Cliff May’s furniture sells his first house
May designed his furniture in the latest style of the 1920s: Monterey. Monterey was originally created by Frank Mason and his son George for the Los Angeles-based, home-furnishing company, Barker Brothers. Influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement, early forms of Monterey (1929-1932) are similar to Mission-style furniture except that Monterey is finished with paint, hand-painted flowers, California tile, wrought-iron strapping, and rope decoration.
To sell his work as well as obtain commissions, May placed his furniture in a new house for sale. When the house sold in part because of the furniture, May installed his furniture into another new house on the market and to his delight that house quickly sold, too. After experiencing such admiration for his furniture, May decided to design and build a house himself and worked out an agreement with real estate developer and his future father-in-law, Roy C. Lichty. Lichty, who owned several lots in San Diego that he could not readily sell because of the Great Depression, agreed to put up land and money for May to build a house. In return, May would provide the labor and if the house sold, they would split the profits in half. May drew up the plans and with the help of a master carpenter built his first house in 1932 in Talmadge Park, San Diego. Filled with May’s handcrafted Monterey furniture, the house sold for $9,500 to Colonel Arthur J. O’Leary.
To learn more, read “Designer of the Dream by Mary van Balgooy” by Mary A. van Balgooy published in the Southern California Quarterly 86, No. 2 (2004).