Gus* Modern revives 1950 Russell Spanner designed chair — with great historical photos, too!

russell spannergus spanner chairPam had a longtime career in public relations, so she loves it when she gets a great PR pitch — and this is the best we’ve received in a long time. Furniture maker Gus* Modern has just introduced faithful reproductions of vintage Russell Spanner chairs, made in Toronto like the originals. What set this pitch apart: Not only did Gus* send us great product photos and details, but they also provided a boatload of yummy historical photos and info. Nicely done pitch, Gus*, we’re swinging at this one for sure!


Gus Modern’s new release:

SpannerByGus-logoGus* Design Group Inc., the Toronto-based modern home furnishings manufacturer, announced that it has resumed production of a classic mid-century modern chair design that hasn’t been available for more than half a century.

vintage-furniture-advertisement-1950sKnown to collectors of rare mid-century furniture, the Lounge Chair with Arms, originally designed in 1950 by Russell Spanner (1916-1974), is a unique chair that features a woven-web seat, formed plywood backrest, and angular shape which epitomizes the energetic spirit of post-war North American industrial design.  Gus* worked in conjunction with the Spanner family to bring the design back to life and to ensure it would meet the designer’s original specifications.

Russell-Spanner-NDC-Award-1954“Russell Spanner has never received the widespread recognition that he deserves for his work, primarily because his designs were only available for a brief period of time in the 1950s,” said Matt Parass, president of Gus* Design Group.  “He was ahead of his time — experimenting with innovative materials and designing furniture for smaller, open-plan homes which were being built in postwar cities.  We’re extremely proud to be working with his family to shed light on his legacy and offer his designs to a new generation.”

1950s chair mid century retro chair 1950s chairThe Lounge Chair With Arms is built in Toronto and will be available in six different finish options.  The first one hundred chairs produced will be part of a numbered series which will also include a certificate of authenticity.  The chairs will be available exclusively through Gus* retailers starting in May 2014.

For a full list of Gus* authorized retailers, please visit www.gusmodern.com.

retro-modern-chairRussell Spanner’s lounge chair with arms — details: 

  • Designed in 1950
  • Originally manufactured in the 1950s by Spanner Products Limited, Toronto, Canada
  • Design is based in part on the industrial battery boxes which the company originally produced.  The boxes match the proportions and joinery of the chair seat.
  • Available in six finish options:  Light Birch/Red Webbing, Light Birch/Black Webbing, Light Birch/Green Webbing, Dark Birch/Red Webbing, Dark Birch/Black Webbing, Dark Birch/Green Webbing
  • Frame is constructed with solid birch and curved birch plywood components
  • Tapered legs are attached to seat with exposed carriage bolts
  • Finger-joint and dowel-joint construction
  • Woven-web seat material is 100% cotton strapping
  • Bench-made in Toronto, Canada

Russell-Spanner-Russell Spanner – biographical info: 

  • Born 1916 in Toronto, Canada.
  • His grandfather, father, and uncle opened a woodworking factory in the 1920s which would later become Spanner Products Limited.  The factory produced a diverse range of products which included battery boxes, table tennis tables, and some generic furniture designs.
  • He worked as plant foreman at Spanner Products Ltd. in the 1940s, and began experimenting with his own designs.
  • Spanner Products Limited began manufacturing Russell’s designs in 1950.
  • He was a self-taught designer.
  • He received a National Design Council of Canada award in 1954.
  • He was an amateur wrestling champion, and was said to have tested the strength of his designs by jumping on them and throwing them across the factory floor.



  1. Barbara Pabst says:

    We own 2 Ruspan chairs. I was so glad to find out the manufacturer. I’m in the process of reweaving seats and doing a little cleaning as they were in my in law’s basement for a number of years. They had several pieces of Mid Century Modern. Love this site so helpful!

  2. Paul Russell Burry says:

    I’m so proud to see my Grandpa’s design come back to life! Thank you Gus for all your efforts and help in reviving my Grandpa’s legacy.
    He would be so proud!

      1. Paul Russell Burry says:

        Thanks Pam. I remember my grandmother telling me at a very young age “Your grandfather’s furniture is going to be big one day” I was so young and my grandpa was dead at that time. I got it but never understood what she meant till I really started studying and understanding his method’s. It all makes sense to me now.
        So after years of trying to find the right manufactures we finally matched up with the right company to bring his work back to life.

    1. Liz says:

      Paul – I just bought a fantastic chair at a local Toronto auction and I’m quite sure it’s one of your grandfather’s. Is there a comprehensive source of all of his designs somewhere?

      1. Paul Burry says:

        Hi Liz,

        The best resource for Russell Spanner furniture is a book called “A Spanner in the works” It can be purchased at The Power Plant gallery at Harbourfront Centre. You can email me at Russellspanner@yahoo.ca for more info regarding Spanner furniture.

    2. Peter Stern says:

      Dear Paul

      I saw an article about Russ Spanner which was recently published in the Globe & Mail. I got to know him as a customers on my Toronto Star paper route. He was my favorite customer, a really great person. I introduced him to my father who was an architect very much influenced by the Bauhaus as his first job was with an architect, sculptor and painter who had graduated from the Bauhaus. We lived in the same block of apartments in Etobicoke. They became good friends and exchange ideas about furniture design. My father designed and built furniture in his spare time but only for personal use. His designs were in the same style as your grandfathers. We still have that furniture as well as 4 Ruspan dining side chairs but not the lounge chair mentioned in the Globe article.


      1. Paul says:

        Hi Peter,

        Thanks so much for sharing. I always like hearing stories about what kind of man my Grandfather was. What is your father’s name? I would be very interested in seeing his architecture and furniture designs.


  3. Jay says:

    It’s always interesting to have a glimpse into the past history behind MCM design. I think the chair looks nice visually and was a good choice to reproduce. I don’t doubt the structural integrity of the case goods but for some reason they appear as if they are resting on tilted toothpicks.

  4. I really like the lines on those chairs. It’s always interesting to know the history of how some of these products came to be made. A good friend of mine owns another older furniture maker called Stakmore (http://www.stakmore.com) that has made “permanent looking folding chairs” since 1922. Their chairs were exceptionally popular as the extra dining room chairs in your parents and grandparent’s houses, and now there are a lot vintage ones on eBay hyping the MCM appeal.

    The same thing happens with them when they start looking at new products – they first start with the tools, machinery and production they already have and see what else they can make with it to expand or complement the existing products.

    Thanks for sharing (and thats to Gus* for sending all all the cool info.)

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