Good Design

A Beautiful Dining Set by Sam Maloof

In 1985 Sam Maloof was awarded a Genius Grant by the MacArthur Foundation, the first craftsman to receive the honor. An excellent woodworker and artist, Maloof started designing furniture out of his garage in the late 1940s. He worked with his hands and a just a few assistants making exquisite pieces for the home for more than fifty years. His works were included in various California Design exhibitions, featured in multiple publications and can now be found in numerous museums including The Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the White House Craft Collection. 

Good furniture must convey a feeling of function, but also must be appealing to the eye. I never make conversation piece furniture… [and since] I’m not subject to the manufacturing syndrome, I don’t have to change for the sake of change. I just keep improving.

—Sam Maloof

Sam Maloof 1917–2009

Born in 1916 to Lebanese immigrant parents, Sam Maloof spent his childhood tinkering and making wood objects like spoons and dollhouses for his family. As an adult, Maloof worked in the graphic design department of the Vortox Manufacturing Company and in 1941 he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he constructed engineering drawings for the war effort. After the war, Maloof moved to California where he taught himself how to woodwork while building furniture for his first home. News of his beautiful and functional designs spread, and he was soon swamped with commissions for everything from cradles to rockers.

Maloof was never formally trained and he disliked the term artist, instead preferring to be known first and foremost as a craftsman. Maloof purposefully left the joinery of his furniture visible, drawing attention to the artistry of his mortise and tenon joints and flawless dovetails. Working with traditional woods like mahogany, pine, and oak, Maloof expertly transformed the surface of his forms with a highly burnished, tactile sheen. A true master of wood, Maloof was the first craftsman to receive both the coveted Louis Comfort Tiffany Grant and the MacArthur Genius Grant. In 2001, Sam Maloof was the subject of a major retrospective at the Renwick Gallery of American Art, the exhibition focusing on the precise methods of craftsmanship within his designs. Maloof passed away in 2009. Renowned for his contribution to the American Craft movement, his work is included in many noteworthy collections including the Arts and Crafts collection at the White House, Washington D.C. as well as and in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Auction Results Sam Maloof