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Born in Brooklyn New York in 1920, Norman Cherner’s designs are part of the iconography of mid-20th Century furniture design. He is recognised as one of the most original of a generation of designers that explored post-war technological innovations in architecture and industrial design. He studied and taught at the Columbia University Fine Arts department and was an instructor at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1947-1949. Cherner’s training in the Bauhaus tradition led to a lifelong exploration informed by the belief that all design stems from one discipline. His chairs, tables and case goods have shown an enduring popularity since their introduction nearly fifty years ago. The moulded plywood Cherner Chair, designed for Plycraft in 1958, has become an icon of mid-twentieth century design and can be found in galleries and design collections worldwide, including the Vitra Museum.

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You’ve seen the shapely, classic Cherner chairs, but do you know the designer behind them? Norman Cherner is an unsung hero of mid-century design, an innovator in plywood and in affordable design. And the story of his most famous design is a dramatic tale of innovation, betrayal and, ultimately, of justice.

Norman Cherner was an American architect and designer. He studied and taught at Columbia University, and was an instructor at MoMA in the late 1940s. There, he became steeped in the MoMA-favored Bauhaus approach, where all the aspects and media of design were considered. In 1948, Cherner built modular, low-cost cooperative housing in upstate New York, for which he also designed the affordable furniture and all other decorative details.

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Housing was in enormous demand in the US during the Postwar era, with the GI Bill, the baby boom and the surge of postwar prosperity. Cherner was determined to make affordable design a reality. He created a prototype for prefabricated housing that, although it was not commercially successful, he transported to Connecticut and used as his own home and studio in the late 1950s. He published books on the subject of affordable design throughout the 1950s, including, Make Your Own Modern Furniture (1953), How to Build a House for Less than $6000 (1957), and Fabricating Houses from Component Parts (1958).

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But it was the plywood chair that Cherner is best known for, and the story of its creation is fascinating.

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The Cherner Chair Company, founded by Norman Cherner’s sons Benjamin and Thomas in 1999, is the sole authorized licensor of Cherner’s designs, and they work off of his original drawings and specifications. The company produces Cherner’s original armchair, side chair, barstool and counter stool, as well as his other designs.

This timeless design deserves deepest bow and all honor – Christine Leja