22 Pieces from the Four Seasons Auction That Belong in Your Home
New York City’s Four Seasons was the most expensive restaurant in history when it was built and outfitted in the 1950s. By its opening in 1959, costs had ballooned to some $4.9 million—roughly $40.6 million in today’s dollars.
In a 1999 feature in Vanity Fair, architect Philip Johnson described the job as “an architect’s dream come true … We got whatever we wanted.”
And so every detail, from the caviar spoons to the herring wagons, was painfully considered—often times by the best design minds of the era. Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, and Ada Louise Huxtable, who have all been credited with defining and advancing design in the ‘50s and ‘60s, were hired to create banquettes, lobby seating, and flatware that were quintessentially modern America: uncomplicated but impeccable; functional but subversively stylish.
On July 26, two weeks after the Four Seasons finished its last dinner service in Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, these objects will go to auction in the restaurant’s famous Pool Room.
There are over 600 lots, including “perching sofas” by Johnson, tulip chairs and bronze bar tables by Eero Saarinen, dining chairs by Hans Wegner, and brandy snifters from Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable.
Also on offer: serving carts, chargers, and ashtrays. Bread baskets and oyster dishes. Cream and sugar vessels. Iced tea spoons and tableside wine coolers.
Prices start as low as $100, but Wright, the auction house, estimates that big-ticket items—like the lobby’s seating installation, Murmuration, which was created by Johnny Swing out of stainless steel and welded nickels—will fetch more than $100,000.
And then there’s banquette 32, where Philip Johnson sat when he visited the restaurant. That particular lot, the same place where Princess Di sat for lunch when she visited, is also expected to fetch a pretty penny.
The fact that these items are going to auction is pretty incredible. Duplicates of some of these items can be found in the Museum of Modern Art; this interior was called the best example of International Style in America and became an official New York City landmark.
These objects, which have lived inside the Four Seasons’ airy, bronze-and-travertine rooms for decades, were not just a natural extension of the place’s modern cuisine and powerful clientele: They helped redefine luxury in the restaurant world. In the 1950s, the most famous restaurants were still heavily decorated. The Four Seasons, in which every object was designed functionally and edited fastidiously, was practically unadorned in comparison.
The restaurant provided a perfect backdrop for Park Avenue power lunches, and sand perfectly in tune with the menu, which was just as labored over and exacting. (Legendary food critic Mimi Sheraton, who did research for the restaurant in advance of its opening, mentioned at the auction preview that the research team spent “two weeks deciding which pepper to serve” and another week deliberating over “how coarse it needed to be.”)
Even if you’re not a design nerd, and even if you never experienced the Four Seasons as a highlight of a long-ago trip to New York City, this auction is something special.
Philip Johnson designed two of these banquettes for the Grill Room. One of these, number 32, was Johnson's preferred table. Proceeds from the sale of that particular banquette will go to The Glass House, Johnson's personal home and masterwork in New Canaan, Connecticut. These are estimated to sell for $3,000 - $5,000.
These bar stools from the Grill Room, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with Philip Johnson are made of vinyl and chrome-plated steel. The pair are estimated to sell for between $5,000 and $7,000.
Cantilevered Dining Chairs
These cantilevered dining chairs by Mies van der Rohe were found in the Grill Room and the Pool Room. The pair are expected to go for between $1,000 and $1,500.
Hans Wegner Dining Chairs
Hans Wegner designed these teak dining chairs. They're estimated to go for between $2,000 and $3,000.
Where These Pieces Lived
These sauce pots, designed by Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable, are part of the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. They're expected to fetch between $300 and $500.
This Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable-designed silverware set—a nine-piece service for 12 settings—is expected to sell for between $1,000 and $1,500.
These curved banquettes are expected to bring in between $3,000 and $5,000.
Philip Johnson designed these perching sofas in 1984, for the restaurant's 25th anniversary. They're expected to sell for between $3,000 and $5,000.
These silver-soldered, footed bread baskets, by Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable, are estimated to bring in between $1,000 and $1,500.
These Philip Johnson-designed banquettes are believed to go for between $1,000 and $1,500.
Where These Pieces Lived
A set of 12 porcelain plates is expected to sell for between $200 and $300.
Armless Dining Chairs
The auction house estimates that Mies van der Rohe's armless Brno chairs will go for between $2,000 and $3,000 for each pair.
These nickel silver caviar bowls, along with mother-of-pear caviar spoons, are expected to sell for between $1,000 and $1,500 each.
Eero Saarinen designed these custom Tulip tables for the bar of the Grill Room. They're expected to sell for between $5,000 and $7,000.
Johnny Swing installed this piece, called Murmuration, in the Four Seasons lobby. It's made of welded nickels and stainless steal and is expected to sell for between $100,000 and $150,000.
These Eero Saarinen-designed Tulip stools were found in the Grill Room. They're expected to go for between $500 and $700.
Eero Saarinen's tulip chairs, spotted in the ladies lounge updated in 2009 for the restaurant's 50-year anniversary, are expected to bring in between $700 and $900 for a pair.
Where These Pieces Lived
Each set of the Four Seasons' ashtrays are expected to sell for between $500 and $700.
This coffee service set includes a coffee pot, eight cups, and eight saucers. It's estimated to sell for between $300 and $500.
Cream and Sugar Sets
This nickel silver coffee set, by the Huxtables, is estimated to go for between $300 and $500.
Standing Wine Chillers
These free-standing wine coolers, designed by Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable, are estimated to go for between $2,000 and $3,000.
The Bronze Sign
The Four Seasons' bronze signage is expected to bring in between $5,000 and $7,000. Proceeds from the sale of this particular item are being given to the Canadian Centre for Architecture.