Norman Cherner Style Chair

1484100_502648066507620_2541521825631681777_n When researching the history behind a piece of furniture, it's always nice to find an interesting unusual fact about the development of a design that might make the blog one is about to write more appealing.

While reading up on American furniture designer Norman Cherner and his elegant sculptural design for a chair known as The Cherner Chair, I came across the somewhat sad story behind it...

During WW2,  while there was little output in terms of new furniture design, there was however, innovation going on behind the scenes. Cherner was commissioned by the US Housing Department to come up with a design for affordable prefabricated housing, which he did building and living in one of his own designs. However, during this time he was obsessed with the possibilities of moulding plywood into furniture using form-pressed layers of wood to shape and bend into chairs. The Cherner Chair created in 1958 is his most famous piece.

The story goes that, in 1952, George Nelson, the head of Herman Miller furniture company designed a lightweight plywood chair (The Pretzel Chair) and commissioned manufacturing company Plycraft to make it.

Because of the chair's fragility and high manufacturing costs it was not commercially viable and it's production ceased in 1957. Plycraft was left with the machinery and plywood and it was because of this situation that Nelson suggested to Cherner that he design a sturdy low-cost alternative chair to the Pretzel Chair for Plycraft using it's leftover wood and machinery. Cherner signed a contract with Plycraft and designed what we know today as the Cherner Chair.

The project never got off the ground, with Plycraft claiming it wouldn't be a commercial success and so was a non-runner. However, unknown to it's designer, the company continued to produce the chair but passed it off as a creation of Plycraft's owner Paul Goldman.

One day, while walking past a furniture showroom in New York, Cherner spotted his chair in the window display. He successfully sued Plycraft in 1961 for royalties and came to an agreement that the company would continue to make the chair .

Sadly by the 1970's, Cherner's designs were dropped due to poor demand and faded somewhat into obscurity. Norman Cherner died in 1987, aged 67 and in 1999, his sons Benjamin and Thomas reintroduced his seating line and set up a furniture company devoted completely to their father's works.

Today the Cherner Chair is rightly recognised as an iconic design classic. With it's sleek sculptural curves it is a stunning statement piece which sits well in both contemporary or more conservative settings. It is suited to a number of uses; as an elegant dining chair, a smart work chair or simply as a conversation piece to inject interest and beauty to an empty space.

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