‘A Controversial Chair’

The Plycraft ‘Pretzel’ Chair based off the original ‘Cherner Chair’


Being offered in our upcoming Fine Sale on the 7th of November is Lot 20, a scandalous piece of mid-century American design titled ‘The Plycraft Pretzel Chair’ based on the iconic original ‘Cherner Chair’ designed by Norman Cherner. This chair is easily recognisable by its distinctly sculptural style. The innovative design, smooth and pleasing curvature gives its name to its secondary title, resembling a pretzel! Made from plywood, its elegance does not affect its robustness.

The background history…

Norman Cherner (1920 – 1987) both studied and taught at the Columbia University Fine Arts Department and was an instructor at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York from 1947-1949. In 1957, Herman Miller, who was led by the designer George Nelson and their manufacturer Plycraft, ceased production of the original Cherner Pretzel Chair design, stating that it was too expensive and fragile. Nelson advised Cherner that he ought to design a more reliable and economical alternative. This was later accepted by Plycraft’s owner, Paul Goldman, in the form of a contract. However, despite the apparent scrapping of the project, Cherner discovered that Goldman was selling his original chair design under the name ‘Bernardo’. Fortunately, there was a happy ending, as Cherner successfully sued Plycraft and Goldman in 1961.

The chair going into our Fine Sale is not an original Cherner Chair but is instead a Plycraft design. Despite its scandalous history, the chair design is still a beautiful piece of stylish mid-century American furniture. The chair can most certainly be considered a vintage knock-off.
Although the Plycraft Chair most certainly cannot take credit for its success, it is interesting to note that there have not been any more knock-offs of this original Plycraft knock-off…. This means that it does carry with it its own vintage appeal, as it has not been mass-produced or copied from the Cherner Chair since the 1960s and its controversial origins.


‘A Controversial Chair’

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