Design Book of the Week: Ultra Modern Samuel Marx, By Liz O’Brien

Meet Samuel A. Marx.

Samuel Abraham Marx (1885–1964) was an American architect, designer and interior decorator. He is generally considered a modernist, influenced by the International style. Samuel A. Marx was born Natchez, Mississippi, in 1885. He graduated from MIT's Department of Architecture in 1907, with his thesis Design for a Synagogue. He then went studying to Europe for eight months. Before opening his own practice, he worked for Killham & Hopkins in Boston, and for Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge in Chicago. While he originally designed interior of hotels and department stores, Marx became a mostly residential architect.

House Beautiful magazine (in 1948!) said about his works, “rooms designed by Samuel A. Marx...have so satisfying a feeling of oneness that it’s frequently hard to say where the architecture ends and the furniture begins.”

Here's the biggest takeaway: Marx was doing modern before it was even called modern. He was a visionary. Truly, he was "Ultra Modern" as the title of his book suggests. Most of the photos from his book are black and white (because they are old!) but as you look through them remember these homes were designed in the 40's and 50's and they resemble modern interiors from today. Pretty cool.

Below, a helical staircase in a modern home Marx built for a member of the May family in Ladue, Missouri. Marx was married to Florene May and did many projects for members of the wealthy May family (May department stores).


This room (check out those concrete features) is a freestanding windowless art gallery that Marx built on a residential property in Beverly Hills.


Below left, Marx designed these sculpted plaster wall sconces in the Lake Michigan home of Benjamin Bensigner, who was the head of Brunswick Bowling and Billiards Company.

Below right, a cabinet designed in the early 1940's by Marx, the ivory colored crackle lacquer is one of his signatures. (The "Ultra Modern" text was added by the book publisher, it's the inside title page.)


Below left, a fireplace made of fossil stone, one of Marx's favorite materials. (Remember our post on the "Minimal Fireplace"? This may be one of the first!)

Below right, a secretary bookcase from 1940 by Marx, the inside was silver leaf, another of Marx's favorite treatments.


Below is Los Angeles home Marx built in 1952.

The clean-lined Los Angeles entryway...notice how the stair pattern floats above your head as they wrap around on the left.

The modern Los Angeles upper cabinets...before that was even a trend!

The kitchen in a Bel Air home by Marx. So many things about this kitchen below are still so stylish today, beams, board on board ceiling, the light fixture, the brick accent wall, the sleek counters, and the simple hardware. Hard to believe this was designed almost 75 years ago.

An all-marble bookshelf designed by Marx.

Inspired and in love with our job,

Coats Homes