Paul McCobb (1917 – 1969) American furniture designer

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Directional Dining Chairs set of six by Paul McCobb
Directional Dining Chairs set of six by Paul McCobb

1950s designer

Paul McCobb (1917 – 1969) was an American furniture designer. By the late 1940s, McCobb had established himself as a furniture designer in New York, just in time for the suburban stampede, which meant thousands of new homes needed to be outfitted.

Paul McCobb Advertisement in House & Garden 1954
Paul McCobb Advertisement in House & Garden 1954

Biography

In 1945, McCobb established his studio, where he worked as a painter, interior decorator, and exhibit designer. The Planner Group was his first low-cost furniture line, which he debuted in 1950 with the help of distributor B.G. Mosberg. Winchendon Furniture created the Directional, Predictor Linear, and Perimeter furniture lines in Massachusetts. McCobb himself sold and distributed them.

H. Sacks in Brookline, Massachusetts, and Calvin Furniture in Grand Rapids, Michigan, manufactured his 1950s designs, which were authentically 1950s. He was one of the most productive mid-century designers, with his work being mass-produced. His style was new enough to be modern, but it never crossed the line into respectability for the middle class. With traces of Scandinavian craftsmanship and international style clarity, McCobb presented imaginative interpretations of traditional forms. The new interpretations of conventional style were clean and sparse enough to fit the new informality of young families purchasing homes with GI loans, yet near enough to the originals to qualify as suburban good taste.

PLANNER™ Table series by Paul McCobb
PLANNER™ Table series by Paul McCobb

McCobb’s interchangeable chests, cabinets, and bookcases had bench bottoms that functioned as separate tables, similar to Charles Eames’ and Eero Saarinen’s designs. To make his desktops appear slimmer, he used bevelled edges. With moveable room dividers and storage solutions, McCobb popularised modular furniture and developed “living walls.” He pioneered an altogether new American style of dĂ©cor and believed in providing good value to his customers; his name was well-known in the 1950s, but by the 1960s, it had faded into obscurity.

Furniture of the people

Glassware, plates, television sets, hi-fi systems, watches and clocks, and even Remington typewriters were all developed by Paul McCobb Design Associates.

The low-cost Planner Group, which was debuted in the 1950s in four finishes and was one of McCobb’s most famous lines, was one of the company’s most popular. “Hard to imagine of a difficulty in today’s living that cannot be solved with this cheaply priced furniture,” the brochure declared.

Linear furniture line promotional artwork by Paul McCobb
Linear furniture line promotional artwork by Paul McCobb

Exhibitions

His work was displayed at the New York Museum of Modern Art’s and Chicago’s Merchandise Mart’s ‘Good Design’ shows. 348 pieces of his furniture were displayed in 15 room sets at Bloomingdale’s department store in 1957. The Philadelphia Museum of Art featured furniture from the Planner Group in their “Design Since 1945” exhibition in 1983—84.

Sample of Works

Model 1510 dresser for Winchendon Furniture. Designed by Paul McCobb
Model 1510 dresser for Winchendon Furniture. Designed by Paul McCobb
Walnut Frame Lounge Chair Model 402 designed by Paul McCobb
Walnut Frame Lounge Chair Model 402 designed by Paul McCobb
Mid Century solid wood sideboard buffet credenza by Paul McCobb
Mid Century solid wood sideboard buffet credenza by Paul McCobb
Vintage brass sectional sofa by Paul McCobb
Vintage brass sectional sofa by Paul McCobb

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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