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Cherner Chair
Iconic Designs

Cherner Chair

About the Design

Boasting clean lines, gentle curves and organic material, 1958’s Cherner chair distinctly embraced the attributes of mid-century modern furniture, even though its author may not have been as prolific or well-known as his contemporaries. New York City architect and designer Norman Cherner (1920–87) was fascinated by the principles of the Bauhaus movement and taught at Columbia University — where he’d previously been a student — and at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He worked in various areas of design, including crafting storage systems and lighting, but the Cherner chair's inspiration came from his passion project: In the late 1940s, Cherner was building low-cost modular housing in upstate New York. He designed affordable furniture for these homes and wrote books such as Make Your Own Modern Furniture about his idea that good furniture should be available for all. The Cherner chair fits this philosophy, but the story begins with the Pretzel. 


In the early 1950s, a plywood chair called the Pretzel debuted in a Herman Miller showroom. It was conceived by John Pile, a designer in the studio of George Nelson, who was then Herman Miller’s design director. 


While beautiful, the Pretzel had structural problems and was expensive to make, so Herman Miller contracted Massachusetts manufacturer Plycraft to produce the chair. A dispute between the two companies and concerns over costs halted Pretzel production in 1957, so Plycraft president Paul Goldman got Cherner (a Nelson recommendation) to improve upon the design. The Cherner chair, in the sculptural swoop of its wing-like arms and sloping seat made of layers of laminated plywood, emphasized the distinctive properties of working with the material, not unlike the work of Charles and Ray Eames. The design became popular in 1958, but Cherner wouldn’t know: Goldman told him the chair was canceled while selling it under a different name.


Cherner sued Plycraft after he’d discovered he’d been lied to. When a judge ruled in his favor in 1961 — which forced Plycraft to pay Cherner royalties and bring the chair to market with proper credit — it was good timing. The chair appeared in Norman Rockwell’s new painting The Artist at Work, which ran on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in September of that year. Cherner’s elegant chair was famous, and it remained in production until 1972.


Today, the Cherner Chair Company, founded by Cherner’s sons Benjamin and Thomas, produces the Cherner chair based on Norman’s original drawings. It was reintroduced in 1999. In addition to manufacturing new cabinets and tables, the Cherner brothers have debuted various iterations of the Cherner chair — including with an upholstered seat, a painted seat and more — and have rescued their father’s other seductive seating designs as well.

Norman Cherner Chair

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Norman Cherner for Plycraft Pretzel Chairs
By Norman Cherner
Located in Brooklyn, NY
Pretzel armchairs by Norman Cherner for Plycraft, 1950s. Walnut veneer plywood shells and stained frame.
Category

Vintage 1950s Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Maple, Walnut, Plywood

Norman Cherner First Edition Cherner Chair with 'Bernardo' Label
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in Portland, ME
First production Norman Cherner, 'Cherner Chair' in bent Walnut. Made by Plycraft of Massachusetts, circa 1960. This scarce example is labeled with credit given to a false designer b...
Category

Vintage 1950s American Mid-Century Modern Chairs

Materials

Walnut

Mid-Century Modern Norman Cherner "Pretzel" Armchair for Plycraft
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in Los Angeles, CA
Iconic Mid-Century Modern "Pretzel" armchair designed by Norman Cherner for Plycraft Co., circa 1950s. Originally designed to make Modern design accessible to the masses, this incred...
Category

Vintage 1950s American Mid-Century Modern Armchairs

Materials

Wood, Birch, Walnut

Vintage Sculptural "Pretzel" Dining Chairs by Norman Cherner for Plycraft
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in Burbank, CA
An iconic vintage "Pretzel" dining chairs designed by Norman Cherner for Plycraft in the United States. This incredible design utilizes a molded plywood frame to create the illusion ...
Category

Vintage 1960s American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Fabric, Plywood

Pair of Norman Cherner Pretzel Armchairs, Plycraft, USA, 1960s
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in London, GB
A pair of original Norman Cherner pretzel dining chairs, made by Plycraft, USA in the 1960s. Bentwood frames. Newly upholstered in ivory vinyl. With makers label on one chair. Good v...
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Faux Leather, Wood

Pair of Vintage Norman Cherner Plycraft Wood Leather Chairs
By Norman Cherner
Located in Pasadena, TX
Pair of vintage Norman Cherner plycraft bent wood leather chairs Norman Cherner studied and taught at the Columbia University Fine Arts Department and was an instructor at the M...
Category

Vintage 1960s American Mid-Century Modern Side Chairs

Materials

Oak

Pair of Norman Cherner for Plycraft Side Chairs
By Norman Cherner, Plycraft
Located in Ferndale, MI
Nicely refinished pair of Norman Cherner side chairs.
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Walnut

Set of Eight Norman Cherner Dining Chairs, Plycraft, USA, 1960s
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in London, GB
A set of eight original Norman Cherner pretzel dining chairs, made by Plycraft, USA in the 1960s. Bentwood frames. Newly upholstered in ivory vinyl. With makers label on one chair. ...
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Faux Leather, Wood

