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With a passion for design and architecture, Greta Grossman’s innovative ideas included a unique approach to the use of mixed materials and asymmetrical shapes. Her timeless furniture pieces demonstrate a clean and colorful mix of Scandinavian and California Modernism.
Born and raised in Helsingborg, Sweden, Grossman descended from a family of Swedish cabinetmakers. In the male-dominated cabinetmaker business, Greta was the only female participant at a woodwork apprenticeship. Her effort through the workshop helped her earn a scholarship to continue her studies at Konstfack. She transcended in her technical drawing skills and concentrated on her furniture, ceramics and textile designs at Konstfack.
In 1933 Grossman became the first woman to receive the Furniture Design Award from the Swedish Society of Industrial Design. She traveled through Europe and wrote reports on the field of interior design and architecture for the Swedish paper. In that same year, she opened ‘Studio’ in Stockholm, a combined workshop and store, where she designed and produced furniture and accessory pieces.
In 1940 she emigrated to Los Angeles with her husband, Billy Grossman. That same year she opened a store on Rodeo Drive named Magnussen-Grossman, where she worked with several Hollywood stars as an interior and furniture designer as well as an architect. Through her store, she imported Scandinavian design, being one of the first to introduce the style in the United States and redefining California Modernism. Her work is characterized by the unique incorporation of mixed materials and petite proportions. In 1950, she received the Good Design Award from MOMA for her Cobra lamp, a sophisticated yet playful design which remains one of her most recognizable to date.
In addition to her skills as a furniture and interior designer, Grossman is also known for her work as an architect. Working with various materials including steel, stone, and rich woods, she designed fourteen homes in Los Angeles, one in the Bay Area and another in her home of Sweden, many of which have since been demolished. In 1943, she designed her own Beverly Hills home, which she acted as both the architect and interior designer.
By the late 1950’s, Greta became a professor and lecturer and various schools, including UCLA and the Art Center in Pasadena. Though she faded into obscurity by the late 1960’s, Grossman remains one of the most iconic and influential female designers of mid-century design.