Ralph and Mary Rapson wanted to change that. While Ralph selected the designs and worked his day job as a practicing architect and architecture professor at MIT, Mary worked tirelessly on the many details - financial, promotional and operational - of opening a new store for modern design.
It all came together. Rapson-Inc. opened in 1950, just a block off Copley Square in the heart of Boston. Although later stores, such as Design/Research (also in Boston) would be larger and better known, they followed the trail blazed by Rapson-Inc.:
Rapson-Inc. Showroom, Circa 1950
Rapson-Inc. showcased not only Rapson's own designs (rockers, especially) but also the designs of Ralph's Cranbrook colleagues. Together, these designs - by Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, and others - continue to define good modern design more than 60 years later.
Although Rapson-Inc. closed after Ralph and Mary left Boston for Europe in the early 1950s, they both remembered the store fondly. After the resurgence of interest in modern design in the late 1990s, Toby Rapson, Ralph's son and business partner at Rapson Architects, worked with Ralph and other members of the firm to resurrect Rapson furniture designs. Working with the team at Rapson Architects and master craftman Jonathan Loeck, they built and went into production with an updated, taller version of the bentwood rockers Ralph had first drawn at Cranbrook in 1939. Following Ralph's death in 2008, Toby decided to separate the furniture design business from the architecture firm.
Today, Rapson-Inc. (okay, technically we're now Rapson LLC) once again uses Ralph and Mary's bow-tie Rapson-Inc. logo and makes furniture from the large design library that Ralph left behind.
Today's Rapson-Inc. Team
Even though he looks about 12 in this recent photo on the left, Toby actually started helping lead Rapson Architects as his father's "right-hand man" in the 1980s (picture on the right). Now the CEO of Ralph Rapson and Associates, Inc. as well as our owner, Toby been passionate about the environmental and human impact of design since his days as a student. He is deeply committed to serving many local arts and non-profit organizations in his hometown of Minneapolis, where he has been on over a dozen boards of directors. Always mindful of his father's admonition that "there's a lot of half-assed Modernism out there," Toby continues to practice architecture and manage the family's furniture business with both an artist's eye for detail and a true Modernist's commitment to use. Toby's four sons have all helped develop the Rapson furniture business, as has his wife, Janet, an artist.
Chris first got to know the Rapsons when, shortly after moving his young family into a house Ralph designed (above), the architect paid a visit. Although slightly distressed that Ralph was touring the house unannounced and there was a crunchy layer of infant-strewn Cheerios on the floor, Chris really enjoyed the visit. In hopes of combining his experience as a successful marketer and venture capitalist with his enthusiasm for modern design, Chris later approached Toby with ideas to extend Ralph's legacy in furniture design. Chris' kids can often be found reading in Rapson Rockers or lying down for a nap in a Rapson Dwell Lounge.
Press and new retailer inquiries can be directed to Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612.414.1539.
Jane King Hession, Consulting Historian and Exhibition Coordinator
Although it seems like only yesterday, Jane has been researching, writing, curating, archiving and talking about Ralph Rapson and his work for the past sixteen years. Yet there is always something new to be discovered. As co-author and guest curator of Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design (book and exhibit), Jane gained a deep appreciation for Ralph’s architecture and love of his incomparable drawing style. Despite the fact that he never forgave her for writing a book about Frank Lloyd Wright, he allowed her to coordinate the effort to archive his drawings collection.
Ian Rapson, Web Marketing Analyst
Ian grew up steeped in Architecture and Modern Design. One of his earliest memories is of his Grandfather's office: how big all the desks were, and most distinctly, the smell of the hundreds of rolls of paper and the ammonia of the blueprint machine. Why all of the exposure to art and design didn't lead to a career in architecture, he still isn't sure. Ian first became involved in his grandfather's furniture during high school, when Ralph began updating and producing the new Bentwood Rocker. Today he works in the health industry and is planning on attending graduate school for biostatistics, with the goal of someday working on the design, analysis, and implementation of national health initiatives. For Rapson-Inc. he performs web design and online communication, and produces content for marketing efforts.
Caroline Engel, Consulting Writer
Caroline Engel has a Master's in Architectural History and deep experience in furniture and design, from interior design to hands-on restoration of heirloom modern pieces. When she's not writing for Rapson-Inc. or select other design companies, Caroline works and volunteers to preserve important components of the built environment, including work for the National Park Service.