Greta Magnusson Grossman

August 22, 2011

The enigmatic Greta Magnusson Grossman (1906- 1999) earned her prestige and influence in Mid-century Modernism through her innovative designs that fused Swedish minimalism with California cool. Though Grossman isn’t as recognized as some of her male contemporaries, such as Richard Neutra or Rudolph Schindler, Grossman’s work was often showcased in Arts & Architecture through the photographic lens of Julius Shulman, who shot a number of her interiors and lamps.

Grossman began her career in California in 1941 when she decided to leave her thriving design business in Sweden to escape the hardships of the Second World War. In California Grossman was quickly embraced and within a year opened a shop on Rodeo Drive. Most of her buyers were single, career-minded women, a mostly overlooked demographic of the time. Grossman paid attention to subtle detail to make living easier for her clientele, for example using laminate tabletops. Unlike the ubiquitous, streamlined modern designs that proliferated the market, Grossman’s designs differed through humbly petite proportions and asymmetric lines; the finished products were playfully sophisticated, yet functional. This design aesthetic is embodied in her most notable pieces: the Ralph O. Smith lightings and furniture for Glenn of California. These designs earned Grossman “Good Design” awards, a real feat for any designer, especially for a woman designer.

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