I fell in love with a chair, fell in love once and almost completely. Her name, if I may apply a gender, is Cherner. A chair designed in 1958 by the lesser-known mid-Century designer, Norman Cherner.
Norman Cherner was a pioneer in molded plywood who studied and taught at the Columbia University Fine Arts Department and was an instructor at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1947 to 1949. In both of these institutions he explored the Bauhaus movement, embarking on a lifetime exploration of multidisciplinary design, from furniture, shelving, glassware, lighting and even toys to his pioneering work in low-cost prefabricated housing.
His legacy is distilled into a chair which has become so iconic, but few know the name of the designer but many will say they have seen the elegant bent shapes of the chair’s arms. He designed the chair for Plycraft, a manufacturing company in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Plycraft’s owner explained to Norman Cherner that the chair had been scrapped, however continued to produce it under his own name, claiming himself as the designer. (Why I oughta!)
The chair rose to fame, when it appeared in Norman Rockwell’s 1961 painting “The Artist at Work” on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Cherner sued Plycraft who agreed to pay Cherner royalties, however the chair line ceased production in the early 1970s, after which the Cherner chair was rarely seen anywhere but galleries, museums and the living rooms of few lucky collectors.
This all changed in 1999, when Cherner’s sons Benjamin and Thomas formed the Cherner Chair Company to revive the designs and produce them as their father originally intended. The repeated success of chairs inspired Benjamin, an architect and designer in his own right, to create a coordinating table, the Cherner Table (2004).
For the past 16 years, the Cherner Chair Company has continued to produce these chairs bringing this design back to life and into our homes once more. It’s a great tail of how a fantastic design can disappear from view and potentially disappear forever into the archives. Thankfully, for us, Norman’s sons saw better than to let this happen allowing the chair to take its place in history.