Norman Cherner above with contemporary versions of his chairs produced today by his sons.
The Artist at Work, Cover of the Saturday Evening Post 1961 by Norman Rockwell. Note the Cherner armchair.
One look at a Cherner chair and you want to know more. The unique shape combined with built-up layers of veneered plywood led me to adopt these modernist and sculptural pieces into my home to accompany a Saarinen table, nearly a decade ago. I love the design, the finish and the "sit"— never once regretting the decision. However, my dining table and chairs purchased at an undisclosed mass retailer—with the intention of being able to seat large dinner parties—was a huge mistake. I chose function and practicality over style and aesthetics—regretting the decision ever since. I share this with you so you can be a much wiser shopper than I was that day!
A brief history:
Molded plywood chairs were initially explored by modernist designers rebelling against ornamentation of the past while looking for new materials and processes. Norman Cherner (1920-1987) was an architect interested in affordable housing—designing prefab homes. He was also an instructor at the MOMA in New York in the late 1940s and a published author among other accolades. Cherner originally designed his famous molded plywood chair for a company called Plycraft who later told him that they had decided to not follow through with the project. Plycraft went on to produce the chair, insisting they had designed it. Eventually Norman Cherner sued them for payment and won royalties. Plycraft discontinued the chair in the 1970s leaving it only to be seen in design museums or happened upon in thrift stores. In 1999 Cherner's sons, Benjamin and Thomas started the Cherner Chair Company after years of requests by fellow architects. Using their fathers original specifications the Cherner chair was reintroduced to an audience enamored with modernist design, art and artifacts.
Where to find them:
I recently found quite a few Cherner Chairs on one of our favorite sites, 1st Dibs. If you are a purist and want the originals from the 1950s-60s this is the place to find them. Here, here and here.
Otherwise you can purchase them new at DWR.
"...After all, a chair can be viewed as a work of art. Forget class,
social superiority, authority, and distinction. Enter line, proportion,
shape, materials, decoration, and craftsmanship—all criteria
for appreciating chairs as craft, sculpture, as pure form".
~The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body and Design, by Galen Cranz