We recently acquired this pair of Arthur Umanoff barstools and have quickly become big fans. The textural contrast between bent wood, rattan, and thin wrought iron represents what I enjoy most about Umanoff’s late work. Comfortable, supportive, and extra-sturdy, these stools don’t sacrifice functionality for style. These work great for a bar, pub table seating, or guitar picking. Umanoff’s style embodies the art and simplicity of MCM design without being stuck in the genre. His pieces work as well with industrial and contemporary as alongside Eames, McCobb, or Pearsall.
For such an influential modern designer, little is known about Arthur Umanoff. I decided to compile some information and photographs for edification and identification purposes. Scroll down for pics. I hope this is helpful!
A graduate of the Pratt and American School of Design, Umanoff began his career in 1952 when his company Post Modern Ltd. began to distribute exclusively through the Elton Company(NYC). His sleek yet sturdy hanging desks, serving carts, chairs, and functional storage pieces constructed of a combination of brass or wrought iron and birch or walnut garnered Elton a place in the 1953 Good Design Exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
From the April 1953 edition of Living for Young Homemakers:
“Arthur H. Umunoff has tried in his work to substantiate the thesis that the fundamentals of good design are in every way analogous to good homemaking. Accordingly, he works each item of furniture from the drawing board, through his own shop where he handles the raw materials directly, to actual use in his New York home with wife, Charlotte, and two young sons. As a partner in Post Modern, Ltd., which manufactures from his designs. Arthur has a hand in producing, merchandising, and selling, too. Some of his most interesting pieces are those which combine wrought iron and wood or laminated plastic: well sized desk (36x24x45) retails at $50, in birch, walnut or Formica; combination lamp table and magazine rack at $40 is available in the same materials”
After the Elton Co. dissolved, Umanoff went to work for Bouyer Scott in 1954, continuing to develop his functional minimalist style. His 1964 Grenada Collection for Boyuer Scott features characteristic low profile iron structure embellished by decorative metalwork more ornate than anything in his earlier designs. Umanoff stayed on with Shaver Howard when they bought out Bouyer Scott in 1969, and continued with them into the 1970s. As his style expanded to include rattan, wood slats, and molded plastic, Umanoff’s designs were also produced by other companies such as Storkline Inc., Raymer, Directional, Dillingham furniture, Thonet, Madison Furniture, David Morgan and Rouse/Jackson.