Posted By Vicki McClure Davidson on July 17, 2011
People find the darndest things in Grandma’s attic, Uncle Frank’s garage, or next to a dumpster.
More than a decade ago while out driving, Chris Gulley of Rock Island, Illinois caught sight of two chairs with orange upholstery near a dumpster. The bent-hourglass shape and “pretzel” arms of the molded plywood chairs were unusual in design. Gulley had no idea what they could be worth, only that he wanted them. So, he snagged both chairs and took them home.
Lo and behold, Gulley learned once he got home that the chairs were designed by Norman Cherner in 1958 and were manufactured by the former Plycraft, Inc. of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Gulley cleaned them up, removed the orange upholstery, sanded and varnished them.
While prices vary, a reproduction of a Cherner chair can go for more than $1,000. An authentic 1958 Cherner chair would likely be worth much more than that.
Quite the find.
I love these cool stories…
From Quad-City Times, Cherner chairs were a Dumpster find:
“I knew instantly they were special, and I about killed us both turning the car around and getting back to them,” he says. “I was nervous somebody else would get there first or that the people who threw them out would change their mind.”
He discovered that they were Cherners when he got them home, turned them over and found a small gold identifying label on the bottom.
The Cherner chair is regarded as one of the most dramatic designs using the technology of molded plywood. The seat and back are a single shell connected by a slim and sturdy throat. Slender laminated legs and a solid wood arm with a graceful curve complete the design.
Plycraft went out of business when the factory burned in 1972, but Cherner’s sons, Tom and Ben, founded The Cherner Chair Co. in 1999 to manufacture and market some of the most influential and well-recognized designs from their father’s portfolio that spanned almost 50 years.
Gulley has seen examples pop up in the media – in the villain’s high-rise apartment in the movie “Toy Story II,” for example, and in former ballet dancer Mikhail Barishnykov’s apartment in the television series “Sex in the City.”
From the Cherner Chair Company website:
Although best known for his furniture design, Norman Cherner’s work included almost all aspects of design: from graphics, glassware and lighting, to his pioneering work in prefabricated housing.
Norman Cherner’s furniture designs include the “multi-flex” modular storage system, the “Konwiser Line” of furniture and lighting, and molded plywood seating for Plycraft which he designed in 1958. The molded plywood ‘Cherner Chair’ became his most recognized design and is found in furniture collections worldwide.
Norman Cherner studied and taught at the Columbia University Fine Arts Department and was an instructor at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. At the same time he also began his own practice, embarking on a lifetime exploration of architecture and furniture design.
Norman Cherner’s books include: “Fabricating Houses from Component Parts” (1958) “How to Build a House for Less the $6,000” (1960), “Make your own Modern Furniture” (1953) and “How to Build Children’s Toys and Furniture” (1954)
Examples of reproductions of Cherner’s chairs — click images to enlarge. The chair is sometimes called the “Rockwell chair,” because American artist Norman Rockwell featured it on a 1961 Saturday Evening Post cover.