Warren McArthur

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About the designer:

Designer:Warren McArthur
Date of birth:1885
Date of death:1961
Major works:Ambassador chair, Two-tier table

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Warren McArthur

Warren McArthur

Warren McArthur was born in 1885. He grew up in Chicago and his father was said to be one of the first to own a car in their town. In the 1930’s Warren McArthur’s furniture defined the meaning of the word “glamour” in Art Deco curves of that era. Warren McArthur moved from Chicago to Arizona he had both inspirational and financial support from his father. He had funded just about every project for Warren and by doing this he was able to create a good size catalogue of
all his furniture as well as a number of rather technological innovations in the production of aluminium furniture.

In 1908 Warren McArthur graduated from Cornell, where he had studied mechanical engineering. He then went on to file more than 10 patents for various lamp designs between 1911 to 1914. One of those patents is still to this day manufactured but is slightly modernized in Chicago by Dietz Lantern Co.

In 1913 Warren McArthur moved to Phoenix where he worked with his brother. There they opened up a dozen car dealerships all around Arizona, and it was then that he developed an adaptor used for car radiators to prevent them from overheating when in desert conditions. Together they created what was known as the “Wonder Bus” which was one of the first vehicles used for recreational use. They used it promote both the tourist industry as well as the just finished highway system that gave access to the National Parks. They were also the first to start a radio station within Arizona. Both the Arizona Museum and the Arizona Biltmore resort were designed by their older brother.

Warren McArthur decided in 1929 to embark on new adventure and moved on to Los Angeles to start his metal furniture business. He started off by making some custom pieces but it didn’t take him long and he started putting more focus into creating new ways to join various pieces together. He soon developed standardized units made for manufacturing, notched tubes as well as milled washers that had different surfaces. He also developed a process known as the “anodic process”, which made aluminium hard and almost impossible to tarnish. By using this process he was able to give a lifetime guarantee on all of his products, and it also helped him introduce a technique where he could use colour dyes that would not crack or chip. By using the anodic process it was able to make metals porous, and it helped the colour dyes sink into the pores in a way that it actually became a part of the metal and not just an outer coat.

McArthur’s most popular colours marketed were his cool metal tones, in shades of Alice Blue, Golf Green and Grenadine. These colours became an icon of Hollywood in the 1930’s. Warner Bros. theatre was furnished in McArthur’s furniture and his pieces were seen on movie sets as well as in the star’s homes. The Ambassador Hotel was also furnished by McArthur’s pieces.

One could recognize his pieces by their curved tubing and also by the way he rounded his edges. He produced a large variety of lounges, end tables and sofas, all that were decorated by using overlaying bars in the framework as well as grids. His upholstery was decorated by using dramatic contrasting colours like canary yellow and red, or red with ebony.

He had designed lounges for outdoor use, the “Sun Fast”, which he had advertised as “a dripping chair” in his catalogue. This chair was said to withhold both the sun and the rain.

He had two pieces that he was best-known for and they are the 1932 “Ambassador” armchair and the ottoman as well as the 1933 “Biltmore” chair that had an upholstered seat with tubular arm rests.
After his father’s death he constantly had financial issues and decided to move in 1933 to Rome, New York where he manufactured his designs and continued to do so until he died in 1961.