Quick History: Tommi Parzinger

Quick History: Tommi Parzinger

Anna Hoffman
Mar 3, 2011

The twentieth-century designer Tommi Parzinger is considered one of the key creators of the Hollywood Regency look, but don't box him in. Designed for a variety of companies, including his own eponymous one, Parzinger's work remains stylish, versatile, and incredibly current.

Tommi Parzinger was born in Munich in 1903, the son of a famous sculptor. Parzinger studied design at the Kunstgewebeschule (School of Art & Craft) in Munich, working in a variety of media, including ceramics, glass, metalwork, woodworking, and graphic design. In 1932, he won first place in a poster design contest for a steamship company called North German Lloyd; the prize was a trip to the United States. When he returned to Germany, he won another poster competition, but this time was told he'd have to join the Nazi party in order to collect his prize. Instead, Parzinger went to the US Embassy, received a visitors visa, and left directly for America.

Parzinger first found work designing brass and crystal objects as well as furniture for Rena Rosenthal's Madison Avenue shop. By 1939 he had started his own company. He also designed for other companies, including rattan furniture for Reed and Barton and brass and crystal lighting for Lightolier. He also continued his graphic design practice, designing packaging and wallpaper, and painting every morning until noon.

Parzinger was part of a wave of German designers who immigrated to the States in the early '30s. Most prominent, of course, were the Bauhaus designers Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Anni Albers and Mies van der Rohe. But unlike his compatriots, Parzinger was interested in mixing restrained modernist forms with a traditional sense of decoration and luxury. His wooden furniture was often painted with brilliant lacquer colors, or it might be inlaid with elegant motifs or accented with stunning handmade hardware.

Parzinger's clients included such luminaries as Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, the DuPont family and the Rockefellers. He died in 1981. His work is still highly sought after, representing the intersection between Modernist practicality and Hollywood glamor.

Images and Sources:

1 Green lacquered console with nickel-plated brass nail heads, 1943 via Todd Merrill Antiques
2 Yellow lacquered console with brass hardware, c. 1950, via Todd Merrill Antiques
3 Solid brass coffee set designed by Parzinger for Dorlyn brass, c. 1950s, $2200 at Stripe Vintage Modern on 1st dibs
4 Brass and crystal sconces, c. 1960s, via Craig Van Den Brulle on 1st dibs
5 'Moroccan' mahogany armchair available reissued at Palumbo 20th Century Furnishings on 1st dibs
6 White lacquer dry bar with yellow interior and brass hardware, c. 1950s, at Palumbo
7 Beveled mirror, c. 1950 via Todd Merrill Antiques
8 Chaise longue available reissued at Palumbo
9 Brass Chandelier with birds, c. 1950s, via Palumbo
10 Maple dining table with ebonized inlay, c. 1950s. $15,000 at Gary Rubinstein Antiques on 1st dibs
11 Green leather cocktail table by Parzinger for Charak Furniture, c. 1950s, $3600 from design/one on 1st dibs
12 Yellow-lacquered bamboo vanity with mirror and etched brass hardware designed by Parzinger for Willow & Reed, c. 1950s, via Lobel Modern on 1st dibs
13 An angled sectional sofa with original gold velvet buttoned upholstery and cream lacquered wood frame, c. 1950. $26,000 at Dual on 1st dibs
14 Inlaid mahogany dining table, c. 1950s, via Todd Merrill Antiques
15 Tommi Parzinger via new-design-times.com

Here's a nice video about Parzinger by Todd Merrill.

Related Apartment Therapy post on Parzinger: Gold Goods by Tommi Parzinger

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