Sam Maloof

Sam Maloof

Sam Maloof


Birth date: January 24th, 1916 
Birth place: Chino, California - USA
Occupation: Woodworker
Residence: Alta Loma, California
Spouse(s): Alfreda Louise Ward (1948–1998; until her death), Beverly Wingate Maloof (2001–2009; until his death)
Date of death: May 21, 2009 (93 years)
Children: Samuel W. Maloof, Marilou Delancey, Todd Wingate

Early life

Sam was born in Chino, California, to the east of Los Angeles. Chino was a farming community where market gardens and citrus groves flourished. Sam's father, Slimen Nasif Nadir Maloof, and mother, Anisse, had arrived in the US from Lebanon, then a region of the Ottoman Empire, in 1905. The family entered through Ellis Island, New York, and crossed the country to California, where Nasif's sister, Holla, had a store in Santa Barbara. Nasif peddled vegetables and dry goods from a horse-drawn carriage; Anisse sold her handmade lace, embroidered linens and crochet work from it. Sam's love of craftsmanship drew from his early admiration of his mother's skills, and he took much pride in his Lebanese heritage and extended family.

He learned to speak Spanish from a Mexican housekeeper and Arabic from his parents even before he knew English. The hard times of the Depression were managed with 17 family members living in a crowded home. Everyone shared space and tasks - tending a market garden and earning small income with part-time jobs. Sam was a natural "improver". Even as a child he was able to help shape, fix or make whatever family and friends needed.1

Later life

During the 1930s, while Sam was in high school, his natural abilities as a calligrapher, cartoonist and graphic artist became known. His "Welcome to Chino" sign stood at the entrance to the town, and he earned cash from hand-lettering store windows and advertising signs on brick buildings. On leaving school, he did graphic work for the engine air filters produced by the Vortox Manufacturing Company, took night classes in the Frank Wiggins Trade School and gained further experience by work with the industrial designer Harold E Graham.

In 1948 Sam met and married Alfreda Ward. Sam could no longer give Sheets the undivided attention that studio work demanded. So, at the age of 34, Sam struck out on his own, at first making simple furniture from fir plywood that he salvaged from construction forms. He built a workshop outfitted with rudimentary tools in a garage of his home in Ontario, California. His first commission proved to be a financial disaster, since the cost of materials devoured his commission - a mistake that he did not make again.


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Image gallery

Low back chair (ziricote and ebony)
Low back chair (ziricote)
Drop leaf dining set (brazillian rosewood)
Drop leaf dining set (brazillian rosewood)
Sculpted rocker (walnut)
Sculpted rocker (walnut)
Pedestal table (fiddleback maple)
Pedestal table (fiddleback maple)


Sam Maloof wrote:
I do not feel that it is possible to make a working drawing with all the intricate and fine details that go into a chair or stool, particularly. Many times I do not know how a certain area is to be done until I start working with a chisel, rasp, or whatever tool is needed for that particular job.

Sam Maloof wrote:
Whatever I'm working on, I get excited. It does not matter whether I have done the same piece many times. I still can't wait to get out to the shop in the morning.

Sam Maloof wrote:
The reverence that the object maker has for the materials, for the shape, and for the miracle of his skill transcends to God, the Master Craftsman, the Creator of all things, who uses us, our hands, as His tools to make these beautiful things.

Sam Maloof wrote:
I want to be able to work a piece of wood into an object that contributes something beautiful and useful to everyday life. And I want to do this for an individual that I can come to know as a friend.

Sam Maloof wrote:
There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it.

Other media

Publications authored by person


Further reading, authored by others


External links

Sam Maloof, Woodworker Incorporated

Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts

Sam Maloof: 1916-2009 in Fine Woodworking

In Memoriam: Sam Maloof (1916-2009), Eye Level

Oral history interview with Sam Maloof, 2002 Jan. 10-11


1 “Sam Maloof, Furniture Craftsman, Dies at 93 - Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.com.” N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.