Follow by Email

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mid-century Modern Masters - Iconic Chairs by: Katie Funt

Mid-century Modern is a design style encompassing modern architecture, interiors, industrial design, and furniture design from the 1930's until the mid to late 1960's.  It is acknowledged worldwide by scholars, designers, and museums as a highly significant design movement.  It is most often associated with the 1950's although it spanned several decades.  Its influences were spawned from Frank Lloyd Wright's principles of nature, simplicity, and organic forms juxtaposed with industrial advances and elements from both the Bauhaus and Industrial movements. 

Scandinavian, German, and 
American designers were very influential at this time.  The goals were to create modern designs to impact suburbians and urbanites and makes their lives more comfortable and open.  Function and form held equal weight and emphasized fulfilling the needs of the average American and European.  Designs often incorporated glass, metals, plywood, plastics, and so forth.  Chairs were generally lightweight and stack-able.  Colors also played a notable role.  Below Perlora outlines a few revolutionary chairs from the Mid-century style. 

                                                    Panton Chair

The Panton chair was designed by Verner Panton in 1960.  Panton was one of the most influential furniture and industrial designers in the 1960's and 70's.  He had a strong interest in the use of plastics, which was a new material at the time.  Panton had a concept for a single piece constructed chair which was multipurpose, comfortable, and affordable. With the assistance of Vitra the chair was ready for series production in 1967.  What makes this chair revolutionary and prolific 
is its one piece design. 

The Panton was the very first chair to be created with one continuous piece of material.  The material in this instance is injection molded polypropylene.  You are probably asking yourself what this means unless you work in the plastic, chemical, or furniture industries.  Polypropylene is a thermoplastic, which means it undergoes a process of heating and pressure and then can be molded into different shapes.  The benefits of this material is it is both flexible and tough.  It can be used in indoor and outdoor applications due to its durability, it's highly resistant to chemicals/acids, and can be produced in a translucent or opaque finish, and in colors.  It is light-weight, can be stacked four high and has a sleek cantilevered design.  The dimensions are 32.75" h x 19.75" w x 24" d.  One of the original prototypes of this chair is housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

I own these chairs (in a glossy white) and love them!  They can be wiped clean or scrubbed with soap and water.  However, a draw back considered by some (as with any plastic furnishings), is the chairs may incur small scratches from use.  It is similar to the effect leather obtains and adds character.  Vitra currently has no listed weight limit for this chair but it is often used in restaurant and other commercial settings.

                                                              Egg Chair

 Originally designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958, this iconic chair is synonymous with Danish furniture design.  It was created by Jacobsen for the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen for the hotel's lobby and reception area.  The chair provided some privacy in an otherwise open public space.  It was originally cast in plaster but today is made of a synthetic padded shell and covered with fabric or leather.  
The base is a star-shaped aluminum piece which swivels.  It also comes with an ottoman and is often shown in the classic red wool finish. 


Jacobsen was propelled into furniture design stardom for his chair designs such as the Series 7, Ant Chair, and Swan series.  He uses nature, animals, and organic free flowing forms as inspiration.  Some features of the Egg chair include a resilient polyurethane foam with fiberglass reinforced shell.  It comes in a variety of finishes and an automatic return mechanism is optional.  Dimensions are 33.8" w x 31.1" d x 42" h x seat: 14.5" h.

                                      Diamond Lounge

 Harry Bertoia designed the Diamond Lounge in the early 1950's with a unique construction of bent and welded steel rods.  Bertoia was an Italian sculptor, artist, and furniture designer.  At the age of 15 he moved to the United States to attend technical school and went on the College of Creative Studies and the Cranbrook Academy of Art.  At Cranbrook he encountered and encouraged several other influential designers and artists such as the Eames, Walter Gropius and Edmund Bacon.  He eventually relocated to Pennsylvania and opened a studio in which he worked on a project of 5 wire frame chairs, which he created for Knoll.  One of these five pieces was the dynamic Diamond Lounge.

Bertoia considered it a work of fine art and said, "If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes right through them."  These chairs are certainly a work of art with their lattice work steel frame.  An upholstered cushion can be attached or removed with lock snaps.  The frame is scratch, chip, and chemical resistant.  Dimensions are 33.5”w x 28.25”d x 30”h with a seat height of 16.5”


Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, otherwise and more widely known as Le Corbusier, was a Swiss designer who eventually became a French citizen.  He was an artist, designer, architect, writer, and urbanist.  He made many notable designs in both architecture and furniture design such as the Villa Savoye, Ronchamp Chapel, and LC-series.  He was met with resistance and criticism early on as being too "revolutionary" in style, but came to be accepted and highly celebrated for his innovative artistic merit.

His famous lounge, the LC-4 Chaise Longue, or Long Chair is made in Italy and was a collaboration with Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand.  It has a chrome frame, black base, leather headrest and comes in black leather or pony material.  The chaise lounge is described as a resting machine due to its ergonomic design which fits the contours of the human body.  It was presented to the 'Salon d'Automne' in 1929 and is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. This icon of timeless furniture design is instantly recognizable and world renowned.

No comments:

Post a Comment