Harvey Probber (1922 -2003) was born in Brooklyn, New York. His love of design and interest in creating his own style was evident from an early age. His designs have become known for their versatility and the way in which they can function in multiple ways, suitable to the rush of modern living. Probber is thus recognized as one of the characterizers of modern American furniture aesthetics from the 1940s to the 1970s. His learning process was largely through commission and experiences; Probber was renowned for having sold his designs to furniture companies while he was still in high school. Probber’s skills reached across interiors – from wallpaper, to light fittings and his iconic furniture – and even into the more extroverted creative world of cabaret theatre in New York.
After graduating from high school, Harvey Probber was already a recognized designer and thus went straight into finding work. He did a few part-time courses at night school at the Pratt Institute, while learning on the job at a furniture and upholstery company. In 1945, he opened Probber Inc., a company that would cater to the needs of middle-class families in the post-war era. The furniture created by Probber are characteristic in the way they were flexible in their use and could be rearranged to suit different occasions. Although he was not widely known while he was alive, Probber’s work has solidified its place in the canon of modern design. His designs show characteristic block shapes and solid, straight lines, which are demonstrated in many of his pieces. Probber was attracted to interesting textures and lasting creations, and thus the furniture that was made with his designs are both excitingly tactile and durable. Some of his designs were featured at MoMA’s Good Design exhibition in 1951, and he was awarded several prestigious awards by Roscoe Industry and the IBD awards.
Harvey Probber, Coffee Table (circa 1950) H: 48cm L: 122cm D: 51cm, fabric covered wood, USA
The Coffee Table designed by Harvey Probber shows his characteristic approach of tasteful and functional furniture. The piece is decorative in its patterned fabric that is stretched across wood, while remaining minimal and sleek in its form. The understated and unobtrusive shape places the table within some of Probber’s best design technique – his innovative unit furniture and the way his designs were flexible in their functionality. The elegant shape and linear design links the piece into Probber’s work from around the 1950s, and was thus probably produced for his Probber Inc. furniture line – designed for efficiency and long-lasting quality.