Pacifica / LAMA Design

Pacifica Designed Interiors at the De Young Museum. Image: Arts & Architecture

There are a number of lots in the November 15th LAMA Design auction related to one of my favorite moments in design--Pacifica.  

Pacifica wasn't a company. It was an aesthetic based on the synthesis of Pacific island and California design concepts in architecture and furnishings. It emerged in 1949, championed by Harry Jackson, the owner of Jackson's Furniture in Oakland, California. The movement was characterized by a love for natural materials combined with a bold and direct simplicity that adapted the restraint of Japanese design to furnish American homes.

Lot 124, Boomerang Coffee Table was shown at the Pacifica exhibition at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.

In 1952, PACIFICA: Furniture, Textiles, and Ceramics, an exhibition at the De Young Museum in San Francisco gained widespread attention. It was organized by Jackson and was featured in design and architecture magazines including Arts & Architecture and Interiors–each highlighting the fusion of Californian, Japanese, and Pacific island influences. The trend then went national with a large number of manufacturers and retailers participating in the concept. There were 36 pages dedicated to Pacifica in House Beautiful and a multi-page article in Life Magazine. 

Lot 177 Luther Conover Pacifica Group Coffee table with iron legs and mahogany top is shown in the Jackson's ad above from the April 1953 Oakland Tribune newspaper. 

Lot 149, Luther Conover Nesting stools are also in the Jackson's ad above.

The program also extended into architecture with a Pacifica House, akin to Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study Program. The first structure was designed by Cambell & Wong in the San Francisco Civic Auditorium, with a garden designed by Eckbo, Royston and Williams. Subsequent Pacifica House projects were permanent homes designed by architects such as John Funk, Jon Konigshofer (photo above, as seen in Life Magazine, 1953), Herbert E. Goodpastor, and Herbert T. Johnson.

The 1951 Pacifica House by John Funk, with landscape design by Robert Royston, from the Oakland Tribune

Designs by Walter Lamb, Harry Lawenda, Ficks Reed, Pacific Iron, and Greta Magnusson-Grossman were among the original contributions. In fact, Walter Lamb was part of the first exhibition of the concept at Jackson's in 1950.

Ultimately, it was a small group of San Francisco Bay Area designers who were most closely associated with Pacifica and whose work embodies the vision. Luther Conover, Muriel Coleman and Peter Rooke-Ley, through Coleman’s company California Contemporary created a Pacifica line and associated catalog that was marketed through Jackson's and comprised most of the furnishings on display at the De Young exhibition. 

California Contemporary catalog page

 Luther Conover’s Pacifica Group was a winner at Good Design 1952 (at the Chicago Merchandise Mart). Harry Jackson then served on the selection committee of the 1953 Good Design exhibition, along with Florence Knoll and Edgar Kaufmann Jr.

Through Japanese designer Isamu Kenmochi, who Harry Jackson knew personally, word about Pacifica and the popularization of Japanese design made it to Japan. Kenmochi designs were also sold at Jackson's. Then in 1962, to bring things full circle, Harry Jackson opened "Jackson's Furniture Corner" in the Takashimaya department store in Tokyo. They offered antiques, designs by modern Japanese designers, and furniture designed by Americans that were made by Japanese craftsmen.

Pacifica represented not only a design movement but also a lifelong philosophy of Harry Jackson, emphasizing the value of cultural understanding and the integration of diverse cultural elements into design and lifestyle. It left a significant mark on the design world during its relatively short existence.

Photo: Harry Jackson (R) with architect Jon Konigshofer (L) via Life Magazine, 1951

Photo shoot for House Beautiful Magazine, with Conover and Muriel Coleman pieces on the set.
Photo: Maynard Parker, Huntington Library