Sturegatan to Sunset: Greta Magnusson Grossman and the Immigration of Style

Virtual Exhibition


Exploring the work of designer and architect Greta Magnusson Grossman, this exhibition highlights her transition from a prominent career in Sweden to become one of the major proponents of California modernism. Arriving in San Francisco with her husband in 1940, Grossman settled in the Los Angeles area and quickly opened her own studio. She gained rapid media attention and smartly used her Scandinavian origin–Grossman even began to appear in the papers as an interpreter of the differences between Swedish and American life as she went through that transformation herself.

By 1942, Grossman was approached by an executive of Barker Brothers, a furnishings company in downtown Los Angeles, to design exclusive pieces and take interior design commissions. Her works for Barker perfectly blended not only the so-called Swedish Grace and Hollywood High Style, but also modern lines and soft curves. The designer’s earliest lighting designs were made by Barker Brothers, but as the company began outsourcing the lamps’ production to Ralph O. Smith, she developed a partnership with them as well. Grossman would collaborate with several companies over the next decade, but the pieces designed for Glenn of California are arguably her most sophisticated and best known. In these works, Grossman combined new and classic materials like Formica, walnut, and iron to create playful and asymmetrical compositions that celebrated the ease of the West Coast.

Parallel to her success as an industrial and interior designer, Grossman began designing houses. A journalist who visited her residence at Waynecrest Drive in 1947 stated that “Grossman’s interiors evidence a native love for a home . . . Paradoxically, with talent born in Sweden, Greta Grossman’s designs exemplify the secret of California design’s success: furnishings created for the home, not ‘mailing addresses.’” With a selection of works from the 1930s to the 1950s, this exhibition aims to showcase how Greta Magnusson Grossman changed and was changed by her design environments: from her shop in Sturegatan, Stockholm’s celebrated street, to the star-studded Sunset Boulevard.