In an era where too few women garnered public acclaim for their design and architectural talents, Greta Grossman enjoyed the spotlight in a number of articles in publications that ranged from daily newspapers to sophisticated magazines and journals focused on her homes, furniture designs and her savvy. She rose to a level of prominence in her native Sweden, then did it again in Los Angeles, and dropped out of site in the late 1960s in moving to Leucadia.
Born in Helsingborg, Sweden in 1906, Grossman would remain in her hometown until the late 1920s upon finishing a woodworking apprenticeship. Awarded a scholarship, she attended Högre Konstindustriella Skolan where she reportedly focused on furniture, textiles and ceramics. In 1933 Grossman and classmate Erik Ullrich opened Studio, a store and workshop, in Stockholm. From Studio, Grossman took on numerous commissions designing furniture and interiors. In 1934 the Swedish Society of Industrial Design awarded her a scholarship to travel throughout Europe and she filed reports of her observations on interior design and architecture for the "Women and Home" section of the Swedish paper Nya Dagligt Allehanda.
In 1933 she married jazz bandleader Billy Grossman with whom she immigrated to the United States in 1940. Immediately upon her arrival, Greta and business manager Billy opened a retail and design shop in Beverly Hills where she sold her designs as well as imports from her native Sweden. They settled in Los Angeles where Greta began designing furniture and fixtures for Glenn of California, Sherman Bertram, Martin Brattrud, Cal-Mode and Modern Line Inc. When Barker Brothers' Modern Shop launched in 1947, Grossman began designing exclusive pieces and taking interior design commissions. Among her work for Barker Brothers, and later produced by Ralph O. Smith, were a line of lamps that were ultimately included in the "Good Design" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Between the years 1949 and 1959 Grossman designed at least fourteen homes in Los Angeles, one in San Francisco and one back in her native Sweden. Her architectural work, as well as her design work, was featured extensively in John Entenza's influential magazine Arts & Architecture as well as in numerous international exhibitions. In the 1950s Grossman taught industrial design courses at the University of California, Los Angeles and at the Art Center School in Los Angeles. She retired from design and architecture in the late 1960s.
In 1966 she moved to Leucadia and dropped off the map – disinterested in sharing her past successes with her new network of friends – including fellow members of the San Dieguito Arts Guild where she was a member between 1967-1997. Billy Grossman passed away in 1979. Greta died in the same month, August, as her long-time partner, 20 years later.
Following Grossman's death, her home and estate was sold by Teresa Laggner, 'conservator of the estate of Greta M. Grossman.' Probate trustee, and Lakeside resident, Laggner, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for draining hundreds of thousands of dollars from client trust accounts in 2011.
Partial List of Projects
Atkinson Laboratory - Photography Chemicals Renovation (ca. 1959)
Backus, Mr. & Mrs. W. Clinton Residence & Garage (1949-50)
Barham Apartments (1950-51)
Grossman, Greta Residence #1 (1948)
Grossman, Greta Residence #2 (ca. 1956)
Grossman, Greta Residence #3 (ca. 1965)
Grossman, Greta Residence #4 (ca. 1966)
Hart, Mr. & Mrs. John W. Residence (1953)
Hunsaker, John R. Residence (1951)
Hurley, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph G. Residence (1958)
Jensen Residence (ca. 1961)
Kiernan, Mr. & Mrs. William R. Residence (1954)
Levitt, Ruby R. Residdence (1954)
Nelson, Mrs. Francis Residence (1954)
Sundin, Mr. & Mrs. O.G. Residence (ca. 1958)
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