Cowboy High Style: Thomas Molesworth to the New West

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Elizabeth Clair Flood

Bow-legged cowboys, buffalo silhouettes, bucking horses, Indian tepees, a antlered elk - all icons that symbolize the rugged West. These, plus sensuous natural woods, vibrant leathers and colorful woven wool fabrics, are the raw materials of western casual elegance.
The western decorative style first became fashionable in the 1930s and 1940s, when dude ranches and lodges were among the most popular tourist destinations. Many of these retreats were outfitted by Cody, Wyoming, furniture maker Thomas C. Molesworth, who worked mainly with swollen burls, rich leathers, and vibrant Chimayo weavings, to create the sturdy, streamlined furniture for which he has become famous. By adding romantic western and wildlife motifs to the furniture pieces through detailed wood carvings or paintings, Molesworth promoted a high style of furnishings that captured the spirit of the West.
Today, that once-urban dream is fast becoming an urban reality. As romance with the Old West sweeps the country and takes its place as the design style of the decade, old western furniture pieces are in high demand. And a new crop of furniture makers, inspired by Molesworth and the Arts and Crafts tradition, are expanding the western dream to meet the vision of the nineties.
In readable commentary, Elizabeth Flood captures the entrepreneurial and artistic spirit of Thomas Molesworth and introduces the contemporary furniture and accessory makers who are pushing the western style ahead in both craftsmanship and design.