- Slow start in NYC
- Parzinger furniture design
- Carrying on Parzinger Design
- Humble Beginnings
Tommy Parzinger was born in Munich Germany in 1903. He was born into an artistic family, his father being the most prominent artist, a famous sculptor. It was only natural for Parzinger to study art. He specialized in ceramics, glass, metal, wood working, and painting. His storied career would leave him to be known as a key influential player in the development of American Mid-Century Design; a decorative art the masses are still drawn to today.
Parzinger’s fate was decided by a competition he entered for the German Steamship Company to design a poster for their campaign. He won the competition and in 1932 was granted a trip to the United States. When he returned to Germany, the outlook was grim as the second World War started gaining traction. On his arrival, Parzinger received much pressure from the Nazi Party to join their movement. Rather than bend to their will, Parzinger applied for a visitor’s visa from the US embassy and fled back to the States. He would later settle in New York City.
In Manhattan, his first job would be a designer for the infamous NYC style-setter, Rena Rosenthal. Parzinger began designing silverware for her Madison Avenue shop. While there, he also experimented with furniture design, working predominantly in brass and crystal. His interest in furniture would soon dramatically grow, prompting him to take a new job at Charak, a leading furniture manufacturer. Here he focused exclusively on furniture design. Parzinger quickly realized success in Boston, with numerous personal exhibitions at the World Fair. By 1939 Parzinger returned to his beloved Manhattan to open his own business, Parzinger Inc., at 54 East and 57th Street.
- Parzinger, Inc.
Parzinger designed a new line of furniture each year, with each line ranging from 12-30 pieces. Collections consisted of both custom and commercial designs. He designed high-end modern furniture in the most luxurious materials, including rich wood, stone, lacquer, and polished metals. These materials would prove attractive to some of Manhattan and Hollywood’s elite. Some of Parzinger’s clientele were Billy Baldwin, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, the DuPont family, and the Rockefellers. “Mr. Parzinger’s furniture has a style all its own — a jewel-like quality in finish and metallic ornament that gives a precious, one-of-a-kind look to simple modern shapes. While a roomful of his designs is delightful, just one of his pieces can do for a simple room setting what a diamond clip does for the basic black dress,” boasted The New York Times.
Throughout his three plus decades of designing, Parzinger started each morning by painting. He would later in his career dedicate all of his time to painting. He painted using an expressionist style, a stark contrast to the precise geometric furniture design that brought him much of his fame and fortune. Just 15 years after dedicating his time to painting, Parzinger passed at the age of 78.
- The Legacy
Although Parzinger dedicated his last years to painting, his designs continue to live on. Sadly, the doors to his showroom closed shortly after his death. His business partner, Donald Cameron would go on to take the company over, renaming it Parzinger Originals, in 1986. His designs are still bought, sold and highly sought after today. Furniture dealers, one of the most prominent being Patricial Palumbo, continue to facilitate life after death for Mr. Parzinger.
Cameron took the duty of protecting Parzinger’s legacy very seriously. He largely dealt with securing the authenticity of Parzinger’s designs. Although reproductions and copy-cats alike continue to forge Parzinger’s designs, his quality is rarely matched. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Cameron had been a strong advocate for the late Parzinger. When people labeled other designers’ work “in the style of” Tommi Parzinger, Cameron vehemently denied their claims. “No, the designs are too ugly,” or “It’s just bad design” Cameron would bluntly state.
Cameron also donated a large portion of Parzinger’s drawings and design plans to the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, where a team of curators would work endlessly to help carry on the legend of Parzinger Originals. The Greenwich Living Team is incredibly thankful for these efforts; legends like Parzinger should be acknowledged for their work and what they contributed to the world of design, holding fast to what is good.