Paul McCobb (1917-1969)

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

Paul McCobb (1917 - 1969) with some of his works.
Paul McCobb (1917 – 1969) with some of his works.

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Over a time span of 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 not been in 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 knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist, and studied drawing and painting at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston but never completed 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.

The Planner Group, by Paul McCobb, 1950.
The Planner Group, by Paul McCobb, 1950.

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Modern and Simple Design Style

McCobb took inspiration from classic American styles the like 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 and some his pieces of furniture.
Paul McCobb and some of his pieces of furniture.

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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 more than 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.

A desk from the Planner Group set. It clearly shows the slender lines and simplicity of form that charaterized McCobb's design aesthetic.
A desk from the Planner Groupset. It clearly shows the slender lines and simplicity of form that characterized McCobb’s design aesthetic.

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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.

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.

The faceted Form, one of the most popular designs by Paul McCobb.
The Faceted Form, one of the most popular designs by Paul McCobb.

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