Feb 16, 2013

The Cherner Chair

Remember the problem concerning the dining room chairs we addressed in the Round of Excuses posting? Briefly, after switching to a larger, elliptical table, we noticed there is no way to fit two DAWs between the table legs. Therefore, a global hunt for new chairs was initiated and finally we are delighted to report the most recent success of the HDP model!

The chair of the choice is the Cherner chair, by Norman Cherner for Plycraft (1958). Four (out of desired six) arrived to our home about a week ago from Florida. They are vintage (naturally), beautiful and fit nicely on the sides of the table. These chairs are made of plywood walnut veneer with a vinyl naugehyde upholstery. The search still continues, however, for two armrest versions of this same chair, which will be placed on each end of the table.

Cherner chair by Norman Cherner for Plycraft (1958) 

There is actually an interesting story behind the Cherner chair. In the 1950's, the Herman Miller company, led by George Nelson, wanted to create a lightweight chair out of plywood. However, the pretzel chair, designed by Nelson's office in 1952 and produced by another US company Plycraft located in Lawrence Massachusetts, was too fragile and costly, so the production was stopped in 1957.

At this point, Plycraft didn't want to waste the tooling, materials and techniques they had for constructing plywood furniture. Therefore, George Nelson recommended that Norman Cherner would design a sturdier and more economical Pretzel-like chair. Subsequently, Paul Goldman, the owner of Plycraft, hired Cherner. After turning in his design to Plycraft, however, Cherner was told the project had been stopped.

Curiously, a while later Cherner ran across his design in a furniture showroom in New York. Based on the label, he saw it was manufactured by Plycraft and designed by "Bernardo". As a result, Cherner sued Plycraft in 1961, won and received his royalties. Goldman also admitted that Bernardo was a fabricated name. Because of all this sometimes the design is mistakenly also attributed to either Paul Goldman or George Mulhauser. What a mess!!

Afterwards, Plycraft continued to produce Cherner's chair, but it was still difficult and expensive to produce. They continued to modify the original design over the years, leading to some visual variability among the vintage chairs. Ultimately, because of these difficulties the chair remained in production only until the 1970's. Cherner's sons have recently reissued their father's original designs with a company called Cherner Chair Company so a newer option exists for those who prefer new over vintage.

Label underneath our chairs indicate that they were produced after the law sued (1964)

So back to our fantastic four. After a long search we actually happened to find our chairs from Miami, USA, and they finally arrived about a week ago. Excited to see how they looked, felt and matched with the rest of the dining room, Pekka unwrapped and assembled the chairs right away.

Fresh from the Helsinki airport customs

Cherner chairs waiting to be assembled

And these four chairs are simply stunning! Someone has stated that these are the most beautiful pieces of furniture ever made out of plywood - and yes, we absolutely agree! What makes them stand out from their plywood rivals is the graduated thickness of plywood. This can be seen both on the legs and the seat. It is this structural feature that eventually enabled also the most important design cue of the Cherner chair: the narrow waist. The graduated thickness, together with the flowing shape of the armrest, were additional features making this chair difficult and expensive to manufacture. Considering all this, it is easy to see why this particular design is very difficult to copy. This is also the reason why there are so few knock-offs in the market, and if you happen to find one it would be fairly easy to distinguish a knock-off from an original.

Cherner beauty

And not only these four chairs are amazingly beautiful, they are also in exceptional condition! Manufactured in 1964 they are now nearly 50 years old and practically flawless. It is almost as if they landed to our home in a protective time capsule from a bygone era. It makes you wonder where they have spent the past 50 years - unused in some warm storage room, maybe?

Label from 1964

The foot pads, intact and like brand new. Yet, they are almost 50 years old!

At this point, we would like to present our sincerest regards to the person who sold us these beautiful chairs, Anna from Miami (dosbananos in eBay). This purchase was definitely one of the smoothest, fastest, and most reliable processes we have ever experienced. So please take note, if you are looking for a design item from the North American market. Please do not hesitate to contact her - we are glad to give her our highest recommendations!

And just to conclude - what did Urho think of all this? Honestly, he could not care less. After all, they are just chairs. Way too high for a sausage dog to enjoy them.

While you are working on those chairs, let me just rest my eyes for a minute...or two!

So the problem with the dining room chairs is now solved. Right? Well, not exactly. With the new chairs, the table no longer looks as nice as it once did...


  1. Nice story and beautiful Cherners! Hopefully you'll find two more Cherners with armrests soon. Are you looking for a new table or do some painting maybe?
    Still waiting for the Raak lamps to show up in my home, heh ;)

  2. Hi Liisa! The Cherners are absolutely stunning!! A global hunt for the armrest versions is active, so sooner or later we'll find them, as always;) Regarding the table the situation is turning from alarming to critical. There is a growing risk that we end up with a new table also..

    We'll bring the Raak Lights to visit when we come to Hämeenlinna next month. Maybe they will find a new home:)

  3. Amazing find! And the fabric is gorgeous. You can see the difference between the good stuff and the less expensive version even online. I love how just a little bit of animal print in a room makes such a statement and looks so fabulous. Thanks for sharing! eames chair reproduction