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When the Danish brand Gubi first became available in Australia, the pieces we were captivated by most, were those by Greta Grossman.
Starting out in her native Sweden, Grossman finished a one-year woodworking apprenticeship and went on to enrol at Konstfack, becoming the first woman to graduate from the prestigious design school. In the late 1940s Grossman designed a groundbreaking and successful line of lamps for Barker Brothers, later produced by Ralph O. Possibly Grossman’s most enduring work in Los Angeles came in the form of her built architectural commissions.
The classic Cobra lamp takes its name from the shape of the oval shade, which is reminiscent of a Cobra’s neck. Follow The Chelsea PapersWe are currently taking a break from blogging to focus on the exciting new projects we are working on! Strange, that these beautiful lights, desks and cabinets originally designed in the 40s and 50s, skilfully mixed luxurious walnuts with lo-fi laminates and felt familiarly modernist but were designed by a woman, quite rare for the period, who was largely unknown and nearly forgotten.
Greta Magnusson Grossman (1906-1999) was in fact a pioneering designer, architect and businesswoman whose extraordinary influence is only now being recognised and revived. Below: The Hurley House located in Los Angeles, California, the exterior today is almost identical to when it was built in 1958.


Between 1949 and 1959 she designed at least fourteen homes in Los Angeles, one in San Francisco and one back in her native Sweden.
She was no doubt prolific and recognition for her contribution to modernist design as we know it today is well overdue. The tubular steel tripod stand is tilted backward and the elongated aluminium conical shade is ball-jointed onto the arm; so the light can be directional, yet the glare is minimal. The tubular flexible arm can be bent in all directions and the shade can be rotated through 360?. She was the only woman to hold a private architecture practice and finish numerous projects throughout California and her native Sweden.
From Studio, Grossman took on numerous commissions designing unique furniture and interiors.
These were among the first lamps to employ bullet shaped, directional shades and flexible arms.
We continue to specify her pieces in our interiors often forgetting just how timeless and enduring they are.
She was highly influenced by European Modernism, which had been imported to the US by influential architects, such as Walter Gropius (founder of the Bauhaus) and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Grossman, in turn, playing a significant role in defining the aesthetic of mid-century Californian Modernism.


That same year, she married jazz bandleader Billy Grossman with whom she later immigrated to the United States in 1940, settling in Los Angeles. In 1950, the Cobra lamp won the Good Design Award and was subsequently exhibited at the Good Design Show at the Museum of Modern Art as was a chair she designed for Glenn of California.
The homes were often perched on stilts at the top of a hill, overlooking a canyon, with magnificent views through curtain walls of glass. She designed both furniture and lighting for over a dozen companies and later taught at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
The homes featured extensive built-in shelving and the uniquely open and free flowing floor plan popular at the time. Her projects, both design and architecture, garnered worldwide press attention until her retirement in the late sixties.




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