Meet the Auburn Chair
Aboard a ferry from Portland, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, two summers ago, renowned furniture designer Tom Moser was taken by a particularly comfortable chair.
“It was a steel chair with a plastic seat and back which was incredibly comfortable. And not bad-looking, but not very well-made. It was strictly industrial,” says Moser, 81. “But the way it captured your back was what impressed me.”
Not long after, Moser was struck by a similar-looking chair at at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem—it was a one-piece mold chair with both a convex- and concave-curved back. This time, he digested the design, using it as inspiration for his newly debuted Auburn Chair.
The Maine-based designer recently embarked on a five-city showroom book tour for his latest book, Legacy in Wood, which offers an intimate look into Moser’s life and work. At a book-signing at his Boston showroom on Saturday, Moser shared his inspiration for the Auburn Chair and accompanying Auburn Stool in the company of friends, family, and his dog, Murphy.
He says the chair is his most comfortable solid wood chair yet. That’s certainly saying something, since he’s designed dozens of chairs, as well as tables, desks, stools, rockers, bookcases, and other types of furniture over a 44-year-long career.
“The idea of making wood, which is a very hard surface, comfortable. That’s what drove me,” says Moser. “That, and that I wanted it to be monolithic. I didn’t want it to have any seams in it…I wanted it to be sort of molded like that molded plastic chair at at the Essex.”
Moser compares the design of the Auburn Chair to a curved potato chip, like a Pringle.
“The word for that is anticlastic,” he says. “But I didn’t know that word until long after I designed the chair. There’s a principle I learned a long time ago, and that is that practice predeces theory.”
Moser and wife Mary founded Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers in 1972 in an old Grange Hall in New Gloucester, Maine, after Moser quit his job as a professor at Bates College. Since then, he’s debuted one minimalist design after another, and has opened six showrooms across the country.
Now with a much larger workshop in Auburn, Maine, Thos. Moser employs more than 140 people. Influenced by Shaker, Japanese, and Danish design, Moser’s furniture is touted for its meticulous craftsmanship, as each piece is handcrafted by an in-house master craftsman or craftswoman. Moser emphasizes that in the age of inexpensive mass production, it’s possible to build a career the old-fashioned way—working with your hands.
The Auburn Chair is available in cherry and walnut, $1510, as is the Auburn Stool, $1640, Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers, thosmoser.com.