The career of American designer Paul McCobb (1917-1969) is one that both inspires and personally resonates with me; a former window dresser, who with no formal training decides to open up his own design studio and goes on to create some of the best selling collections of an era! McCobb's excellence in design was also recognized amongst his peers, earning him 5 MOMA Good Design Awards between 1950-1955.
Reform Gallery's Paul McCobb exhibit at the Los Angeles Modernism Show. Photo: Jonathan Goldstein
During his relatively brief career, McCobb designed a plethora of items in virtually every category of goods including, textiles, wallpaper, lighting, dinnerware, radios and of course furniture. However, he is probably best known for his "Planner Group" line of furniture, which was in continuous production at Winchendon from 1949-1964 and is regarded as one of the best selling collections of the 1950's. The "Planner Group" was in fact so popular that it spawned several "knock-offs" which were/are so similar they could even deceive the experts. In the following passage taken from an August 1954 article in the New York Times titled "The Pros and Cons of Copying", McCobb speaks to this occurrence:
"Approximately a dozen manufacturers copied this line. Of this number we can name at least three who purchased our goods, brought them into their factory and copied them right down to the last detail. We were also given reports that the merchandise was being sold openly as direct copies. Prices were the same as the original-or above."
image courtesy Jonathan Goldstein
Paul McCobb Planner Group ad from Graphis Annual 58/59. image courtesy Sandi Vincent
Image from cover of Planner Group catalog, 1950. image courtesy Jonathan Goldstein
Planner Group 3-drawer dresser- great pulls! via Modern Living Supplies, 1stDibs
Planner Group storage cabinet with grass cloth sliding doors. via Christopher Anthony, 1stDibs
Planner cabinet and drawers with grass cloth doors. via Machine Age, 1stDibs
Planner Group desk with 2-tone lacquer drawers. via Tom Gibbs Studio, 1stDibs
Planner wrought iron and wood coffee table. via eBay
Planner Group coffee table with storage drawers and bamboo mat shelf. via Huzza, 1stDibs
Wrought iron side table with storage drawer and bamboo mat shelf. via Wyeth, 1stDibs
Planner Group dining table and wrought iron leg chairs. via Reform Gallery, 1stDibs
Planner wrought iron and maple room divider unit, 1953. via reGeneration, 1stDibs
Planner Group wrought iron and birch "Shovel" chairs, 1950's. via Metro Retro, 1stDibs
Other well-known furniture lines designed by Paul McCobb include the Irwin Collection (1952) and the Linear Group (1956) both produced by Calvin Furniture and several other pieces designed for Directional.
Irwin Collection travertine top desk by Calvin, c 1950's. via Converso, 1stDibs
The Irwin Collection was originally produced by Irwin Furniture, but was picked up later by Calvin.
Paul McCobb Linear Group ad from House and Garden, 1958. courtesy Jonathan Goldstein
Paul McCobb dining table and chairs for Calvin (as in illustration above). via Machine Age, 1stDibs
Clipping from Life Magazine May 1953. See the rest of the article here.
McCobb floor lamp by Excelsior Art Studios for Directional, c. 1954. Reform Gallery, 1stDibs
McCobb's floor lamp as seen in the Directional Catalog, identified as Model E-11.
Paul McCobb lamps & accessories, Directional catalog. Image courtesy Jonathan Goldstein
You can see the entire Directional Designs by Paul McCobb catalog/book for free right here!
Executive chair with steel x-frame base for Directional, c.1955. via J.F. Chen, 1stDibs
Armchair for Directional. via Converso, 1stDibs
"Design appeal is based on integrity of form, simplicity of line and true organic function."
-Paul McCobb, Interiors Magazine, July 1952
If you are interested in McCobb's work, I would highly recommend you visit Jonathan Goldstein's blog dedicated to all things McCobb. The website contains tons of information and imagery on McCobb's work as well as great insight on the many knock-offs and misattributed pieces in the market. Jonathan is currently working on a McCobb book so keep your eyes peeled. Check out the blog here.
Go to- Paul McCobb Wikipedia page
Go to- Interior Design magazine July 2011 article titled "The Real McCobb"
Go to- Directional Designs by Paul McCobb book on Google Books (free!); cool images
Go to- Paul McCobb Design Flickr pool
Go to- Article in the May 1953 issue of Jet magazine featuring McCobb's home accessories.