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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gerald McCabe

Gerald McCabe (1927-2010) was born in Long Beach, California. He attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School and then served in the U. S. Navy during World War II. He received a bachelor's degree from UCLA and a master's from California State University Long Beach, both in fine art.

McCabe opened a custom furniture business in the mid-1950s. He designed furniture for companies such as Brown Saltman and Glenn of California. In the 1960s and 1970s, he designed and produced his own lines under the names Erin Furniture and Orange Crate Modern. McCabe's design is known for its modern lines, precision joinery and the combining of wood, glass and steel.

His designs were included in the Case Study House #21 by architect Pierre Koenig. A famous photograph by Julius Shulman shows Koenig standing by a stereo cabinet designed by McCabe.

McCabe's first wife was a folk singer, and as a result of McCabe's reputation as a master woodworker, his wife's friends started bring guitars to him for repair. This side business evolved into McCabe's Guitar Shop, a music institution in Santa Monica, which became a gathering spot for music fans and musicians.

McCabe, known as a free spirit, also restored and sailed a tugboat, taught design at area universities and art schools, was a yoga instructor, repaired Citroen automobiles, raced cars and built his own home in Santa Monica Canyon.

Photo by Julius Shulman of Case Study House #21
Flip table (used as a coffee table or dining table)
3-drawer desk
Clamp table
Steel frame sofa
Chrome and glass table
Convertible side table
Coffee table
Dining table and chair


  1. First my mind went to the graphic with the people and stereo and I wanted to caption it. Janice tensed when Larry went to the stereo. If he played Puff the Magic Dragon AGAIN she didn't know if she could control herself.

    The other thing I noticed is how much these designs remind me of some of the stuff done by the Picker Sisters (not my fav show, btw)

  2. @DearHelenHartman: Hilarious caption, even if it is anachronistic, since the photo was taken in 1960, and the song came out in 1963. ;)~

    And yikes about the Picker Sisters. Their stuff reminds me of Trading Spaces.

  3. @1950sarh: I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like those chairs!

  4. i never knew that mcabe's guitar shop & designer mcabe were one in the same! thanks for the history lesson!

  5. wow...such a multifaceted personality...and he must have had a very vibrant and pleasing attitude to be what he was :).the profile pic says it all

  6. @Carey Brown Stombotne: I think it's interesting that he gained as much or more fame from the guitar shop as from his designs.

  7. @Sudha: He must have been quite a free-spirited character. His family reported that his last words were "Yabba dabba doo." Although he suffered from Alzheimer's, I have a feeling those would have been his last words anyway. He seemed to know how to get a lot of fun out of everything in life.