to the resurgence of mid-century modern in general. Brasilia has also been seen in some Mad Men episodes as well as some movies during the past couple of years. We see no end in sight and would suggest anyone who wants to add to or start a collection move forward now before prices rise even more.

There are still bargains to be had in thrift shops and other similar sources, but the condition may not be great. We try to price the Brasilia pieces we have for sale fairly, and we’re often lower than other sellers, but we are paying more and more so our prices have to rise as well.

With focusing on one line, I would think inventory is hard to come by and keep in stock. How many pieces do you typically have on hand? 
Although it varies and changes constantly we typically have ten to fifteen unique pieces plus lots of chairs in all styles.


And how often do you get new items in?
We get new pieces at least several times a month. We purchase from all over the eastern US. People also contact us through the website and our eBay listings. Because we pay dealer prices we encourage them to try a local sale and get back to us if they’re unsuccessful. About 75% of the time they come back. We also look for pieces on Craigslist and even eBay if we see a good buy.

If we don't have a Brasilia piece that someone is looking for we let them know the likelihood of getting it in the near future. We keep a want list at all times and notify folks when we get what they’re looking for. Of course, some pieces are more popular and available than others. The most popular are the Brasilia door chest, which we get frequently, and the magna dresser, which only comes in once or twice a year.

What do you love most about the Brasilia line?
It’s hard to say what has made the Broyhill Brasilia line so popular. There were a number of Broyhill Premier lines that were produced at the same time using the same frames, but none captured the market like Brasilia. It is such a unique design that was, of course, based upon a world-class architect designs for the then new city of Brasila. But credit must also be given to the Broyhill designers who translated that building design into such a beautiful line of furniture. It’s a testament to their ingenuity that Brasilia furniture is more popular than ever nearly half a century later.

What pieces do you have in your own home?
At one time, both of our homes were entirely Brasilia with the exception of upholstered furniture. For the last decade our home was informally called the Brasilia museum. We were even contacted once by Broyhill about coming to visit as they were considering reviving the line. Nothing came of that however. After more than four decades we have changed some of our pieces into a more contemporary design.


Do you have a favorite piece from the line?
This is a hard question to answer. We love the 72" credenza base with its all-door design. The credenza buffet also remains a favorite with its beautiful vertical lines.

Arguably you know more about Brasilia than anyone else. What would the average Brasilia fan be surprised to know about the line?
Most folks are unaware that there was a change in production around late 1969. Modifications were made to some, but not all, of the pieces and they were stained darker. This was marketed as Brasilia II. We believe it was an attempt to revive sales, but had the opposite effect. Very little was sold and the Brasilia line was discontinued in its entirety. Brasilia II remains unpopular and we don’t normally buy or sell it.


An example of the darker Brasilia II.

You sometimes sell the bits and pieces of Brasilia that are usually hard to track down, the hardware and original fabric. Do these come from unsalvageable pieces or another source?
We were lucky enough to come across some drawer pulls some years ago from someone who changed the original handles. Those are long gone and we get requests at least once a month for them. We just bought two pieces that were sold the first time to someone who just wanted the handles! We are exploring the possibility of having them reproduced but nothing is firm at this time.

We have never had a piece that could not be salvaged. We have taken apart some china tops as more folks just want the base. Those we have pulls for and we've been able to create table leaves from the extra wood.

Do you have any other favorite lines of furniture, beyond Brasilia?
After more than forty years of nothing but Brasilia in our home, we have added Ocean Club, a Tommy Bahama line made by Lexington. It is comparable in construction to Brasilia and quite attractive. It is very contemporary rather than MCM. We have found that it works beautifully with our Brasilia.

16 comments:

  1. Great interview! This is such a good series.

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  2. Thanks for the great interview and series!

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  3. I still cry over the Brasilia dining room set I told my mom I would never want because it was ugly. It was the 1990s and I didn't know any better. I want it back! It was kept in beautiful condition!

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    1. We all did silly things in the '90s, now you've got something to hunt for every time you hit a vintage store.

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    2. I have a set if you're interested, including the server and break front. It was my parents'.

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  4. My mom encased the seats in clear vinyl which I always considered tacky, until I saw the deplorable condition that many of the original chairs are in.

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  5. i just bought a 1962 brasilia drop leaf table w 4 chairs and the 2 leaves were in the original box.the table pads were there too.i paid 69.99 for all of it at goodwill.beautiful set in amazing condition.

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    1. Wow! Such a steal. Goodwill is great for finds like that - but I've haven't been lucky enough yet.

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  6. i believe the upolstry is orig.and encased in plastic

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  7. I got a brasilla dresser for free from my land lord it's in amazing condition

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    1. Wow, that is super lucky. I wish I had a landlord like that.

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  8. https://www.facebook.com/ebroyhill/media_set?set=a.10154374149902640.1073741847.685002639&type=3&pnref=story

    I posted my story of the Brasilia Collection

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    1. Thanks for sharing. It was a really interesting read. If you'd ever be interested in doing an interview or would be willing to write about other lines (Sculptra comes to mind), please email MadForMidCentury@gmail.com

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  9. I just bought the darker one on the picture. Will it affect the value of the piece?

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    1. If it's darker and from the Brasilia II line, they're usually less sought after than the original Broyhill Brasilia pieces and for that reason tend to have less value, at least among the people who can tell the difference.

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  10. I am in need of a pull for the China top? As well as leaves and more dining chairs

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