With Eyes on the Future, Maria Yee and Gump’s Toast 30-Year Bond

In 1988, then-fledgling California furniture brand Maria Yee delivered its first order to Gump’s: a museum-quality reproduction of the iconic Ming Dynasty horseshoe armchair. Thirty years later, the chair is still selling, and the bond between the manufacturer and the storied San Francisco mercantile institution endures, quite an achievement considering the era’s volatile business climate.

But together they remain. And to celebrate the anniversary, Gump’s hosted a cocktail reception at its 135 Post Street location to kick off a month-long retrospective exhibition, plus a forward-looking trunk show of new designs.

“Gump’s was our first customer,” says founder Maria Yee. “They’ve really become integral to our DNA. It’s a friendship we hope will continue far into the next generation.”

Maria Yee’s Elena lounge chair, Metro desk, Arial chair and Katsura bookcase. Photography by Todd Harnjaroen.

Running through March 9, the show-within-a-store charts the evolution of the relationship between maker and seller, beginning with replicas of antique Chinese and Japanese designs, and culminating with current examples of Yee’s signature Cal-contemporary aesthetic. 

These recent additions include a range of furniture and lighting fabricated from Lux, a plant-based composite developed by BASF that’s already used for components by automakers like Mercedes-Benz.

Loly bench, Loly floor lamp, Quartz cocktail table and C side table in BASF’s Lux furniture composite by Maria Yee. Photography courtesy of Maria Yee.

In furniture manufacturing, it’s promoted as a lightweight and sustainable raw material, promising superior performance and durability in panels that can weigh up to 90 percent less than MDF.

But back to the next generation—the event also marks the retail launch of Sun at Six, the furniture design studio founded in Brooklyn last year by Yee’s son Antares Yee. Utilizing raw white oak and vegetable-tanned leathers, but no screws or nails, the line is devoted to preserving the ancient art of traditional Chinese joinery, but in a naturally modern vein.

Sun at Six at Gump’s, featuring Antares Yee’s Rise bookstand in solid white oak, and Plume chair and Juniper stool in solid white oak and vegetable-tanned leather. Photography by Todd Harnjaroen.