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Sam Maloof Chairs

American, 1916-2009

Along with George Nakashima and Wendell Castle, the woodworker Sam Maloof was a guiding spirit of the American Studio furniture movement — a postwar revival of craftsmanship fueled by a reverence for skilled labor and a disdain for mass-produced furnishings composed of plastic and other synthetic materials. Maloof brought a modern interpretation to traditional seating and cabinetry forms, and in doing so he created some of the most beautiful and artfully made furniture seen in the country since the 19th-century heyday of the Shakers.

Maloof was born in then-rural Chino, California, east of Los Angeles. His parents were immigrants from Lebanon, then still part of the Ottoman Empire. Maloof’s father sold fruits and vegetables from a cart, and his mother sold her handmade lace and embroidery. It was through her, Maloof would later say, that he found a love of fine craftsmanship.

Maloof tinkered with woodcarving as a boy, making things such as dollhouse furniture, but in high school he became known for his calligraphy and hand-lettered posters and signs. Into his 30s, Maloof made a modest living as a graphic artist. But in 1948, he and his newlywed bride, Alfreda Ward, a crafts teacher, moved into a new house. To save money, Maloof made their furniture from scrap oak planks, and he so clearly loved the work that his wife persuaded him to make woodworking his profession. Within two years, Maloof’s furniture was getting attention in the press, and in 1951 he received his first significant commission when the industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss hired him to make chairs and cabinets for a new office in Pasadena.

Entirely self-taught, Maloof was an intuitive designer, with a natural sense of scale and proportion. He never sketched plans for a piece in advance; on chairs, he said he worked from the legs up. Maloof used no metal hardware in his furniture; rather than bolts or screws, his pieces derive their strength and integrity solely from Maloof’s painstaking joinery.

Though he made all types of furniture, Maloof is best known for his rocking chairs. His are instantly recognizable by their long glides and attenuated, gently curved spindled backrests. Maloof lavished long hours shaping and sanding his chairs to conform to the human body, then oiling and rubbing the wood to give it a silky tactility.

Vintage Sam Maloof furniture is scarce, if not rare: At his peak of productivity in the 1970s, Maloof (by then, working with three assistants) made an estimated 300 pieces a year. His tables and smaller cabinets are priced at around $15,000; because they are his signature forms, rocking chairs made of walnut bring about twice that, more in exotic woods such as tiger maple and rosewood.

As you will see on 1stDibs, Sam Maloof designs are exemplary objects of both beauty and utility — warm, welcoming and rich in honest character.

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Creator: Sam Maloof
Pair of Sam Maloof Horn Back Chairs
By Sam Maloof
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Pair of Sam Maloof horn back chairs with carved walnut and velvet upholstery 1962, USA
Category

1960s American Vintage Sam Maloof Chairs

Materials

Velvet, Walnut

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Sam Maloof chairs for sale on 1stDibs.

Sam Maloof chairs are available for sale on 1stDibs. These distinctive items are frequently made of wood and are designed with extraordinary care. There are many options to choose from in our collection of Sam Maloof chairs, although brown editions of this piece are particularly popular. If you’re looking for additional options, many customers also consider chairs by Warren Platner, Dan Johnson, and George Nakashima. Prices for Sam Maloof chairs can differ depending upon size, time period and other attributes — on 1stDibs, these items begin at $20,000 and can go as high as $20,000, while a piece like these, on average, fetch $20,000.

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