Phillip Lloyd Powell and Paul Evans, Studio Bar Cabinet and Server, 1960s. Courtesy of Todd Merrill Studio.
Paul Evans, Sculpted Steel Wall-Mounted Cabinet, USA, 1968. Courtesy of Todd Merrill Studio.

Few individuals have had as profound an effect on American furniture design as Paul Evans (1931-1987). A leading figure in the midcentury American studio furniture movement, Evans consistently pushed boundaries with his innovative approaches to metalsmithing and furniture-making. His transcendent works, which defied what everyday objects looked like and how they were made, continue to reveal the fascinating crosscurrents between sculpture and design.

Evans began working with metal in the early 1950s -- first at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Craftsmen (SAC) in Rochester, New York, where he studied under the influential American silversmiths and designers John (Jack) Prip and Lawrence Copeland, and later at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Evans then moved to Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts, where he worked as a full-time craftsman, demonstrating various silversmithing techniques at Old Sturbridge Village, a living museum that re-creates life in rural New England during the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries.

In 1955, seeking a change of scenery, Evans moved to Lambertville, New Jersey, a well-known haven for artists and craftsmen, and opened a workshop in a former chicken coop. He soon befriended the self-taught furniture designer, Phillip Lloyd Powell, who encouraged Evans to take his metallurgy skills and apply them to furniture. For the next ten years, the duo shared a showroom in nearby New Hope, Pennsylvania, and collaborated on pieces that melded Powell’s wood prowess and Evans’ metalworking skills. The late 1950s and 1960s were an incredibly important period for Evans as his workshop operation continued to grow and he began producing some of his most celebrated forms.

Paul Evans, Cityscape Wall Mounted Sculpture, USA, 1975. Courtesy of Todd Merrill Studio.
Paul Evans, Custom Sculpted Lounge Chairs, Signed PE 71. Courtesy of Archive.

In 1964, Evans became a featured designer for the furniture manufacturer Directional Furniture, an association that significantly impacted the nature and scope of his production. Evans introduced several lines, including the Sculpted Bronze series (mid-1960s), which involved applying epoxy resin over a plywood base or steel frame, shaping it by hand, and coating it with atomized bronze; the Argente series (late 1960s to early 1970s), which featured aluminum and pigment-infused metal surfaces welded together (a process that was deemed highly toxic and quickly abandoned) to create abstract forms; and the popular Cityscape series (1970s), which was inspired by the Manhattan skyline. Boasting sleek, elegant surfaces made of brass and chrome, the Cityscape series differed greatly from Evans’ sculpted steel works of the 1960s, which were painted and highly-textured. The Cityscape series garnered significant recognition for Evans and established Directional Furniture as one of the most notable modern furniture companies of the late-twentieth century.

In 1966, Evans relocated to Plumsteadville, Pennsylvania, where he opened a larger workshop. Independent of his work for Directional, Evans continued to create prototypes, produce commissions, and craft his celebrated sculpture-front screens, sideboards, collages, and tables, which featured high-relief, hand-forged decorative elements. In 1979, Evans opened a second showroom in New York City. Evans died of a heart attack in 1987, shortly after retiring to Massachusetts.

Over the past decade, demand for Evans’ work has skyrocketed. Thanks to his distinctive aesthetic, innovative techniques, and pioneering spirit, Paul Evans has remained a favorite among collectors and lovers of truly incomparable design. 

To read more about Paul Evans click here