CHAIRS: HISTORY AND THE BAUHAUS

CHAIRS: HISTORY AND THE BAUHAUS

 


Brno Flat Bar Chair

The Brno Flat Bar Chair (1930) from KnollStudio® is a masterpiece of structure, paying tribute to early modernism’s gravity-defying skyscrapers. Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to have a cantilevered base, the Brno offers the comfort of an arm chair without the old-line stuffiness or bulk of upholstery. Leather covers the cushions for long-enduring appearance retention and ease of maintenance-two especially important features for dining rooms, offices, conference rooms and waiting areas.

What is this all about? How famous is this Brno Chair, and who likes it? Well, it is historically as important as King Tut’s Throne and Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair, but only a select few know about this flat bar chair. You do not have to like modern furniture, nor do you have to own one of these beauties, but let me tell you…this chair is handsome, strong, and has amazing tactile sensations with its gorgeous supple leather and smooth steel frame. And as an owner it sets you apart from the rest of the world. It is impressive to own even just one.

Barcelona Chair

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair and Stool (1929), originally created to furnish his German Pavilion at the International Exhibition in Barcelona, have come to epitomize modern design.

Barcelona Pavillion, Spain

Mies van der Rohe designed the chair to serve as seating for the king and queen of Spain, while the stool

Barcelona Stool

was intended to accommodate their attendants. The Barcelona chair and stool is one of the most stylish and elegant pieces of modern furniture of the 20th Century and probably the most recognized piece of modern furniture around. Still produced to his original specifications, this chair and stool are of quality fit for royalty.

Bench classical seating

Funny feet seating are still popular. These designs are considered classical classics. The funny feet seating is in complete contrast to the modern classics.

Classic Dining Chair features animal feet

If you think about it, you’ll realize why a new philosophy was needed. We finally made it out of Victoriana with its clutter. By the time Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius established the Bauhaus in 1929, we had been exploring new ways of design.

Bauhaus

Other styles evolved like Arts and Crafts Movement (today called Mission), Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. The art, architecture and designs of the Bauhaus were the exact opposite of anything that had come before. More common today are the country and classical reproduction designs of the 18th century.

Do you have room for both modernist and classical designs?

Have you ever thought you could add one of the modernist beauties into your classical interior for the pièce de résistance, or a fabulous authentic antique in your modern interior?

Please comment and feel free to ask questions. Come back next week for more surprises.

CHAIRS. WHAT ABOUT THEM?

CHAIRS. WHAT ABOUT THEM?

Heaven. Are there any chairs in heaven? Wait a minute. I heard we get to bring our favorite chairs with us. Do you have a favorite chair? Oh, I know … an Archie Bunker

Archie Bunker’s Chair from “All In the Family”

chair, right smack in the middle of heaven. The one that was right smack in the middle of his family room. I bet Archie is up there sitting around in his easy chair with its winged back, wide seat, arms and comfy soft cushions, poo pooing everyone looking his way. “You’re jealous, you want it, you can’t have it! It’s mine.”

Do you really want Archie’s chair? Wait, you haven’t seen anything yet. Reality is, way back when, chairs were only for royalty and the privileged. The rest of the crowd, if allowed to sit in the presence of a sovereign, sat on their buttocks … on the ground. I would have grabbed the first rock. The first sitting device had to be a rock. Then someone figured out how to shape natural material, like clay, like bamboo, like wood, and later even cardboard into a place to seat oneself.

Clay Chair

King Tut, XVIII dynasty, circa 2630 B.C. A golden throne made of sheet gold worked around a wooden base and inlaid with faience, colored glass, lapis, lazuli, and calcite.

Frank Gehry's cardboard Wiggle Chair 1972

Did you know if you remained seated while others stand, you considered yourself superior? Chairs have changed dramatically since the first rock and so has our philosophy. I don’t know about you, but if someone is standing addressing me while I am seated, I will invite them to join me, or I will stand. This facilitates eye contact and offers equality.

Egyptian chairs were thrones, hard and stiff, the lesser folk serving the one on the throne, got to sit on stools. That’s a seat with no back. I love a good stool, how about you? You can place yourself wholly on it or part way on the edge, either way it is easy to get up and out.

Chairs are a different species. Did you read in my blog last week, about the stocky stockbroker and the White Castle table and bench? He couldn’t get in, imagine if he did, how would he get out?

Chairs change styles, sizes and scope of designs depending on the country and culture.

The famous Frank Gehry‘s layers of cardboard chair is here in this blog, namely “Wiggle Chair.” It was innovative then, and still today is most unusual. Gehry is an out-of-the-box thinker.

Yoda Easy Chair by Kenneth Cobonpue

The bamboo easy chair is an innovative, trendy 21st century design, reminiscent of Frank Gehry’s cardboard chair of the 70’s above. Mr. Gehry visited New York Bloomies when I was a young designer working in the design department. He demonstrated the strength of the chair by standing on it and jumping several times. The chair was impervious to the test.

More to come.

Do you have a favorite chair? Would you take it to heaven or perhaps to the beach?

Styles, Shape, Spaces

Styles, Shape, Spaces

Styles, shapes, space. What did folks do to fit into a space, fit into a chair, fit on a throne. Our daily lives are so crowded with news, stories, headlines,  we have become aware of the space around us.  How do we find enough space? What is enough space? Did you know that space is calculated based on job type and position?

