Furniture Designer Sam Maloof Dies at 93

Furniture designer and craftsman Sam Maloof died late last month at the age of 93. A self-taught and self-described “woodworker,” Maloof handcrafted sculptural furniture that was a humane foil to minimalist architecture of the post-World War II era. Henry Dreyfuss was an early fan. In 1951, the industrial designer commissioned Maloof to furnish his home and office in Pasadena, notes Maloof’s New York Times obituary.

“I was working out of a one-car garage,” Mr. Maloof told The New York Times in 2001. “I didn’t have power tools—nothing. He called and said, ‘You don’t know who I am, but I know who you are.’ I just about collapsed.” Mr. Maloof designed and made 25 pieces for Dreyfuss, for a grand total of $1,800.

In ensuing years, Maloof turned down lucrative offers to mass produce his furniture. He preferred to work freehand with a bandsaw and was a stickler for both craftsmanship and joinery. He made furniture that was free of nails and metal hardware. According to the Los Angeles Times, Maloof once tested the strength of the joints for a set of chairs by dropping a prototype from the roof of his garage onto his driveway. The joints survived. “There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it,” Maloof said. “The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it.”