Design Icon: Cherner Chair
With its scandalous past and a cameo in Pixar’s classic Toy Story 2, the Cherner Chair is certainly a design icon worth getting to know.
We’re often using the word ‘timeless’, but this isn’t a word we just like to throw around. A timeless design is one that ticks multiple boxes — its appearance will outlive any trends, it will last for generations to come thanks to its exceptional quality and it has gained a level of status and recognition that will only continue to strengthen its reliability. The iconic Cherner Armchair by Norman Cherner is certainly one of these designs.
A multidisciplinary designer, Norman Cherner practiced in furniture, lighting, glassware and graphic design, alongside prefabricated architecture. He developed his skills from his time as a student and lecturer within the Columbia University Fine Arts Department.
Beauty in the detail
Mention the word plywood and there are 3 iconic designers we immediately think of — Charles Eames, Ray Eames and Norman Cherner himself.
Made entirely in the USA, the Cherner Chair is one of the most elegant and sculptural chair designs of all time. Moulded and hand-assembled from sustainably- sourced plywood, the structure is formed from graduated thicknesses and smooth curves, resulting in its unique, wasp-waisted form. Not only are these swooping curves beautiful, but they also make the chair incredibly strong and robust — you won’t ever find yourself throwing a Cherner Chair into a skip, that’s for sure.
The Cherner Side Chair is available in Classic Walnut, Ebony and Stella orange, whilst the Cherner Armchair is available in Classic Walnut, Natural Beech and Ebony variations — plenty of options for every home.
Design, deceit and drama
Unfortunately for Norman Cherner, it wasn’t all fun and games when it came to the production process of his beloved Cherner Chair design.
In 1957, Herman Miller — led by revolutionary designer George Nelson — and their manufacturer Plycraft ceased production of their original Pretzel chair, as it proved to be too costly and fragile. George Nelson himself recommended that Norman Cherner should design a more reliable and cost-effective alternative, which was later accepted by Paul Goldman — the owner of Plycraft — with an official contract.
However, the project was quickly scrapped — or so Norman thought. He soon discovered that Goldman was replicating and selling his original chair design under the fabricated name of ‘Bernardo’ — a true act of deceit.
This would’ve been a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that Norman completely turned the situation on its head; he successfully sued Plycraft and Goldman in 1961 and received the proper royalties and credit through the company. Who said karma doesn’t bite?
A mid-century icon
After all of that effort, it might seem a little disappointing to hear that the chair was only legally produced under Plycraft until the 1970s. However, the reason you can still buy the chair today is all thanks to Norman’s sons, who since 1999, continue to manufacture an official reproduction of their father’s sought-after design from his old drawings.
The Cherner Chair is only one of a handful of products that constitute the Cherner Group collection, which includes some more recent designs from Norman’s son Benjamin Cherner. You can discover these products in our online collection. Talent obviously runs in the family.
A classic for every home
The Cherner Chair has certainly survived a fair few battles along the way, but they say only the strongest come out on top.
If you’re looking for a timeless dining set that will always have a place in your home, then we couldn’t recommend the Cherner Chair enough. It’s warm, humble appeal makes it a charming choice for just about any home — perfect if you love all things mid-century or high-quality wood products.
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