Much has been said about Arts & Architecture magazine’s role in fostering the seemingly unending appetite for midcentury design. And undoubtedly, editor John Entenza’s pioneering Case Study program along with Julius Shulman’s iconic photographs were instrumental in propagating the modernist aesthetic. Much less has been said, however, about the significant contribution made by a Long Beach furniture dealer toward the creation of what’s been called "blueprints for modern living."
Run by siblings Maurice and Eddie Frank, Frank Bros. was among the first Southern California retailers to feature contemporary Scandinavian furniture as well as designs by such architects as Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The store’s sophisticated offerings made it a magnet for architects, interior decorators, and magazine editors, including John Entenza, while its layaway plan allowed Long Beach’s working class to afford high-quality design on a budget.
Not only did Frank Bros. supply the furnishings for about half of the houses built in the Case Study project, Eddie Frank also commissioned Case Study architect Edward Killingsworth, a friend from high school, to design a home for him—Case Study House No. 25—on Naples Island.
In recent years, awareness of and interest in the Franks and their progressive-minded business has been growing steadily, propelled in part by Maurice’s son Ron’s 2009 donation of the company archives to the Getty Research Institute. Set to open in January at CSU Long Beach’s University Art Museum is the exhibition Frank Bros.: The Store That Modernized Modern.
On October 15, the museum is conducting the inaugural Long Beach Mid-Century Modern Home Tour as a benefit for the exhibit. Stops along the tour include homes designed by Hugh Davies, Edward Killingsworth, Cliff May, George Montierth, Richard Neutra, and Raphael Soriano.
In addition to the home tour, the museum is also hosting a VIP party with food, drinks, and entertainment at a home designed by Edward Killingsworth, as well as a performance by local treasure Charles Phoenix at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center. Ticket prices start at $75 (house tour only), going up to $175 for the home tour and party, and up to $200 for entry to all three events.