Melding function with style, Paul McCobb was one of the leading designers of his time. Born in 1917 in Massachusetts, McCobb aspired to be an artist from a young age. His desire to create something artistic that could be appreciated by all morphed into his career of design; he went from organizing furniture-store window displays to creating one of the 1950s best-selling modern furniture lines.

Paul McCobb desk
A 1950s Paul McCobb for Winchendom Furniture Company, desk, maple, United States, 1950s. For sale at 1st Dibbs for $6,750.

However, his talents didn’t stop at furniture. McCobb also had his hands in textiles, wallpaper, dinnerware, lighting, television and small appliance design. With his many talents, it’s no wonder the demand for his pieces is on the rise, solidifying McCobb’s place in midcentury design.

a black Paul McCobb chair in a living room in front of a large modern painting
McCobb was inspired by classic American styles like Windsor and Shaker. His furniture took those silhouettes, simplified them further and modernized their proportions and details.

Simple Finesse

McCobb said, “Design appeal is based on integrity of form, simplicity of line and true organic function.” He valued refined shape and functionality overall when creating a piece, and throughout all his designs.

a mustard Paul McCobb couch in a mid century living room with exposed beams
The mustard colored Paul McCobb couch in this Oakland, CA, home is a statement making piece. Photo by Jim Brown.

McCobb often combined elements of Scandinavian craftsmanship and international style. The pieces of his collections were un-ornamented with clean lines and made of inexpensive yet robust materials like iron or solid wood.

An occasional table from the Irwin Collection for Calvin boasts a signature mix of brass and wood with a modular organization.
An occasional table from the Irwin Collection for Calvin boasts a signature mix of brass and wood with a modular organization.

When he first began to design his iconic Planner line, McCobb utilized all he knew and believed in to create furniture that, as he described it, “has the feeling of belonging in our homes. Such design fits the size and shape of our rooms.”

Paul McCobb Planner Group Bench And Grass Cloth Sliding Door Unit
A Paul McCobb Planner Group bench with grass cloth sliding door unit. The pieces are modular and can be used separately.

Branching Out

Often unmentioned about McCobb were his designs for CBS-Columbia and other major corporations. Able to transition his talents to radio, television and hi-fi console design, McCobb was invaluable to his time in many ways.

Left: Paul McCobb E5 table lamp via Wright 20. Right: Set of Four Paul McCobb Maple & Black Iron Refinished “Shovel” Chairs, 1950s via 1st Dibbs.

“Design appeal is based on integrity of form, simplicity of line and true organic function.”

a portrait of Paul McCobb
Paul McCobb: 1917–1969 frequently collaborate with buisness partner, B.G. Mesberg. McCobb us perhaps most famous for his Planner furniture line which he launched with Mesberg in 1950.

When not creating, McCobb actively presented throughout the U.S., lecturing on his design methods and sharing his knowledge as a professor of design at Philadelphia Museum School of Art. McCobb, a household name by this time, also appeared on radio and television shows.

Looking for more insight to some the era’s most prolific furniture makers? Check out this post about the work of Milo Baughman.

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