A Case Study in Chairs

I don’t have much self control when it comes to awesome chairs. I don’t have anywhere to put more chairs. They’re everywhere in this house. In some cases there are even chairs sitting behind other chairs. Though I issued myself a clear and assertive “no more chairs, no exceptions” directive, it was pretty powerless against this chair:

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The chair, designed by Gerald McCabe and produced by Brown Saltman in the early 1960s, was not a design I had seen before. But I loved it. And I was able to trade two other chairs for it, so technically it means I’ve reduced my total number of chairs while gaining one awesome new one.

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Despite knowing the designer and manufacturer, there isn’t a lot of information out there about it and actual examples of the chair seem to be even more scarce. It has, however, made some notable and historic public appearances. A stationary version of the chair can be seen in photographs of Case Study House #21, the Bailey House, designed in 1958 by Pierre Koenig. Many furnishings in the home were custom designed for the project by Gerald McCabe and it’s very likely he originally designed this chair for the project as well.

McCabe chair as seen in the living room of the Bailey House.

McCabe chair as seen in the living room of the Bailey House.

The McCabe chair in yellow as seen in a period photo of the Bailey House.

The McCabe chair in yellow as seen in a period photo of the Bailey House.

The chair was also featured in California Design 6 (1960), an annual exhibition of modernist design held by the Pasadena Museum of Art. The chair was eventually marketed as part of the Silhouette group by Brown Saltman, but it’s unclear who actually produced the chair, how many versions were sold and how many actual examples even exist. Outside of photos of the Bailey House, I can’t find any examples of the stationary version of the chair ever being sold or even existing. It’s possible it never went into production. Additionally, examples of the rocking chair have two different styles of runners and arms. Unlike mine with sandwiched steel runners and sculpted arms, many examples have solid wood runners and slab-like arms. Early examples of the chair were produced by Areon & Erin, changes in design could be explained by a shift to manufacturing by Brown Saltman.

Alternate version of the chair with different runners and arms.

Alternate version of the chair with different runners and arms.

A period photo showing an example identical to mine.

A period photo showing an example identical to mine.

Regardless of provenance or rarity, I really just love the chair. It has unique but refined lines. It’s just a beautiful piece of furniture.

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And it doesn’t hurt that it’s surprisingly comfortable, too.

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2 Comments

  1. debra
    Posted January 20, 2016 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Holy moly – that is the coolest chair I have EVER seen. So where did you find it? I know I just can’t spend $$ on furniture like many can/do but still, this chair would be so awesome to own. Thanks for sharing

    • Austin
      Posted January 20, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Debra! I actually traded some early Eames shell chairs to another collector for this. But if I had seen it out in the wild, I would have definitely considered splurging on it.

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