LAMA BLOG

Sam Maloof: Master Woodworker

Sam Maloof’s enduring creations stand out as some of the most elegant furniture designs of the 20th century. Born in Chino, California in 1916, Maloof taught himself woodworking after World War II in order to furnish his first modest home with his wife Alfreda. He gradually built a reputation for his attention to detail and exquisite craftsmanship, creating pieces both durable and beautiful. One anecdote found him testing the stability of a chair’s joints by dropping it from the roof of his garage, noting that it survived the fall. Maloof’s walnut chairs were selected to furnish a number of the Case Study Houses, designed by figures like Richard Neutra, Charles Eames, and Craig Ellwood. Like these Modernist architects, Maloof prioritized functionality and simplicity, creating pared-back forms designed for optimal practicality. His pieces are recognizable for their rounded forms that contour to the body for comfortable daily use.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 263, Sam Maloof, Executive Desk, executed 1968
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design

As his studio gained more commissions, Maloof had the opportunity to work with more expensive woods, resulting in increasingly luxurious designs. These versatile rosewood pieces were created especially for the of ce of Frank Wyle, founder and president of Wyle Labs, and were in use until Mr. Wyle’s passing. In 1966 Maloof had an early exhibition at the Egg and the Eye, the restaurant and gallery that preceded the Craft & Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, which was founded by Wyle’s wife, Edith Wyle, in 1973. After that show, the Wyles established a long-standing friendship with Maloof and went on to commission numerous pieces from him throughout his lifetime.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 257, Sam Maloof, Dining/Conference Table, executed c. 1968
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design

The gentle curve of the legs and arms of the chairs and dining table suggest the warmth of the craftsman’s hand, smoothed for many years of use. When asked how he mastered the proportions of his chairs, he explained, “Well, I fit everything to myself. I’m not that tall but it seems that everything that I do, no matter if the person’s 6’8″or 5’2″, they seem to have very good support.” Ever the master woodworker, Maloof never worked with furniture manufacturers on an industrial scale like many of his peers, preferring instead to oversee every single piece that left his studio. Maloof’s unerring dedication to high quality design is evident in each of the fine pieces available here.

Lot 263
Sam Maloof
Executive desk
Studio, Executed 1968
Rosewood
Branded “designed-made/Maloof/California” and etched “38 Wyle 6-68″
28.5″ x 72.25″ x 36.25”
Together with paper tray and letter opener
Provenance: The Estate of Frank & Edith Wyle, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $40,000 – $60,000

Lot 257
Sam
 Maloof
Dining/conference table
Studio, executed c. 1968
Rosewood
Branded “designed-made/Maloof/California”
28.5″ x 60″ diameter (fully extended)
Provenance: The Estate of Frank & Edith Wyle, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $25,000 – $35,000

Lot 260
Sam Maloof
Armchairs (2)
Studio, executed 1977
Rosewood and Leather
One etched “N° 12 1977/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c.”; other etched “N° 17 1977/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c.”
Each: 39.5″ x 26.375″ x 23.5″
Provenance: The Estate of Frank & Edith Wyle, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000

Lot 261
Sam Maloof
Armchairs (2)
Studio, executed 1977
Rosewood and Leather
One etched “N° 13 1977/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c.”; other etched “N° 15 1977/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c.”
Each: 39.5″ x 26.375″ x 23.5″
Provenance: The Estate of Frank & Edith Wyle, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000

Lot 262
Sam Maloof
Armchairs (2)
Studio, executed 1977
Rosewood and Leather
One etched “N° 14 1977/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c.”; other etched “N° 16 1977/Sam Maloof f.a.c.c.”
Each: 39.5″ x 26.375″ x 23.5″
Provenance: The Estate of Frank & Edith Wyle, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000

Lot 258
Sam Maloof
Side Table
Studio, executed 1969
Rosewood
Branded “designed-made/Maloof/California” and etched “105 8-69/Wyle”
20″ x 18.5″ x 18″
Provenance: The Estate of Frank & Edith Wyle, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $6,000- $9,000

For all Sam Maloof lots, click here

“Oral History Interview with Sam Maloof, 2002 Jan. 10-11.” Interview by Mary MacNaughton. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution, 3 Oct. 2005. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.

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