LAMA BLOG

Designs from the Cleo Baldon Estate

February 1, 2016

A swimming pool, the designer Cleo Baldon (1927–2014) wrote, “reaches us on an emotional level. We are drawn to water. We seek to live beside it, at streams and rivers, oceans and lakes. We can imagine the pool as a link to our primordial past; pools respond to a profound emotional need and satisfy it.”

Cleo Baldon

Cleo Baldon with Oskar Fischinger painting in the background (Lot 45). From the Cleo Baldon Estate.

Few have understood the full significance of the swimming pool and the environment surrounding it better than Baldon. From the 1960s and onwards, she was a key creative figure in the widespread establishment of the pool as an integral feature of the laid-back, optimistic Southern California lifestyle. By her own reckoning, Baldon designed more than 3,000 pools in and around Los Angeles, working as co-principal of a landscape architecture firm whose offices overlooked Venice Beach. She has been credited with the invention of the lap pool in the early seventies, a contribution that helped to advance the personal fitness revolution. At the same time, Baldon was a force for SoCal cool and sybaritic relaxation: she held a patent for the first prefabricated fiberglass jacuzzi with contoured seating, and she designed successful lines of outdoor furniture that married the sleek minimalism of modernist design with materials redolent of the region’s Spanish Colonial heritage: wrought iron, wood, and leather strapping.

Lot 354, Cleo Baldon, Pack Saddle Sofa/Double

Lot 354, Cleo Baldon, Pack Saddle Sofa/Double, designed 1965
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Baldon was, moreover, a quintessential Southern California character. She was born in rural Washington state, in the heart of apple-growing country (she would later say that the long, narrow irrigation trenches that run between the orchards were an inspiration for the lap pool). She came south to study interior design at Woodbury University in Burbank. Like many an L.A. transplant, she changed her name–she was christened Merle–to something more exotic. Baldon took part in the birth of what we now call Mid-century Modernism. At Woodbury, she became close friends with Robert Theron “Pete” Peters–the architect and illustrator who is widely acknowledged as the practical force in the architectural offices of Craig Ellwood, who himself had no formal training–and would collaborate with him on several design projects. Another of Baldon’s longtime friends was the photographer Julius Shulman, whose work did so much to advance the mythos of modernism. He and Baldon published a design monograph about stairways. She was also an enterprising businesswoman: when she opened her own furniture company, Baldon purchased a foundry to fabricate the metal frames.

Lot 357, Cleo Baldon, X-Bar Stools

Lot 357, Cleo Baldon, X-Bar stools, designed 1964
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

There was one final idiosyncrasy to this remarkable woman. Though she co-owned a thriving landscape design firm, she had no interest in greenery and left all horticultural matters to her business partner. “I don’t understand plants,” Baldon told the Los Angeles Times. “And don’t intend to.”

Lot 355, Cleo Baldon, extension dining table

Lot 358, Cleo Baldon, extension dining table with a lazy Susan
February 21, 2016 Modern Art & Design Auction

Property from Ms. Baldon’s collection will be auctioned in LAMA’s February 21, 2016 sale and will include ten lots of furniture and designs from “Terra,” the company she founded and ran, as well as fine art comprising of two vintage photographs by Baldon’s close friend Julius Shulman and three original works of art by Oskar Fischinger.

Baldon, Cleo, Ib Melchior, and Melba Levick. Reflections on the Pool: California Designs for Swimming. New York: Rizzoli, 1997. Print. Hillier, Bevis. “Designing Women.” Editorial. Los Angeles Times, 24 Feb. 1985: n. pag. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. Jackson, N. California Modern: The Architecture of Craig Ellwood. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2002. 36-39. Print.

Lot Information:

Lot 350
Cleo Baldon
Game table and X Benches (3)
Terra
Designed 1964
Model nos. GTC-24/48 (table); XB-502 (bench)
Table: 27.25″ x 48″ x 24.25″; Stools each: 16″ x 18.75″ x 16″
Comprised of a game table and two benches
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Literature: Terra Retail Price List. February 1969. N.pag.
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000

Lot 351
Cleo Baldon
Fetus (Plaque)
Terra
Designed 1965
Model no. PB-422
21″ x 21″ x 4″
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Estimate: $2,500 – $3,500

Lot 352
Cleo Baldon
Pack Saddle Sofa/Triple
Terra
Designed 1965
28″ x 92.25″ x 35″
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Literature: Terra Retail Price List. February 1969. N.pag.
Estimate: $3,000 – $5,000

Lot 353
Cleo Baldon
Chunk table
Terra
Designed 1965
18″ x 54.5″ x 30.5″
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Literature: Terra Retail Price List. February 1969. N.pag.
Estimate: $1,500 – $2,000

Lot 354
Cleo Baldon
Pack Saddle Sofa/Double
Terra
Designed 1965
Model no. PS-870
27.5″ x 71.25″ x 35″
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Literature: Terra Retail Price List. February 1969. N.pag.
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000

Lot 355
Cleo Baldon
Extension dining table
Terra
Designed 1965
Model nos. EXT-52 (table); LS-24 (lazy susan)
27.75″ x 53″ diameter; 27.75″ x 89.25″ x 52″ (with leaves)
Comprised of a dining table, two leaves, and a lazy Susan
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Literature: Terra Retail Price List. February 1969. N.pag.
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000

Lot 356
Cleo Baldon
X Armchairs (2)
Terra
Designed 1965
Model no. XAC-203
Each: 32″ x 23.25″ x 22.5″
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Literature: Terra Retail Price List. February 1969. N.pag.
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000

Lot 357
Cleo Baldon
X-Bar stools (4)
Terra
Designed 1964
Model no. XBS-35
Each: 35.25″ x 16.25″ x 23″
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Literature: Terra Retail Price List. September 1964. N.pag.
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000

Lot 358
Cleo Baldon
Gallery Bench
Terra
Designed 1965
Model no. GB-511
25″ x 48″ x 19″
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Literature: Terra Retail Price List. February 1969. N.pag.
Estimate: $1,000 – $2,000

Lot 359
Cleo Baldon
Patio table and chairs (5)
Terra
Designed 1964
Model nos. TTM-42 (table); RC-201 (chairs)
Table: 28″ x 42.25″ diameter; Chairs each: 32″ x 20.75″ x 23″
Comprised of a table and four chairs
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Literature: Terra Retail Price List. Spring 1964. N.pag.
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000

Lot 360
Cleo Baldon
Terra hooks and plant frames (25)
Terra
Designed 1965
Various dimensions
Together with plant frames and wall hung triangle (not illustrated)
Provenance: Estate of Cleo Baldon, Los Angeles, California
Estimate: $800 – $1,200

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