Born in 1906, Greta Magnusson Grossman was an architect, an interior designer, and a furniture designer. In her 40-year career, she designed more than 15 homes on two continents: Europe and North America. However, Grossman is most celebrated for her industrial designs such as furniture and lights. She was a revolutionary force in mid-century modern furniture design and one of the first people who brought the Scandinavian design aesthetic to California.
In 1933, she became the first woman to be awarded the Furniture Design Award from the Swedish Society of Industrial Design. In the same year, she also received the second prize for her designs at the furniture competition by Stockholm’s Craft Association.
Here are the 10 of the most notable furniture pieces designed and produced by Greta Magnusson Grossman.
1. Cobra Lamp | Greta Magnusson Grossman
The Cobra Collection, which consists of a table lamp, a floor lamp, and a wall lamp, was designed for Ralph O. Smith by Greta Magnusson Grossman. The Cobra Table Lamp from the collection received the Good Design award in 1950, leading to it being exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The design was named so specifically for the oval form of the shade, which reminded people of a Cobra’s neck.
The lamp has a pivoting head hence, the shade can be rotated 360 degrees while the flexible, tubular arm can also be rotated in all directions. The design for the lighting fixtures was based on the principle of reflected light, whereby the shape of shade eliminates most of the glare from the bulb and also helps to reflect the light.
2. Grasshopper Floor Lamp
First produced in 1947 also for Ralph O. Smith, the Grasshopper Floor Lamp resembles the form of a grasshopper. The unique stance makes it “look as though it is alive and stalking its prey”.
The authentic Greta Magnusson Grossman design has an elongated aluminum conical shade and a tilted tubular steel tripod stand. Wherein, the shade is ball-jointed to the lithe tripod stand to allow it to move in any direction, focus the light, and minimize the glare. To this day, the sophisticated yet playful design of the Grasshopper lamp remains one of the designer’s most popular and iconic designs ever.
During her product design career, Greta Magnusson Grossman also designed and produced products for Glenn of California, the furniture company. One such furniture piece was a mid-century modern Bookshelf. It has a wooden frame and three shelves with a Formica surface.
Keeping in with the Scandinavian design aesthetic, the bookshelf was designed to have extremely slender iron legs with small, wooden spheres at the ends. This gave the bookshelf an elevated look, complete with a sense of openness.
In the period following her graduation, Greta Magnusson Grossman and her partner Erik Ullrich, took part in numerous exhibitions to showcase their designs. One such instance was a large group exhibit at the National Museum in Stockholm in 1937 where they contributed one of their famous designs, a crib for Sweden’s Princess Birgitta.
The design essentially involves a carefully designed tripod base with an upholstered back slightly arched over the seat. The tapered dowel legs are, however, the most distinctive element. A modern take on the traditional crib, the design brought a lot of attention and recognition to their studio and Grossman herself.
5. “62 Series” Desk | Greta Magnusson Grossman
In 1952, Grossman also designed an entire furniture collection for Glenn, known as the “62 Series”. It was named so as the unique furniture design was believed to be ten years ahead of its time. One of the distinguishing pieces from the series is the 62 Series Desk. It features one high drawer and a cabinet on the left with two low drawers.
The tabletop and cabinet door, both provided with a deep, black full gloss finish, whereas the desk is made in luxurious American walnut. Additionally, the quirky, asymmetric line on the right and thin metal legs give the appearance of a lightweight desk and add to the re-interpretation of the entire modern aesthetic.
6. “62 Series” Dresser
As part of the “62 Series”, Greta Magnusson Grossman also designed three dressers: Dresser 3 with 3 drawers and one cabinet, Dresser 4 with 4 drawers, and Dresser 6 with 2×3 drawers. The sharp and boxy rectangular frame in contrast with the sleek metal base gives the illusion of the dresser floating in the air.
Similar to the desk, the dressers are also finished in the collection’s trademark: American Walnut veneer and black full gloss finish. The repeated use of slim metal legs and small, solid wooden spheres in the dressers illustrates Grossman’s penchant for these design elements that are now iconic.
7. Modern Line Sofa
During the 1940s and 1950s, Grossman’s designs were not only regarded as the epitome of modern and innovative design but were also admired for effectively merging functionality and comfort. In the Modern Line set of Sofas, Greta Magnusson Grossman used industrial techniques for the upholstery of the furniture and Nozag springs technology to provide comfort to the user.
Designed in 1949, the collection also included lounge chairs, day beds, and poufs, all in harmony with the mid-century modern design aesthetic.
8. Chaise Lounge
Continuing with the wide use of upholstery in her products, Greta Magnusson Grossman also designed the Chaise Lounge in 1951. It has a very playful and unique form that follows a body’s natural curves, making it perfect for lounging and relaxing. Grossman designed various versions of the Chaise lounge while following a single but powerful design idea.
Some pieces featured a much-textured upholstery with wrought iron hairpin legs, while others were somewhat wide and short with light fabric and tapered wooden feet.
9. “Ironing Board” Table
Another significant piece of furniture inspired by the use of curves in Scandinavian design is the “Ironing Board” Table. It was also designed in 1952 and was named so because of its curved triangular shape that resembles a shortened ironing board. The sleek and modern-looking table is made of wood and topped with California Walnut veneer, whereas, the sculptural base that lifts it off the ground is asymmetrical, delicate, and made in brass.
The table is often considered to be an emblem of the Modern and Minimalistic design that was brought to the United States by Greta Magnusson Grossman.
10. Circle Coffee Table | Greta Magnusson Grossman
After moving to Los Angeles, Greta Magnusson Grossman also experimented with curved surfaces in many of her product designs. The Circle Coffee table is one such example. It features three circular tops in teak resting on an iron frame. The table also has slightly tapered metal legs, one for each tabletop, with ball-shaped, wooden feet.
These are welded together with slender metal stripes, forming a triangular frame that is visible in-between the circles. Similar to the ironing board table, this design also involves the use of exceptional shapes and the elegant pairing of materials.
All of Grossman’s furniture pieces are visually lightweight, elegant, and functional, meaning truly keeping in with the mid-century modern aesthetic. Most of her designs were brought back into production by the design company GUBI and are still relevant to this day. Even though some of her designs may seem common to us today, they were respectful of the times yet iconic and innovative in the 1940s-50s period. Her designs also inspired most of the furniture products we see today.
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Dora Vanette (2014). Design Icon: Greta Grossman. [online]. Available at: https://www.dwell.com/amp/article/greta-grossman-designs-58d7e4a6 [Accessed 27 June 2021].
R & Company. Greta Magnusson Grossman. [online]. Available at: https://www.r-and-company.com/designers/greta-magnusson-grossman/ [Accessed 27 June 2021].
Wright: Auction of Art and Design. Designer: Greta Magnusson Grossman. [online]. Available at: https://www.wright20.com/artists/greta-magnusson-grossman [Accessed 27 June 2021].