Bentwood Side Chairs by Norman Cherner for Plycraft
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in Brooklyn, NY
Pair of iconic, maple bentwood chairs by Norman Cherner for Plycraft feature burnt orange sheen upholstery on seat and back.
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Side Chairs

Materials

Fabric, Maple

Early Mid-Century Modern Side Chair by Norman Cherner for Plycraft in Walnut
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in Belmont, MA
Early Mid-Century Modern side chair/dining chair by Norman Cherner for Plycraft in walnut, circa 1950s.
Category

Vintage 1950s American Mid-Century Modern Chairs

Materials

Walnut

Pair of Midcentury Cherner Chairs
By Norman Cherner
Located in Brooklyn, NY
Classic Mid-Century Modern bentwood chairs by Plycraft. All wood with tapered legs and one piece body. (Please confirm item location - NY or NJ - with dealer).   
Category

Vintage 1960s Mid-Century Modern Chairs

Materials

Bentwood

Pair of Norman Cherner Pretzel Dining Chairs, Made by Plycraft, USA, 1960s
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in London, GB
A pair of original Norman Cherner pretzel dining chairs, made by Plycraft, USA in the 1960s. Bentwood frames. Priced for the pair. In very good vintage condition.
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Wood

Set of Six Norman Cherner Dining Chairs, Plycraft, USA, 1960s
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in London, GB
A set of six original Norman Cherner Pretzel dining chairs, made by Plycraft, USA in the 1960s. Bentwood frames. In good vintage condition.  
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Wood

Set of Six Norman Cherner Pretzel Dining Chairs, Made by Plycraft, USA, 1960s
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in London, GB
A superb set of six original Norman Cherner pretzel dining chairs, made by Plycraft, USA, in the 1960s. Bentwood frames. In very good original vintage condition. Priced for the set.
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Wood

Set of Norman Cherner Pretzel Dining Chairs, Made by Plycraft, USA, 1960s
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in London, GB
A set of four original Norman Cherner pretzel dining chairs, made by Plycraft, USA, in the 1960s. Bentwood frames. Priced for the set. In very good original vintage condition. Ships ...
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Wood

Norman Cherner Dining Chairs, Set of Eight
By Norman Cherner
Located in Atlanta, GA
Set of eight sculptural dining chairs, designed by Norman Cherner for Plycraft, American, circa 1950s. They have all been refinished and reupholstered in black vinyl. They measure: 3...
Category

Vintage 1950s American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Upholstery, Wood

Classic Norman Cherner Armchair for Plycraft
By Norman Cherner
Located in St.Petersburg, FL
A Classic Norman Cherner for Plycraft armchair with great patina and beautiful condition. A sculpture that you can sit on!
Category

Vintage 1960s American Mid-Century Modern Chairs

Materials

Walnut

Set of 4 Norman Cherner Pretzel Dining Chairs
By Norman Cherner
Located in Los Angeles, CA
Original Norman Cherner pretzel dining chairs, made by Plycraft, USA in the 1960s. Bentwood frame with a dark black/ brown vinyl seat and back. Priced per chair, 4 available. On d...
Category

Vintage 1960s North American Mid-Century Modern Chairs

Materials

Faux Leather, Wood

Plycraft Sculptural Dining Chairs by Norman Cherner, Set of Four
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in Van Nuys, CA
Set of four plycraft sculptural walnut dining chair designed by Norman Cherner made from steam form bent walnut plywood, circa 1950. Professionally restored in 2019.
Category

Vintage 1950s American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Walnut

Norman Cherner for Plycraft Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in New York, NY
Mid-Century Modern set of six iconic dining room chairs designed by Norman Cherner for Plycraft during the 1960s. This set comprises four chairs with armrests and two chairs without ...
Category

Vintage 1960s American Mid-Century Modern Chairs

Materials

Wood

Set of Four Norman Cherner Pretzel Dining Chairs, Made by Plycraft, USA, 1960s
By Plycraft, Norman Cherner
Located in London, GB
A set of four original Norman Cherner pretzel dining chairs, made by Plycraft, USA in the 1960s. Bentwood frames, original vinyl seats. In great original condition. Plycraft labels t...
Category

Mid-20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Chairs

Materials

Wood

Norman Cherner Rare Prototype Armchair for Plycraft
By Norman Cherner
Located in LAGUNA BEACH, CA
Rare Norman Cherner prototype armchair for Plycraft.
Category

Vintage 1960s American Armchairs

Materials

Rosewood

Lovely Pair of Norman Cherner Plycraft Pretzel Chairs, Mid-Century Modern
By Norman Cherner
Located in Pemberton, NJ
Lovely pair of labelled Norman Cherner Plycraft pretzel armchairs. This pair has a pickled white finish and bone colored faux leather in nice vintage condition.
Category

Vintage 1980s American Mid-Century Modern Lounge Chairs

Materials

Faux Leather, Wood