Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Oh, look, it's Maxine Snider, graphic artist, painter, interior and furniture designer. I first met Maxine many moons ago when I assigned myself the job of writing about her home—a duplex in one of those classic Chicago apartment houses on the Gold Coast (so close to Lake Michigan you can practically hear the waves lapping the shore). The pictures we had taken for Met Home interested me, although I confess I might have given the writing assignment to someone else if it had not been for the incredible collection of black and white photography Maxine and her husband, Larry, had hanging in the stairwell. It was a stunning assembly of prints, most of them vintage.

So off I flew to Chicago. I loved their house. I loved the Sniders. They are smart, talented, outgoing, modest, and gracious—a combination more common, I have found, in Chicago than other places I have lived. Among the pieces in their home were a few that Maxine had designed herself. Ms. Snider started her design studio in 1989. In 1998 she introduced her first collection of ten pieces inspired by her research in Paris. Dark and fairly formal, they reference antiques. But they're about as much like the original as Matthew Bourne's all-male Swan Lake is like the traditional Marius Petipa staging of 1895. The dance analogy is especially apt because Maxine, a bit of a minimalist, likes her legs long and lean, and those first pieces taper to nearly nothing, giving them the appearance of being poised pertly en pointe. Maxine is also pert and poised.

Here's one of her first-wave of pieces, the Grand Salon table. The photographs hanging above it are by Karl Blossfeldt.
My new most favorite Maxine Snider piece was inspired by more recent design history. It's called the Bauhaus console; it's made of quartered white ash (with nickel details), and it looks like this:

There is something deeply satisfying about discipline, simplicity, perfect proportions, meticulous craftsmanship, and refined finishing! The mid-century-appropriate Bauhaus console is worthy of Florence Knoll in her prime. Unlike the Knoll line, however, Snider's furniture is not for mere mortals. The tables, chairs, beds, and sofas cost what you would expect to pay for a piece of finely made casework. You do not find the Maxine Snider line at Target. You find it at design centers.

Maxine's company is small, compared to some brands, but she has managed to assemble a client list that includes celebrities (Mark Wahlberg, Oscar de la Hoya), major interior designers, like Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, and such prestigious architectural firms as Tigerman McCurry and Booth Hansen, as well as hospitality giants like the Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton, and even the Gaansevoort Hotel in the Meat Packing District of New York City (which is about two blocks from my apartment).

It's definitely worth noting that the photograph above the Bauhaus console is by Maxine's husband, Lawrence K. Snider (aka Larry), a lawyer by trade but a world-class photographer whose work is being collected by American museums even as we speak. Larry travels (sometimes with Maxine) to shoot "vanishing cultures" in Asia and South America. He used to work pretty much exclusively in black and white, but he's added color. Following is a photograph by Larry that I actually own (well, I own a print of it). It's the only piece of art that I have ever bought at an art gallery opening (in Los Angeles), and I've been happy about that ever since.—ML

For more on Maxine, go to

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