Thursday, April 8, 2010


Greta Magnusson Grossman (1906-1999) maintained a prolific forty-year career designing houses, interiors and furniture. In the late 1920s Grossman completed a one-year woodworking apprenticeship in her hometown of Helsingborg, Sweden and was awarded a scholarship to enroll at Konstfack, the renowned Stockholm arts institution. At Konstfack she excelled in her mastery of technical drawing and focused her original design work on furniture, textiles and ceramics. She later married jazz bandleader Billy Grossman with whom she immigrated to the United States in 1940, settling in Los Angeles. The unique approach to Swedish modernism that she brought with her when she moved from Stockholm proved to be incredibly popular in the United States. Over the next twenty years she produced work for companies like Glenn of California, Sherman Bertram, Martin/Brattrud and Modern Line. The work for Glenn of California is arguably her most sophisticated and best known. These pieces were characterized by the materials she used, such as rich, colorful textiles and woods like California walnut paired in surprising and elegant combination with black plastic laminate and wrought iron. The uniquely petite proportions and asymmetrical lines of her furniture also set her work apart. In the late 1940s Grossman designed a groundbreaking and successful line of lamps for Barker Brothers, later produced by Ralph O. Smith. These were among the first lamps to employ bullet shaped, directional shades and flexible arms. These lamps were included in the "Good Design" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, as was a chair she designed for Glenn of California. Grossman's most enduring work in Los Angeles came in the form of her built architectural commissions. Grossman's houses were designed to the diminutive scale of the Los Angeles based Case Study House program -- most of them having a footprint of less than 1,500 square feet. In the 1950s Grossman taught industrial design courses at the University of California, Los Angeles and at the Art Center School in Los Angeles. She retired from design and architecture in the late 1960s. Some ten years after her death, there remains a loyal following of her work, which can found at fine dealers and auction houses.

images: (click on images to enlarge)
Drop-leaf walnut laminate wrought iron cocktail table (top)
Laminate wrought iron tri-table with signature primary colors (2nd)
Walnut and wrought iron desk (3rd)
Bullet head directional table lamps (4th)
Three panel wood metal folding screen with signature primary colors (bottom)

1 comment:

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