Designs with warmth and subtle functionality that transport us back to the past
Arthur Umanoff was an American-born industrial designer most known for his extensive contribution to the American midcentury modern movement.
Danish design brand MENU reintroduced several of Umanoff’s most popular designs and we can’t wait to share the story behind each piece we have available for you!
First of all, who is Arthur Umanoff?
Here’s some background on Arthur Umanoff.
After graduating from New York City’s Pratt Institute and the American School of Design in the early 1950s, Umanoff kickstarted his career by collaborating with Post Modern Ltd, a New York design company that sold modernist wrought iron and wood designs.
In the 1960s, he worked with Shaver Howard, a furniture manufacturer who put many of Umanoff’s designs into production. Umanoff also designed clocks for Howard Miller.
Throughout the 1960s, he worked closely with the furniture manufacturer Shaver Howard, who put many of his furniture designs into production. He also designed clocks for Howard Miller.
All of Umanoff’s designs were centered around the belief that design should not just be beautifully constructed and functional, but attainable. Umanoff created versatile designs for the home that were celebrated for both their quality (thanks to natural materials and new methods) and for their simplified, functional forms that outlast trends.
Many of his designs were imagined in wrought iron, rattan, walnut, and birch, sprinkled with functional details that remained naturally elegant thanks to slender, tapered lines.
"His designs and the materials he used are still really prominent today," says his daughter Wendy Umanoff in an interview with Dwell. "Organic materials are so popular right now. Natural materials don’t go away, and he was in touch with that early on."
70 years after they were first designed, MENU brings some of Arthur Umanoff’s most iconic mid-century modern designs back into production, using natural materials and modern technology to bring new life to classic designs.
MENU was very intentional about which pieces they chose to license and reintroduce. Wendy Umanoff played a crucial role in determining which pieces to reintroduce.
"The objects that [MENU] chose, they tell a story in your home," Wendy says to Dwell. "They are intimate pieces, and personal. There are special moments that happen around pieces like that. And it’s interesting that they are midcentury designs, but they feel so present."
MENU’s design and brand director Jachim Kornbek Engell-Hansen has always been interested in the midcentury aesthetic, including Umanoff’s designs.
"The mix of materials is so intriguing, and the way that his products stand out, they are iconic in a way and don’t really look like anything else," Engell-Hansen says.
"The principle of ‘less is more,’ Umanoff managed that in a super-fine way for a lot of his products," Engell-Hansen goes on to say. "His designs stand out as icons even though they are simple."
Let’s take a closer look at each design!
Umanoff Side Tables from MENU Design
Championing natural materials and modern technology, Arthur Umanoff’s reissued Umanoff Side Table challenges convention with its tapered walnut frame and polished brass details.
True to the tenets of the mid-century modern movement during which it was designed, the Umanoff Side Table is an exploration of the traditional and the unconventional.
The circular tabletop with a refined brass bar rests on a tapered tripod-inspired base, the clean lines of which showcase the artistry of the futuristic piece.
Crafted to exacting standards in walnut and polished brass, it juxtaposes sleek lines with organic shapes.
With its clean lines, soft organic curves and contrasting materials, the timeless quality of the Umanoff Side Table makes it just as appealing today as it was when first imagined in the late 1950s.
Umanoff Wine Rack from MENU Design
Engell-Hansen refers to Arthur Umanoff’s wine rack, which is one of his favorites in the new MENU collection, as exemplary: "It’s super simple. It’s just a few lines and a mix of three different materials,” says MENU’s design and brand director Engell-Hansen about the Umanoff Wine Rack, one of his favorites from the collection.
Equal parts sculptural feature and functional object, the wine rack is ideal for wine cellars or as a standalone rack in a kitchen or dining room for keeping bottles within easy reach.
The black powder coated steel frame is fitted with lockstitched leather straps that cushion each bottle and patinate beautifully over time.
Profiling a considered combination of steel and leather, the Umanoff Wine Rack is a practical and timeless design with industrial edge.
Umanoff Planters from MENU Design
Dedicated to the longstanding tradition of crafting pieces out of natural elements, MENU’s Umanoff Planters provide a modernist home for house plants.
Juxtaposing sleek steel lines with gently curved rattan in a play on contrasts, the planters were originally designed in 1961.
As relevant today as ever, the uplifting design is available in three sizes – small, medium and large.
The Umanoff Planter is suitable for elevating a wide range of greenery from the ground.
Want to learn more designer stories? Learn the story behind Danish design brand Form & Refine.
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Batten Home carefully curates Scandinavian furniture designs and minimalist decor objects for the modern home. We are inspired by a Scandinavian aesthetic and Danish design philosophies with a new modern design feel we like to call new Nordic design.