Paul McCobb (1917-1969)

Paul McCobb (1917-1969) was one of the leading contemporary furniture designers on the American design scene throughout the 1950s to the 1960s. His works are known to exalt the simplicity of form and the lack of ornamentation.

Paul McCobb
Paul McCobb

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Over a time span of little over twenty years, he designed an impressive range of multi-functional furniture, accessories, and textiles, as well as several notable interior design projects. Since his early death, in 1969, his designs have been out of production, but are now making their way back to the market through a range of upcoming reissues.

Education, World War II and Paul McCobb Associates

Paul McCobb (June 5, 1917 – March 10, 1969) was born in Medford, Massachusetts, to Raymond McCobb, a “men’s furnishings” salesman, and his wife Winfred.

McCobb aspired from an early age to be an artist, and studied drawing and painting at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, never however completing his course work. In 1942, with the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the Army as a Private; however, he only served for a short time and was released on medical discharge in 1943.

McCobb moved to New York to work as a product development engineer in the new medium of plastics and in 1945, he opened his own design firmPaul McCobb Associates. In 1948 he met B. G. Mesberg, who would be his feature business partner.  In 1950, Paul McCobb launched his first mass-produced line of furniture known as the Planner Group in collaboration with Mesberg; this collection, with its sleek lines and warm finishes, was a hit, and the pieces were showcased in living rooms across America.

Paul McCobb Ad "Planner Group" 1951
Paul McCobb Ad “Planner Group” 1951

Image source: by MidCentArc

Modern and Simple Design Style

McCobb took inspiration from classic American styles the likes of Windsor and Shaker but developed them into new and modern forms. As McCobb stated, “we don’t design fads”, and indeed his designs are imbued with a timeless quality. Further, McCobb pioneered the concept of the room divider, to which he attached desk sets, cabinets, and shelves, coining the term “living walls”. His work was featured prominently in the Museum of Modern Art’s Good Design exhibitions (1950–1955), and he received MoMA Good Design awards in 1950, 1951, 1953, and 1954.

In the 1960s, McCobb worked as an interior design consultant for corporations like Columbia Records, Singer Manufacturing Company, Bell & Howell Company, and Alcoa Aluminum Corporation.

McCobb died in 1969 and today his designs are featured in the museum collections of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, among many others.

Paul McCobb, Jackson China.
Paul McCobb, Jackson China

Image source: by machine59

Aesthetic and Production

Paul McCobb’s design aesthetic can be summarized as simplicity of form with a lack of ornamentation. Inspired by his New England upbringing and influenced by Shaker Design, McCobb combined slender lines with sculptural forms. He offered a playful take on traditional forms with hints of Scandinavian craftsmanship and International style clarity, often made with affordable and robust materials such as iron, solid wood and durable upholstery.

Paul McCobb’s designs have not been in production for over 50 years. In collaboration with world leading manufacturers, rights holder FORM portfolios are working to get McCobb’s designs back to the market for everyone to enjoy.

McCobb Planner Group Desk.
McCobb Planner Group Desk

Image source: by Stephen Coles

The Faceted Form

Although McCobb’s career unravels in a short span of time, his production is rich in sofas, poufs, lounge chairs, wall mirrors, coffee tables, dining sets and lamps.

Shovel Chair, 1953. Wrought iron and birch (1917-1969) Palm Springs Art Museum.
Shovel Chair, 1953. Wrought iron and birch (1917-1969) Palm Springs Art Museum

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However, his most renown work is a lounge chair, designed in 1959 and known as the Faceted Form.
Realized in molded fiberglass and enameled steel, the design-structure of this chair is based on the natural phenomena of cellular formation. With the Faceted Form, Paul McCobb created a faceted form for mass production combining design aesthetics with well-founded principles of structure for a lounge chair which highly performs under normal as well as extraordinary conditions.

Paul McCobb Coffee Table.
Paul McCobb Coffee Table

Image source: by lacasavictoria

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