It would be a cliche to call Sam Maloof an inspiration… he was that for far too many woodworkers and artisans to count. I was saddened to learn that Maloof died last thursday at the age of 93.
Maloof called himself simply a woodworker but his influence on contemporary and arts and crafts furniture movements was enormous, far too big to calculate and far more than he himself would have ever acknowledged. Legendary for his humility as well as his formidable abilities, Maloof will be missed.
His signature rocking chairs could easily fetch over $100k at auction and the Smithsonian, which features a Maloof rocking chair in their permanent collection, called him “America’s most renowned contemporary furniture craftsman”. Maloof is perhaps the only person who could bring together former presidents Carter and Reagan… both men enjoyed Maloof rockers while in the White House. Equally at home in a Southern California ranch house and the Boston Museum of Fine Art, Maloof’s lifework achieved represented the pinnacle of craftsmanship for original designs executed with technical ability and innovation that few people possess.
I never had the chance to meet the man, although he certainly appeared approachable enough simply by visiting his workshop (which is included in the National Registry of Historic Places). From the many interviews he granted it did appear evident that in spite of the accolades and fame that he long ago began receiving, he still came across as a genuinely nice and generous human being.
Future generations will refer to Sam Maloof with the same reverence reserved for Thomas Chippendale, John Goddard, Charles and Henry Greene, Charles and Ray Eames, and many others who were the best of their era.