Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mid-Century Modern Designers Profile- Paul McCobb

Paul McCobb Behind Modular Unit He Designed, Wife Molly In Background
Paul McCobb is the picture of cool swank in this photo of he and his wife Molly, posed like two models for a who's who of hip in their New York home. Often photos like these don't depict the truth, but to say Paul McCobb was anything but hip and cool in his era and even now, would short change his image. 

Born in 1917 in Massachusetts, Paul McCobb had fairly humble beginnings. His interest in art took him to the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, but he left to join the Army Corps of Engineers in 1942-1943 where he was later discharged for medical reasons. 

His lack of a completed education and military career didn't stop him from pursuing his interests in design. Without any true formal training he established his own studio in 1945 as Paul McCobb and Associates in New York City. By 1948 he became known as a great design and decorating consultant for Martin Feinman's Modernage Furniture in New York. The fact that McCobb was a consultant for a furniture dealer specializing in modern furniture of the age is perfectly fitting, and became a great segway to his own designs of the contemporary modular furniture that he quickly became known for in the 1950's.
Catalogue Picture Of McCobb's Modular Planner Group

He teamed with B.G. Mosberg, who he had met through his consulting work, and together they marketed McCobb's Planner Group starting in the 1950's. The Planner Group was known for being very stylish, yet affordable in the era. It became among the best selling contemporary furniture lines of the 1950's and was in constant production until 1964. His design integrity during this era also earned him  five MOMA Good Design Awards. The Planner Group pieces may be a bit more plentiful for collectors to find today because of its longer production time, however the prices on these great pieces are still climbing. They are a great modern look and good investment at the same time. 

Paul McCobb Planner Group Junior Dresser
Paul McCobb Planner Group Three Drawer Dresser  
The above Planner Group Three Drawer Junior Dresser we currently have available on our web site. We acquired it with it's larger eight drawer dresser partner at the same time. Both pieces are in excellent condition and have had their brass pulls polished and re-lacquered. The larger piece is awaiting it's new home in New York where it can be treasured for decades more to come in an elegant modern setting. 

Although the Planner Group helped launch Paul McCobb into the modern furniture spotlight, he had other collaborations as a designer for Directional Furniture during this time who contracted other furniture makers to manufacture some of his higher end designs. Lines such as The Connoisseur Collection, introduced in 1953, were manufactured by H. Sacks & Sons Company of Brookline, Massachusetts, and The Calvin Group, introduced in 1954, was manufactured by Calvin Furniture Company. These lines featured an upscale elegance with additional brass accents and sophisticated lines. 

Paul McCobb Connoisseur Tripod Pedestal Cigarette Table
Paul McCobb Connoisseur Tri-Pod Pedestal Cigarette Table
Paul McCobb's Tri-Pod Pedestal Cigarette Table pictured above is an excellent example of this simple and sophisticated elegance that McCobb put into his designs. The very simple lines of this table in a light mahogany with elegant tri-pod legs and the brass medallion center piece accent, give this piece timeless beauty. This table is also significant in that many have not survived due to the delicate nature of the tri-pod pedestal legs. We feel quite lucky to have acquired this little beauty, and know it will make an excellent addition to any modern and sophisticated setting. 
Paul McCobb Connoisseur Collection Dining Table
Paul McCobb Connoisseur Collection Dining Table
Another example of the Connoisseur Collection's timeless style in modern design is the above pictured dining room table which features brass stretchers and a brass edging around the entire table including each added leaf. This table can extend to 128" making it an amazing table for entertaining. It is also is in a rich mahogany. This particular table is often refinished in a darker ebony finish. Currently this table is available to be finished re-finished to the purchaser's desire of color. Below is an example.
Paul McCobb Connoisseur Extention Dining Table by Directional
A Completely Re-Finished Connoisseur Collection Dining Table in a Dark Mahogany Finish 

The Calvin Group designed by Paul McCobb and manufactured by Calvin Furniture also has this simple yet sophisticated look that has great appeal with designers and collectors of mid-century modern furniture today. 
This line also features the brass stretchers, but in a criss-cross design and the upscale solid brass pulls. This piece is shown in a light mahogany finish original to the piece, however, many designers are choosing a darker finish or ebonizing the finish. The change of finish color from its original is a bit controversial in some circles, especially the purist, but in the end, the buyer has the final decision. It is advised to take caution when having any of these pieces refinished or lacquered, and to seek the advise of a professional who knows and understands these processes. Although a piece may be in tired or considered rough condition, it can be further damaged and its value diminished by shoddy DIY jobs, and by unscrupulous so called refinishers. Do your research and seek the advise of dealers in the trade of these goods before you jump into a refinish project. 

Whether Paul McCobb was designing his own original modular furniture of the 1950's, his popular Planner Group, or the more sophisticated high end designs like The Connoisseur Collection or Calvin Group, he always kept simplicity in mind with true modernist form. His designs continue to gain recognition with the help of historian collectors like Jonathan Goldstein who has an entire blog dedicated to Paul McCobb, and collectors like Gerard O'Brien owner of Reform Gallery in L.A. who has been collecting McCobb since the 1990's. O'Brien is only now parting with some of his vast holdings. He also recently had an excellent exhibition of his pieces in the Los Angeles Modernism show. Paul McCobb's granddaughter, Sarah McCobb Hubble, who has followed in both her grandfather's and mother's creative footsteps by becoming an artist, was in attendance. 
Sarah McCobb Hubble at Reform Gallery's Paul McCobb Exhibition as Part of the
Los Angeles Modernism Show Summer 2011
(photograph originally taken by Jonathan Goldstein)

Reform Gallery Paul McCobb Exhibit at Los Angeles Modernism Show 2011
(photograph originally taken by Jonathan Goldstein)

It is hard to deny that these furniture designs will continue to gain popularity as collectors and designers learn more about them and seek them out. Luckily there will be more resources available too as collectors like Goldstein and O'Brien continue to put their heads together and help the public have access to fantastic archival information on Paul McCobb and all of his designs. We are happy to have the few pieces we were lucky enough to acquire, and look forward to finding the right homes for them to be enjoyed for future generations. 

Resources:   (Jonathan Goldstein's Blog)

                    (Mid-Century Modern Blog)

                    (Paul McCobb Facebook Page)

                 (Interior Design Magazine Article On Paul McCobb) 

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