A few weeks ago, when I was in LA, I snuck out of work one day and drove down to take a tour of the Sam Maloof house.
I was very excited to be in California and to have the opportunity to go down and tour the house. I read up on the tour and it occurred to me that they mentioned nothing about the workshop. Hmmm. So I decided to email them and see what the deal was. I explained that I was a woodworker from NY and was very interested in taking a peak at the shop. I quickly received an email back from Kiristine who runs the tours at the Maloof house. She pointed out that there was one day a month where woodworkers could come for a day and get a tour of the shop. I explained that while I was still going to be in LA for the next opportunity, I was going to be working that day. To my amazement she emailed me back and said one of “the boys”, Larry, would be around that day and could show me the shop. How awesome is that?
I arrived and for the first tour at noon. I met Kristine and she told me to come find her after the tour ended. The grounds are pretty are amazing by themselves, but the tour of the house is really something else. You really get to walk around a true artist’s space. Nothing over the top or pretentious, just the setting of a very talented artist, with a keen attention to detail. It’s a pretty magical place.
After the tour Kristine took me back to meet Larry.
For those of you who don’t know Larry and John, affectionally known as “the boys” were the workhorses of the Maloof shop. They received the rough pieces from Sam and put all the finishing touches on them from shaping to sanding to finishing. Every piece went from Sam to the ‘boys’. While Sam was the visionary, the ‘boys’ were the craftsman. Together they created the most amazing American furniture at an outstanding rate.
Larry White met us at the door with welcome arms. He first showed me his space where he has begun to set up shop, he told me he recently retired from the shop, but that he was planning to use this space for his own work. He then took me into the shop. The shop where Sam and the boys had create decades worth of furniture. The shop isn’t huge or glamorous, or particularly tidy. It’s a working shop. But it’s not the shop that’s special, its the wood and the history. As we walked around Larry was kind enough to reminisce, telling me wonderful stories, as pieces in the shop would jar a memory. He’d stop and investigate a template on a table, still curious about what was being built. Great fun figuring out together what the other boys were creating. And the templates!!! Every piece has a template that hangs around the walls of the shop, all dated and labeled (in Sam’s writing) for the piece of furniture, as well as the particular part. What a unique thing, to have the original templates. Even after Sam’s passing, his legacy continues and grows as orders are still being filled. Few crafts offer that ability.
It’s hard for me to articulate the joy I got from my time Larry spent with me. Just being in Sam Maloof’s shop was an incredible experience, but to have someone like Larry take so much time to just share his time and stories with an aspiring woodworker such as myself is, well, humbling.
I had driven down from Hollywood where I spend my days working with the ‘hottest celebrities’ and most notable people in show business, and all I wanted to do was stay with Larry and learn more about the superstar Sam Maloof.
Woodworkers are the kindest folks.
Thank You Larry!
Sounds amazing, Chris. Thanks for sharing the experience. I hope the rest of the trip isn’t too disappointing after this.
Thanks Chris and Larry and Kristine. Merely being in that space and listening to Larry’s stories created something you will carry on your journey forever. This is your life, done well.
I would love to experience something like this Chris. I agree, woodworkers are one of the kindest folks. Hope to meet the boys someday. Great article.
Thanks James! Yes if you have the chance I highly recommend it!