Russell Spanner Comes Home

Toronto-based Gus* Design Group has dipped into the Canadian design archives and pulled out a plumb — a license to re-issue the Russell Spanner Lounge Chair with Arms, originally designed in 1950.

I’ve said before on styleNorth that Spanner’s designs are as close as Canadian vintage furniture comes to iconic status. Spanner won a National Design Council of Canada award in 1954. A self-taught designer, he worked as plant foreman at Spanner Products Ltd., a Toronto woodworking factory founded by his father, uncle and granddad in the 1920s. The company started issuing the younger Spanner’s designs in 1950 which means that the Lounge Chair with Arms is one of his earliest efforts. Spanner’s designs went on to be sold at Eaton’s and Simpson’s department stores across Canada.

Gus’s spiff re-issue of the chair is once again being bench-made in Toronto, rolling out to retailers this month. The chair comes in six finish/strapping combos and carries a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $995.

Spanner’s designs were especially well-made and Gus’s versions feature solid birch and curved birch plywood components, finger-joint and dowel-joint construction, cotton woven strapping and tapered legs attached to the seat with exposed carriage bolts. Spanner, an amateur wrestler who tipped the scale at around 250 pounds, liked to jump up on his prototypes to test their strength.

You won’t find any Spanner re-issues at the Gus Modern warehouse sale this Saturday but this popular annual event earns consistently great reviews from styleNorth readers so I’m happy to give the sale a plug. If you’re serious about scoring GO EARLY! People line up hours before the doors open and luckily the weather forecast is for warm, sunny weather, at last!


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Thursday, May 8, 2014 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 865 posts on styleNorth.

5 Comments For This Post

  1. Paul Russell Burry Says:

    Awesome job Gus design group! I’m so happy to see my Grandpa’s chair come back to life. He would be so proud!

  2. Lin Says:

    My heart just skipped a beat.

    I’ve coveted those chairs for years! When I purchase my set of eight (in my dreams) I would really love black with white strapping. (I realize they’re not actually doing the white strapping, but hey, it’s my dream, so I can have whatever the hell I want.) Or maybe I’lI go with birch with red strapping to match my Spanner cabinet with the perforated red doors.

    And did you know that the recently closed World’s Biggest Bookstore was once the Spanner factory?


  3. Paul Russell Burry Says:

    Lin you are right. The factory was located at 26 Elm st which is part of the back half of World’s Biggest Bookstore. I have some great photo’s of the inside and outside of the plant. I’m trying to figure out how to post them on here.

  4. Lin Says:


    Not sure, but I don’t think it’s possible to post them here. If you send them to Chris, perhaps he’ll put them up.

    Would love to see them.

  5. Suz Says:

    The love child of Spanner and Jen’s Risom. Not all babies are cute :)

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