Norman Cherner was an innovative designer, both in molded plywood furniture technology and prefab housing. His sons Benjamin and Thomas founded The Cherner Chair Company in 1999 to revive his original designs. The new outfit also introduced designs by Benjamin Cherner that continued the tradition his father started in the 1950s.
Norman Cherner studied and taught in Columbia University’s Fine Arts Department and instructed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the late 1940s. While there, Cherner engaged with the Bauhaus movement, explored multidisciplinary design, and began his work in low-cost prefab housing. He saw homes as a complete design concept and sought accessible furniture to complement the modular dwellings he designed. He wrote several books about his design theories in the 1950s. One of Cherner’s original prefab homes was designed, produced, and constructed in 1957 for the United States Department of Housing. It was exhibited in Vienna, before being shipped back to Connecticut where it became Norman Cherner’s first home and studio.
Although Norman Cherner made tremendous advances in prefabricated housing, he is best known for the molded plywood furniture that he designed for Plycraft, a company based in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Plycraft informed Cherner that his iconic Cherner Chair would no longer be produced but continued to manufacture it, claiming the company’s owner was the designer. The chair became exceedingly popular, and was even featured in a Norman Rockwell painting in 1961, which also made a cover on the Saturday Evening Post. Norman Cherner ultimately sued Plycraft, who agreed to pay him royalties. Despite this, Cherner’s entire furniture line was completely out of production in the early seventies.
Norman Cherner’s furniture was rarely seen outside of museums, galleries, and the homes of midcentury modern collectors. But in 1999, Cherner’s sons Benjamin and Thomas founded The Cherner Chair Company to bring back their father’s original designs, including the classic Cherner Chair that he designed in 1958. As the designs became popular once again, Benjamin Cherner—also an architect and designer—decided to add to his father’s legacy, introducing new Cherner designs that blended with Norman Cherner’s original molded plywood line.