The original Rapson-Inc. store, circa 1950.
In 1950, there were almost no shops in the U.S. that sold modern furniture and design.
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. 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 and 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.
To Our Customers
The last year has been an exciting time for my father’s designs.
A year ago, we began working to put more Ralph Rapson designs back into production. I’m proud of our continued progress in bringing these iconic designs to you under the same Rapson-Inc. nameplate my parents used for their pioneering store for all things Modern in the 1950’s.
Many of today’s most compelling designs combine style, natural materials, and comfort. The Greenbelt® Line exemplifies this combination; it just so happens that its roots are 70 years old.
When my father designed the Greenbelt® Line, the materials he used – American hardwoods along with natural webbing – were organic choices dictated by times of scarcity and war. Nonetheless, with their dramatically tapered legs and sculpted, soaring arms, these pieces forever extended the boundaries of modern design.
Today, I’m happy to report that the full Greenbelt® Line of designs, originally called the Rapson® Line for H.G. Knoll®, is once again available. We think great design, beautiful wood, and natural cotton match our modern lives and values as much now as then.
Thank you, as always, for considering Rapson designs for your family’s home or design project.
Thomas (Toby) Rapson, AIA
Principal, Rapson Architects + Owner, Rapson-Inc.
P.S. June 21, 2012 - I couldn't be more excited about the new, outdoor versions of Rapson® modern classics now in production by our friends at Loll Designs. These chairs are faithful to the lines of the Greenbelt chairs my father drew as he helped define mid-century modernism, but they also hold to his belief that good design must evolve and incorporate new materials. Click here to check out these fantastic outdoor chairs.