Monday, August 5, 2013

Meet Sam Maloof

While furniture craftsman Sam Maloof is no longer with us, his work, legacy and spirit live on in the home he began building in 1954 for himself and his wife, Alfreda. This quirky home, which is an amalgamation of his furniture, found objects and art work collected over Maloof's lifetime, is a living museum located in Alta Loma, CA. The museum is open to the public for tours or for casual strolls around its gardens. Last week I was one such visitor who had the privilege of visiting this hidden gem in the foothills of Southern California. 

I didn't really know too much about Sam Maloof and his work before moving to SoCal, but I'm glad that I've become acquainted with it because his woodwork is a continuation of the arts and crafts movement with a slightly modern twist. Aesthetically this is right up my alley. His furniture is in the White House and Ronald Regan, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton all commissioned work by him. Some of his pieces are also found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles Museum of Art.

So here I am at the museum's visitor center outside of the Maloof house. The outside has quite a zen feeling about it, due impart to the abundance of bamboo surrounding the visitor center and adjacent areas.

Below are some more views of the visitor center which will allow you to embrace the calming  effects of the space. I'm going to have to revisit these pictures in a few weeks once I start work again to regain a sense of peace and inner bliss. 

The image below is a picture of the outside of the original Maloof home, which was actually moved a little up the road from its original location due to the fact that the 210 Freeway was extended to run through the original location. (The 210 in traffic is definitely not the most zen place in the world!) Since the house was deemed a historical landmark in 1990, it was moved by the state to where you see it now, closer to the foothills and now farther away from all the noise of the zooming cars.

If you look closely you will observe in the first picture below the name of Maloof's wife, Alfreda, carved in wood above the window. They were married for 50 years, so this was the least he could do for her in my opinion. (Plus he built her a really cool spice rack above the stove, which I would love.)

The second picture details one of the intricately carved exterior doors of the house. Unfortunately pictures where not allowed inside of the house, which is too bad because there was some beautiful and unique architecture, furniture and artwork to be found inside. The rest of the photos depict the lovely exterior of the house.

Even though Sam Maloof passed away in 2009, his three loyal disciples are still making furniture in his studio by using his selected wood, techniques and emulating his style. Below you will see a glimpse inside of the studio. If you want to shell out $25,000+ for a rocking chair or another piece of furniture, this is where it will be born.

If you choose to purchase an iconic rocking chair from the Maloof studio it will look like the image below. Inside of his home is a chair visitors can sit in. Surprisingly, perhaps,  it is very comfortable to sit in regardless of one's height, weight, or proportions; all members on the tour, despite their differing sizes, agreed it was a very comfortable chair. Sam Maloof must truly have understood not only the art of making beautiful, solid furniture, but also ergonomics. I think the strategically placed grooves where your posterior goes were a big asset to making the chair so comfy.

When the original house was moved up the road, Sam built a new larger one right below the old one. You can't visit the new house, but you can take a self guided tour of the grounds and the gardens that surround it. In the back of the new home I found this very colorful and bizarre carousel, located on the porch, which caught my eye.

You will also encounter some sculptures on the grounds, many modeled after Native American Kachina dolls. Sam Maloof acquired a diverse and beautiful collection of Native American art, rugs and artifacts which can all be viewed and admired in his house. These statues and the gardens and grounds of the museum make for a cheerful ambiance. I hope to come back sometime soon and perhaps picnic in their presence, which our tour guide, a woodworker who worked for many years with Maloof, suggested.


  1. You piqued my interest in the rocking chair that it's comfy for everyone regardless. But then again, at 25K, I think I'll pass. ;) (All the bags to be had for that $$! :P)

    1. Yes, for 25k it should be stylish and comfy. I would also be in a quandary over buying bags or furniture for that amount of cash. You could get a seriously nice Birkin or two for that kind of dough!


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