Designer Profile: Greta Magnusson Grossman

Designer Profile: Greta Magnusson Grossman

Greta Magnusson Grossman was a shooting star of architecture and design. Born in Sweden in 1906, she garnered early acclaim and favorable press in her home country, notably for a crib she designed for Princess Birgitta (1937). Soon after, she emigrated to Los Angeles, opening her own shop in Beverly Hills to offer “Swedish modern furniture, rugs, lamps and other home furnishings.” In addition to designing exquisitely crafted wood furniture, she also performed architectural commissions—incorporating the prevailing Case Study House aesthetic while continuing to express her Swedish roots for a unique fusion of styles, a kind of Gold Coast Scandinavian modern. She thrived in the Mid-Century L.A. scene for 20 years before retiring at the end of the 60s.

Greta Magnusson Grossman exterior of home she designed in L.A. renovated recently
Grossman-Designed Residence in L.A., recently renovated

Grossman’s Chaise Lounge in Ivory Upholstery leads heavily on the L.A look. Button tufting and tapered wooden feet are a modest accompaniment to the generous and commodious swoop of snow-white sofa, which is exceedingly luxurious and certainly at home in the homes of the 40s-era celebrities (Greta Garbo, Joan Fontaine, Gracie Allen) who patronized Grossman’s work.

Greta Magnusson Grossman chaise lounge with ivory upholstery
Chaise Lounge with Ivory Upholstery

The Grasshopper Floor Lamp is equally engaging, if a bit more casual. From a jaunty tripod perch, Grasshopper juts forth, as if peering with its insect’s proboscis to check out what’s going on, while providing targeted and versatile task lighting in the process.

Greta Magnusson Grossman Grasshopper Floor Lamp metal lamp with black paint side view
Grasshopper Floor Lamp

One of Grossman’s signature moves was combining heretofore-disparate materials, as in this stunning Two-Tone Credenza, one of her most accomplished pieces. The Credenza combines walnut and black laminate to create a pleasing visual and textural contrast, highlighted in the asynchronous arrangement of drawers and cabinet.

Greta Magnusson Grossman Two-Tone Credenza front view drawers in walnut, cabinet and top in black laminate
Two-Tone Credenza

The hip and laid-back GT Lounge Chair is another example of Grossman’s skillful balance of L.A. and Scandinavian influence. “Designed to consider comfort and style in equal measure,” GT utilizes an accommodating, open silhouette and fresh, fun upholstery to create a signature modern piece.

Greta Magnusson Grossman GT Lounge Chair with wide square seat and small rectangular back in yellow, gray, and black plaid pattern
GT Lounge Chair

Lastly, Grossman’s Triple Top Table plays with scale and form, assembling round table tops into a triangular form that’s fun, fashionable, and functional—an iconic rendering of an L.A.-Modern coffee table.

Greta Magnusson Grossman Triple-Top Table view from above three teak tabletops joined by triangular black metal frame
Triple-Top Table

Greta Magnusson Grossman designed fixtures and furniture for Barker Brothers, Glenn of California, and Ralph O. Smith. She also designed and built some 14 homes across Los Angeles during the 1950s. Embracing the Case Study House aesthetic—and influenced by contemporaries like Charles and Ray Eames—Grossman’s homes characterized the “form follows function” missive while providing open, livable spaces with minimal adornment and privileged views. Her work has been exhibited at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Museum of Industry and Science in Chicago. She died in 1999.

Greta Magnusson Grossman picture of Grossman in black and white

Many of her original designs are available to the public at R & Company.

Posted December 3, 2019 by Joseph Starr

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