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Norman Cherner

October 03, 2017

Norman Cherner

The American architect, designer and instructor Norman Cherner was an important mid-century designer, known for his advancements in plywood. Cherner was a student and taught at the Columbia University Fine Arts department and also instructed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

He is most famous for his shapely molded plywood Cherner Chair (1958; Cherie Chair) that he designed for manufacturer Plycraft

who was producing lightweight plywood chairs for Herman Miller then. Herman Miller ceased production of the chair and recommended that Plycraft hire Cherner to design another plywood chair that would make use of the production materials and techniques that Plycraft still had. After Cherner had turned in his design, however, he was told that they had decided to scrap the project.

Cherner would later end up in a New York furniture showroom where he saw his own design for sale, attributed to the designer ‘Bernardo’. Cherner ended up suing Plycraft in 1961 as it was revealed that the owner of Plycraft, Paul Goldman, had unceremoniously lied to him and stolen his design to produce it under a fictitious name. He won, and Cherner got royalties and was properly credited, but the Cherner chairs were out of production by the early 1970s.

The Cherner chair’s distinctive, sculptural looks are also sustained by the graduated thickness of the plywood in its design. The dramatic, curving arms are fashioned a single length of wood joined to the back and tops of the front legs.

The stylish chair is also sometimes called the Rockwell Chair because it was featured on a cover of The Saturday Evening Post magazine by American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell in the sixties.

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