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The story of Sam, Alfreda, and a unique home

Before entering the virtual tour, please take a moment to be introduced to the Maloofs and their home.

The tour is below this introduction.

Sam's parents emigrated from Lebanon, then part of Syria, shortly before WWI. Sam was their sixth child and the first, long awaited, boy.  He grew up in Chino, CA, not far from the current location.  He was early recognized for his artistic talents in school and produced many of the signs for Chino stores while still in school. 

 

After graduating high school, Sam worked doing mechanical drawings and art at Vortox, then went to work for Harold Graham, an industrial designer known for his automated Christmas and Easter window displays for the downtown Bullocks department store.  Sam learned basic woodworking at Graham's shop, making art deco furniture for Graham's home and mastering all the standard joinery forms, including the triple miter joint for cabinetry. 

 

Graham converted to defense work when WWII broke out and wanted Sam to stay on with a deferment, but as a son of immigrants, he felt compelled to enlist in the army.  Surprisingly, he never saw combat.  He was stationed in the Aleutian Islands, documenting Japanese gun emplacements and assuring that the Japanese didn't return.

Alfreda Ward graduated from UCLA in art and finding no jobs during the Depression, she went to work in the Indian Service from 1935 to 1943, first teaching third grade and living in the pueblo, then sent to learn indigenous crafts, living with Maria and Julian Martinez who made the traditional black San Ildefonso pottery.  This prepared her to be director of the arts program at the Indian boarding school in Santa Fe.  The teachers were native artists and artisans.  Later she was transferred to a similar role in Montana.  Her time in the Indian Service led to life-long friends on the San Ildefonso and Santo Domingo Pueblos.  She and Sam continued to exchange visits with them for the rest of their lives. 

 

During WWII Alfreda enlisted in the WACs and served until her father became seriously ill.  After the war she bought a house on the GI bill for herself and her widowed mother.

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Sam went to work for Millard Sheets after the war.  Millard was head of the art department at Scripps College and designer of the distinctive Home Savings buildings with their original art. Running an errand for Millard, he met Alfreda at Scripps.  They were married in 1949 and he moved into her home.   Lacking money and furniture, he began making a few simple pieces for their home, using Frida's father's hand tools.  They show influences from the Danish Modern style of the time, as in the cord chair you will see in the master bedroom.  There's no hint of the aesthetic that will later become unmistakably Maloof, but the craftsmanship and sense of style in the chair explains why Sam's work became so admired.

Friends began asking for similar pieces.  It might have ended there, but for two lucky accidents.  Millard Sheet's wife convinced Better Homes & Gardens (one of the most widely read magazines in America) to do a piece on his furniture in 1951.  That attracted Henry Dreyfus, the best known industrial designer of the time.  Henry asked Sam to make a dining set.  Sam asked Henry for his plans but Henry said no, he wanted Sam to design and make the set.  Sam could not have received a greater honor.  The nation's leading industrial designer asking Sam to design for the designer's own home.  These two events, plus articles in the Los Angeles Times Style magazine, and his furniture shown in the interior design exhibits organized by Millard Sheets at the Los Angeles County Fair, all helped to make Sam visible to a larger audience.

With strong support from 'Frieda, Sam quit his job with Millard and devoted himself full time to making furniture.  He was successful at getting commissions but struggled to make a comfortable living.  He would have given up many times but 'Frieda wouldn't back down for an instant.  This was what he was meant to do.  Alfreda kept the books, helped with clients, and maintained ongoing friendships will all their customers.  The Maloof archives have the Christmas cards and notes from clients that 'Frieda saved, going back to the 1950s.

In 1985 Sam won the MacArthur “Genius” grant. It was a sizable sum, and he was the first craftsperson or artist to receive that award.  This increased his status enough that was finally able to make a comfortable living.

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Sam wasn't happy in the suburbs.  He yearned for a more peaceful rural environment.  So in 1953 they moved to a lemon grove with a bedraggled caretaker cottage.  From there, it gradually grew.  First a slab for working, with the tools stored in an old chicken coop at night.  Then a workshop built on the slab.  Next, an 800 square foot shoebox of a house, the first room you'll see on the virtual tour.  One living/dining/kitchen room, a bath room, and a room for the two children with a divider down the middle.  Then as money was available or there was a need, additions would be made.  Later, Sam found aesthetic expression in adding distinctive design elements to the home, including the arches, the monitors with clerestory windows, the singing floor, and the spiral staircase.  You'll see these on the virtual tour.

Sam and Alfreda were active participants in the vibrant community of Pomona Valley artists at the time.  The Maloof home was often host to pot lucks and other parties for this group of artists.

The house never stopped growing, from 1953 up to the move in 2000.  The first addition was a carport, soon enclosed for Sam and Alfreda's bedroom.  Then a sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom for 'Frieda's Swedish born mother, known always as Mor mor, Swedish for maternal grandmother.  Next a master bedroom and bath for Sam and Alfreda.  More rooms followed, and changes to existing rooms, until a simple stucco tract-style house became a unique and wonderful expression of one artist's vision.

The 210 freeway construction threatened the house, which had received certification in the National Register of Historic Places as the home of a notable artist/craft person.  A Foundation was formed so the State could legally pay for the relocation and the current site was found, prepared, and graded, and the home and shop moved.  The house is now open to the public and is the property of the Foundation.  An in-kind home was built below for Sam to live in.  After Alfreda passed away, Sam married Beverly Wingate.  In 2009 Sam died at age 93, having just designed three new pieces.  The new home also belongs to the Foundation and will be repurposed when Beverly leaves the property.

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Click on the video below to start the virtual tour panoramas.  You can move by dragging your mouse, zoom in by pushing your mouse wheel forward, expand to full screen by clicking the middle icon in the lower right corner (much better in full screen), and select a room by clicking the four squares that are the left-hand icon in the lower right corner and clicking on the room you want.

We welcome you now to the virtual tour and hope you enjoy your visit.

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