Paul Tuttle (1918 – 2002) American furniture and interior designer

Paul Tuttle Arco Lounge Chair Designed for Strassle of Switzerland, 1970s
Paul Tuttle Arco Lounge Chair Designed for Strassle of Switzerland, 1970s

Paul Tuttle (1918 – 2002) was an American designer best known for his furniture designs and his work in interior design and architecture. Tuttle had no formal design education and instead drew inspiration from his own life and the mentorship of well-known artists like Alvin Lustig, Welton Becket, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Tuttle worked as a furniture designer for over 50 years, producing a body of work that included mass-produced and custom-made pieces.

Early Career

Tuttle grew up in the Great Depression-era city of St. Louis, Missouri. As a young man, he served in India during World War II. Tuttle returned to Los Angeles and applied to the Art Center School but was not admitted. Despite this, he wanted to take an Alvin Lustig class there. The teacher took note of Tuttle’s abilities and hired him to work in his studio.

Biography

Tuttle started out working in the studio of designer Alvin Lustig in Los Angeles. Soon after, he was awarded the Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin West Fellowship, an apprenticeship programme with Wright himself as a mentor. Tuttle relocated to Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, and made an impression on Wright during his four-month stay. Tuttle then returned to Los Angeles and worked on furniture construction independently before joining the design firms Welton Becket & Associates and Thornton Ladd & Associates as an apprentice. Tuttle worked on interior design as an apprentice. Tuttle moved to Santa Barbara in 1956, where he met Hans Grether, the director of Doestch, Grether & Cie, a Swiss pharmaceutical firm. Tuttle was employed as a design consultant by Grether shortly after.

Leather Lounge Chairs for Strässle, Switzerland 1968 designed by Paul Tuttle
Leather Lounge Chairs for Strässle, Switzerland 1968 designed by Paul Tuttle

Exhibition

Tuttle’s status as a leading American designer was cemented in 1966 when he had a solo exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum. In 1966, he was awarded the first Carson Pirie Scott Young Designer Award for the iconic “Z” Chair. Tuttle’s concept for the “Z” Chair, dubbed the “Rocket Launcher” at the time, would go on to become his most well-known work. 

Tuttle began working for Strassle in 1967 as a designer, and he spent half of his time in Switzerland before leaving in 1983. Tuttle’s work was included in a solo exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1978 titled “Paul Tuttle, Designer.” Tuttle remained at Strassle on a royalty-only basis after leaving his designer job, focusing on his custom work in Santa Barbara.

Chariot Chaise designed by Paul Tuttle. https://www.1stdibs.com/
Chariot Chaise designed by Paul Tuttle. https://www.1stdibs.com/

Custom work

Tuttle teamed up with Bud Tullis in 1982 to create custom furniture for collectors. Tuttle’s custom work was at its peak between 1982 and 2001, resulting in over 200 pieces of furniture. Tuttle’s body of work was included in a 2001 retrospective at the University of California, Santa Barbara called “Paul Tuttle Designs.”

Style

Tuttle was known for creating modern furniture that was sleek, elegant, and refined and incorporating materials such as metal, leather, and glass. Tuttle started designing furniture in the 1950s, and his style was strongly inspired by his mentor Alvin Lustig’s modernist style. Tuttle resisted decorative ornamentation on his furniture, adhering to the modernist concept of minimalism. His work focused on the materials he used, and he attempted to capture the nature of function in his objects.

Sources

Midcentury Brown Fabric and Chrome Steel Chaise Longue …. https://www.1stdibs.com/furniture/seating/chaise-longues/midcentury-brown-fabric-chrome-steel-chaise-longue-paul-tuttle-style-1980s/id-f_20210332/

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, December 14). Paul Tuttle. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:24, April 8, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Paul_Tuttle&oldid=87367099

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