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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sam Maloof

Sam Maloof (1916-2009) was born in Chino, California, to parents who had emigrated to the United States from Lebanon. He took his first woodworking class in high school, and his talent was recognized by an art teacher.

He was primarily self-taught and worked out of a home workshop. His career began just as the American modernism movement was becoming popular, and even after his work became immensely popular, and he turned down a multimillion-dollar offer to mass produce his work, he preferred to make furniture by hand, one part at a time, cutting them freehand on a band saw. Instead of following plans, he worked from an image in his head.

He used no nails or metal hardware. Even hinges and underbracings were wood. Once, he made a prototype and dropped it from the roof of his garage onto his driveway to test the strength of the joints for a set of chairs. The joints survived.

His walnut chairs and bar stools were used in the Case Study houses, which were designed by architects such as Richard Neutra, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, and his cork-top coffee tables and hi-fi cabinets were praised by interior designers and home magazine editors.

Maloof's business, which he started in 1949, didn't make a profit for 20 years, in spite of quickly attracting the attention of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, which published photographs and plans of Maloof's furniture to show readers how to decorate economically. Even with the help of his son and three longtime assistants, his shop only turned out 50 to 100 pieces a year, fewer than a small factory would make in a day. However, he never wavered from his contemporary design, even when wood furniture lost favor in the plastic-and-chrome 1960s, '70s and '80s.

His furniture is in permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Arts & Design in New York.

n 1985 he was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship (nicknamed the "Genius Award"). He was described by the Smithsonian Institution as "America's most renowned contemporary furniture craftsman," and People magazine dubbed him "The Hemingway of Hardwood." But his business card always said "woodworker."

His home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public, was moved three miles in 1999 to make room for a freeway extension. It attracts 3,000 visitors a year.

From and


Coffee table

Lounge chairs

Dining table

Cork-top coffee table

Lounge chair

Rocking lounge chair



Uploaded by craftinamerica2007 on Aug 31, 2011


  1. What beautiful, beautiful furniture! I'm in love with that rocking lounge chair. It's incredible that he didn't turn a profit for 20 years but stuck with it. That's some perseverance! How wonderful that he got the credit and recognition he deserved. Great bio! Thank you =)

  2. @Flo: That surprised me too. And in light of that fact, it's even more amazing that he turned down a multimillion-dollar offer to mass produce his pieces.

  3. No metal? Wow, that's a craftsman. What a quality product. Not many things today would withstand that kind of test! Lol.

  4. @Tanya: I was watching a 3-part video series about Maloof, and at one point he rationalized using screws, calling them "metal dowels," but the video was shot when he was almost 90 years old, so perhaps he changed his production methods somewhat at the end of his career. That has made me curious, so I'm sure I'll research it more...compulsive researcher that I am. :)

  5. That stair case is awesome but I want to see studies about what became of children who were put in that cradle! I bet they have some interesting childhood hangups.

  6. not using must be a master in joinery!! awesome..lovely info........may i have that rocking lounger plZZZZZZZ

  7. an artist in true sense....refusing to make money but wanting to keep doing what he loved..very few people can be that :) inspiring