Interest in Mid Century Modern design has seen a rise in recent years, with designers like Arne Jacobsen, Eero Saarinen and the Eameses still popular in modern times. Yet, lost among these are the names of artists like Greta Grossman, whose works still live on today.
Born in Sweden in 1906, Greta Grossman was enchanted by design from a young age. Following a woodworking apprenticeship, Grossman enrolled in the prestigious Konstfack institute for art and design with a scholarship. Here, Grossman learned more about design and experimented with furniture design as well as textiles and ceramics. On graduating, Greta established a store with her classmate Erik Ullrich. Named Studio, the store attracted widespread attention to Grossman’s work and notably gave her the opportunity to design a crib for Princess Birgitta of Sweden. In 1940, as World War II raged on, Greta Grossman immigrated to Los Angeles in the United States with her husband Billy Grossman.
Grossman’s timing for establishing her Los Angeles store couldn’t have been better. The United States was just becoming aware of Scandinavian modernism, and Greta’s store in Los Angeles proved highly popular. Her work took on all forms, from interior and furniture design to architecture. Her designs were modern and simplistic, without diminishing practicality and warmth. Interiors were designed to be spacious and functional, with an increased regard for improving the lives of its occupants. Clean lines dominated her designs, while materials like steel and wood intermingled to create visually light surfaces that were easy to maintain. Grossman focused on experimentation as a key part of her design process, incorporating new materials like plastic laminates and metals with rich hued woods.
During her time in Los Angeles, Greta Grossman worked with several famed retailers such as Barker Brothers and Glenn of California to produce modernist furniture and products. Two of her most well known works - the Grasshopper Floor Lamp and the Cobra Lamp - were designed during this time. The lamps, which took inspiration from their namesakes in nature, have slender, graceful silhouettes that are characteristic of Grossman’s modernist style. The adjustable lamps showcase her ingenuity and experimental nature, and her commitment to function above form. While in Los Angeles, Greta Grossman also expanded her architectural portfolio, designing homes in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sweden. Her designs used open floor plans with movable screens and walls along with inbuilt storage and shelving to produce spacious, comfortable homes. She often remarked that “Home should spell sanctuary and happiness, not a place from which to escape.”
Even though not many of Greta Grossman’s architecture and interior designs remain today, appreciation for her design sensibility still prevails. Keeping homes easy to clean and maintain by using simple designs and the right choice of materials were of importance to Grossman, and remains so in a time of increased health concerns. In many ways, Greta Grossman’s concept of an ideal mid century home is relevant even today.