January 24 - Happy Birthday, Sam Maloof!

Posted on January 24, 2017

Furniture designer.


A central figure in the postwar American crafts movement.” (New York Times)

There are so many connections I feel to Sam Maloof, who was born on this date in 1916. He was born in Chino, California, the city where I currently live. He loved wood and woodworking, and my dad did, too, even though my dad was just a hobbyist. Maloof was important in the American crafts movement that earlier inspired the founding of the California College of Arts and Crafts, now called California College of the Arts – the college my daughter and son-in-law attended. Maloof's compound (former home, workshop, museum, and foundation office), which is about half an hour away from me by car, so thrilled my parents that they went over and over again, taking me and my family with them on two occasions. And, most of all, his passion – furniture design and woodworking – is shared by my beloved son-in-law, who started (with my daughter) a furniture company

Sam Maloof was born to Lebanese immigrants (his name was originally spelled Maalouf). He learned Arabic and Spanish (from his family's housekeeper) before he learned English. And he started woodworking as a little kid – making a spatula for his mom and toys for himself and his siblings. He was lucky enough to have a woodworking class at his high school!

Maloof served in the U.S. Army during World War II; he was deployed to Alaska. Apparently the Allies expected heavy fighting with the Japanese in Alaska, but that didn't happen.

After the war, Maloof began making furniture, using salvaged materials. He soon had commissions and eventually a thriving business. He moved from Ontario, CA, to Alta Loma, CA, to a 6-room house. But over time, he added 16 rooms to that house! It's fascinating to tour the place.

Maloof is most famous for his chairs. They are considered austere (which means very simple in design). They are also considered ergonomic (well fit for the human body) and sculptural (artistic in their own right, like a sculpture).

Also on this date:

Pioneer in the study of memory Hermann Ebbinghaus's birthday

AND Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day

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