The story of Sam Maloof (1916-2009) is the quintessential story of a first generation American, born to immigrant parents who struggled to support their large family. From this inauspicious beginning, through ceaseless dedication to his craft voicing singular artistic vision, Sam not only earned a living doing what he loved best, woodworking, he found fame and fortune as the first craftsman awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship.
Sam rose to prominence in the postwar era of minimalist architecture. For more than half a century, Sam was a force in the nucleus of artisans creating custom and strictly limited production pieces in the heralded studio furniture movement.
The sinewy sculpted lines of his iconic long tailed rocking chair exemplify a modern stylistic aesthetic of clean lines born of practical consideration. The geometry of the runner adds stability. Beauty comes not from added ornamentation. It comes from enhancement of natural materials and functional considerations, such as plugged joinery artistically inlaid. When Ray Charles ran his hand over a Maloof chair, the blind singer observed he could, “feel its soul.”
Appreciated by private collectors, the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the White House Craft Collection are among elite institutions where the general public now experiences the iconic sensory wonder.
Sam's marriage to Alfreda Maloof lasted until her death 50 years later, in 1998. A testament to their love, the non-profit Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for the Arts and Crafts is charged with the mission of encouraging artist to excel in craftmanship. The foundation is housed at the sprawling landmark family residence. Lovingly expanded over four decades, The National Register of Historic Places registered home is open to the public.
In 2001, the widower married collector Beverly Wingate. The new Mrs. Maloof took on developing the six acre garden to harmoniously frame the Maloof compound with California natives and Mediterranean climate compatible plantings. Dedicated in 2004, Beverly’s garden invites, delights and celebrates nature. A Certified Wildlife Habitat, the garden is a lesson wherein beauty can be simultaneously abundant and respectful of California’s limited water supplies.
Sam was a man who lived and worked with passion. He found success in love and business. By surrounding himself with an equally passionate team, he gave the public his greatest gift. His legacy lives on in trusted hands of those who shared his vision, working beside him until God stilled his hands at 93.