6 Simple, Sophisticated Paul McCobb Designs to Know and Love
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6 Simple, Sophisticated Paul McCobb Designs to Know and Love

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By Amy Dvorak
He has the best legs in the business. From desks to dining tables, perfectly tapered stems have become synonymous with Paul McCobb.

While he never rose to the fame of Charles and Ray Eames or Eero Saarinen, Paul McCobb’s 70-year-old furniture lines have endured the test of time. Composing delicate, yet sturdy designs, Paul McCobb had a way with weightlessness. He knew his way around proportions—and mastered modularity long before IKEA made its way to the U.S. "I design things for rooms, not vacuums," he once said. "Form and line are controlled by the obvious need for simplicity." His pieces eschewed ornamentation and were accessible to the middle-class.

A trained artist who served in the Army, McCobb found his prowess in industrial design in his 51 short years. While tables and chairs are his claim to fame, radio design also landed him in the Museum of Modern Art’s Good Design exhibition in 1955—his fifth time in the show. Audiophiles and leg lovers behold: here are six Paul McCobb pieces that make the heart race.

Planner Group Desk

The Planner Group series touted clean lines and simplicity, but what sets it apart is its modularity. The series comprises cabinets and case goods, with small cases and jewelry boxes simply resting atop. Sturdy, yet slender legs screw in effortlessly for quick assembly and transportation. Drop-leafs don dining tables and vanity mirrors straddle chests of drawers for endless versatility. But of the Planner series, the perfect proportions of this desk get us every time.

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Faceted Form Chair

Designed in 1959, the Faceted Form Series consists of molded fiberglass side and arm chairs with varying bases. While some dub it the "origami chair," the Faceted series is based on the natural phenomena of cellular formation—on manmade structures such as the geodesic dome. Models include the swivel chair, stacking chair, a tapered steel tube base, and the oh-so-coveted and rare spider base. A letter dated 1960 from the sales director of the Directional Contract Furniture Group describes the chair as "an important contribution to the seating field … hailed as a totally new construction concept." We’ll take two. 

Pavilion Collection Dining Chairs For Arbuck

Like most of McCobb's lines, the Pavilion Collection contained oodles of options. We love this iteration that is part of the Aerial Dining Group within the collection, with its strong graphical design and cool color palette. The Aerial Dining Group collection consists of a dining table at two sizes, a serving cart, server base and top, and the pictured armchair and side chair. Regardless of the piece, we simply can't get enough of that dainty diamond back.

Portable Tube Radio

While only produced for a few years, McCobb’s tube radio was the recipient of MoMA’s Good Design Award. If you’re lucky enough score one, they are often sold in sets of four—in colors Stone, Sand, Avocado Green, and Cardinal Red. This model 5110 is made of plastic and a spring steel handle. It was designed for CBS-Columbia in 1955, and you may notice different fonts and dial colors; McCobb offered variety in every piece he designed. 

Room Divider For Arbuck 

Paul McCobb was the pioneer of the room divider. Attached, you’ll find desk sets and shelves for makeshift rooms and more modularity. This edition for Arbuck was designed in the ‘50s and was made of vitrolite and wrought iron with cane baskets. Although the phrase has evolved today, "living wall" was coined by McCobb for this versatile and adaptable timeless piece. 

Vanity and Chair

Oh, the slender lines! McCobb designed a surprising number of mirrors and vanities, but this playful rendition for Furnwood Corp. takes the cake. Designed in 1953, this geometric gem is made with enameled steel, milk and mirrored glass, and birch—and makes makeup fun again.