From 1921 until the early 50s, Nut Tree was a food service trendsetter with an $85,000 kitchen and destination restaurant importing more pineapples than just about anyone else — a super popular stop off the highway between Sacramento to San Francisco. In 1953, new design director Don Birrell began a new era of bright, beautiful California modernism.
He brought Eames chairs to the toy shop — for a time, Nut Tree was the sole retailer on the West Coast for Eames furniture. He commissioned dish patterns (which are now in the MoMA permanent collection) and brought Dansk flatware into the dining room. Dishes were plated exactly as Don Birrell designed it. In four years, he and the partners had expanded Nut Tree to include a toy shop, gift shop, toy train, airport, its own clothing line and its own design studio. All of this before Alexander Girard's Textiles & Objects shop opened its doors in 1961.
In 1958, he began a collaboration with architects Dreyfuss & Blackford to design a new dining room, glasshouse aviary and garden pavilion — all of which used prefab and modern techniques picked up on his own inspiration trips to Scandinavia. The pavilion was directly influenced by Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens. Sadly, but not a surprise, Nut Tree could not survive. It closed its doors in 1996. The new Nut Tree USA includes a Best Buy and Old Navy.
[photos from alamedainfo.com via Cathy]
[Nut Tree: A Look Back]