Awesome Women in Design History

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For Women's History month, we'll highlight the beautiful work of some women designers and architects.

Women's History Month - Greta M. Grossman

Architect, furniture designer and decorator Greta M. Grossman created iconic homes and modern lighting products in Sweden and in Los Angeles in the 1950s.

She first opened a shop and workshop in her native Sweden, receiving commissions for furniture pieces and interiors while selling housewares and custom lighting.  

After marrying American jazz bandleader Billy Grossman in 1940, she immigrated to the United States and opened a retail and design shop in Beverly Hills. She created furniture for major manufacturers in Southern California as well as interiors for Hollywood stars such as Great Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Frank Sinatra.

Magnusson-Grossman was one of the few female designers to achieve prominence in the 1960s architectural scene in L.A, being featured in the influential magazine Arts & Architecture and in international exhibits. 

Danish Modern LA - Greta M. Grossman Grasshopper lamp
Grasshopper floor lamp for Ralph O. Smith (Image: Danish Modern LA)
Her iconic Grasshopper and Cobra lamps, featuring elegant steel legs and powder coated shades, were featured in the Good Design exhibits at The Museum of Modern Art in 1950s. They look so fresh today - timeless! Both lamps are back in production today by the Danish design company Gubi.
Greta M. Grossman Cobra Lamps
Cobra desk lamp (Image: R & Co.) and sketch (Drawing Center's Drawing Papers Volume 81)

Magnusson-Grossman's talent in industrial design and architecture lead to a prolific career in a male-dominated industry. “The old idea that women are not as good as men at mechanical work is stuff and nonsense," she told American Artist magazine in 1951, "The only advantage a man has in furniture designing is his greater physical strength.” 


Greta M. Grossman furniture
Greta M. Grossman furniture on display at the Arkitekturmuseet (Image: The Conran Shop)

The Scandinavian/Californian aesthetic she developed fit the modern lifestyle of her clients - easy to care for and to move around. Of her furniture, she said "The general effect is one of mellow, golden surfaces, of lightness and airiness and informal comfort."

  Hurley Residence - Grossman

Hurley Residence (Image: Modern San Diego)

She name a series of dressers and desks the "62-series," as they were to imagined to be a decade ahead of their time. 

Greta M. Grossman furniture R & Co.
Greta M. Grossman furniture (Image: R & Co)

Over the course of her career, Magnusson-Grossman designed over 16 homes,  in Southern California, San Francisco, and Sweden, often perched on cliffs as lightly as her tables. Her style embraced Modernism - floor to ceiling windows, integration with the landscape, and clerestory light. She had the only female owned private architecture practice in California. 

Greta M. Grossman house
Hurley Residence (Image: Modern San Diego)

After a quiet retirement, her legacy was mostly unknown until a 2010 retrospective at Stockholm’s Arkitekturmuseet, and a subsequent book, "A Car and Some Shorts," (named for the two things she wanted to purchase when she first arrived in the U.S.) that revived the legacy of a talented lady who was ahead of her time.

 

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