Did you read in Yahoo News on Monday September 12, 2011, White Castle is being sued by a stocky stock broker for not being able to fit his 290lb frame into the chain’s stationary booths? According to the customer, White Castle is in violation of the American with Disabilities Act. “I just want to sit down like a normal person,” he says. He compares himself to a pregnant woman and the handicapped.

Look at England’s Henri VIII, a really big guy. He would never fit into a White Castle booth. You can be sure his throne and furniture, of the 16th century Tudor period, was massive. Oak was the wood of the day, hard wood, hard to carve, hard to shape, but strong enough to accommodate a big person like Henri VIII.

Good space is premium. How much do we need to live and work and play? At work you may have a cubicle or a private office. At home you may enjoy a cozy, small, warm room with human scale ceilings (8′) or a large room with cathedral ceilings (13′ or higher). But the seating has to give the comfort you seek in your place of refuge.

Space in a chair, how big should it be? Chairs in the home, chairs in the office, chairs in your favorite restaurant. A place like White Castle, MacDonald’s and Burger King are people movers. They want you to eat and leave. Make the diners too comfortable, folks hang to visit with friends. Go where you pay a pretty price for a meal they better give you good seating. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll stay for dessert.

So folks, have a seat. Try them out before you bring them to your home or office. How do you decide? Each have a purpose. With chair types and styles. Even Thoreau, in 1845, in his small cabin on the banks of Walden Pond, where he built a 10′ by 15′ house  furnished with a bed, a table, a small desk and lamp, and three chairs — He wrote about his chairs, “one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.” Today we have special chairs for every activity from  watching games on television to working at the computer.

Office chairs need to be what is called “ergonomic.”  It has to be adjustable, adjustable height, adjustable arms, adjustable pitch. A chair that gives you all those choices will cost a little more, but it is worth the price. Be sure the fabric is cleanable and durable. Leather is always great, but costly. Today, some imitation leathers are close to the real thing, just ask the seller if it is durable. Be sure to buy from a reliable source. Fabrics gather dust, especially black, but there are great fabrics that look good and are practical. Ask the seller to advise you. The image above is a “Herman Millerhard mesh type, a material that does well. You don’t need comfort in the office, you need body support.

At home you need comfort. Your feet need to touch the floor, the seat should be sized to fit your body, the back should have the pitch that allows your feet to touch the floor. A standard chair has a seat height of 17-18 inches.

This chair is called a Fauteuil, French traditional (country) classic upholstered open armchair. It has allthree attributes, roomy seat, good pitch, and for most, your feet should touch the floor.

This is the “Barcelona Chair.” A contemporary classic design by Mies van der Rohe, designed in 1929. For most, because the seat is deep, your feet will not touch the floor. It is a beautiful design, found in most corporate offices to impress.

The image to the right is a 1925 Marcel Breuer contemporary classic. The “Cesca” chair is well-designed, functional, comfortable and practical. Do you recognize this popular chair? Have you owned one?

 

Remember the “Mitt chair” made by Stendig? You tell me,  can we really tell White Castle to build bigger booths? Do you have chairs you love, do they give you comfort, do they give you the space you need to function, do they support your body?

 

Notes on Paucity

Robert Genn, a successful artist, instructor, writer sends his “Twice-Weekly Letter” to artists the world over. In his September 2, 2011 letter he talks about paucity. This letter is particularly meaningful to me both as an artist and writer. His letter is reproduced here with his permission.

I was putting the title The Red Canoe on the back of a painting when my friend Joe Blodgett walked in and said, “Nice painting, too bad about the red canoe.”

After a couple of single malts I was looking at the painting through Joe’s eyes. I was pleasant enough when I urged him to go down to the smokehouse to get our smoked salmon, and while he was gone I took off the final varnish and hauled that canoe out of my picture.

 Yesterday, Katharina Keoughan of Friendship, Maine wrote, “In your last letter you mentioned ‘the principle of paucity.’ What is paucity, and why is it good to have in one’s work?”

Thanks, Katharina. Paucity means “the presence of something in small or insufficient quantities or amounts; scarcity.” In our game, it’s one of the main principles. Apart from “His criticism shows a paucity of tact,” or “His resistance to Scotch shows a great deal of paucity,” most significant is the presence of paucity in our work.

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything,” said Voltaire, and he wasn’t talking about his girlfriend, Emilie du Chatelet. A painting with paucity is one that tells you just enough to arouse your interest–perhaps leading to another excellent word–mystery. Unless the viewer is an engineer, give him too much info and he will yawn and go over to the wine and cheese. In some paintings it’s best to have viewers launch their own canoes.

 Overwork, overstate and over-busy are three of the top boo-boos. We come by them honestly–from our innate human desire to give more. Sometimes it takes another person’s eyes to see there’s too much going on. Sometimes it’s painful to remove stuff. But art very often needs lines that disappear, it needs subjects that are suggested rather than told, it needs incomplete areas so viewers can complete for themselves. Our work does not have to be a seamless stream of cleverness.                                                

The same is true in writing. Passages are almost always better when cut back. Writing is rewriting.

 We eventually shipped my non-canoe painting. Through the magic of acrylic covering power, nobody knows what’s under there. Somewhere out in the Diaspora there’s a canoeless scene called “The Red Canoe.”

Thank you Robert for your words. Robert’s words are indicative to my driving points in the Victoriana series about clutter.

You can subscribe to Robert’s free Twice-Weekly Letter anytime. His pearls of wisdom are inspiring.

Have you ever looked at tree holes (sky holes) between branches? Are you inspired by what’s not there to write, to dream, to explore? As Robert requests of his readers, I request as well, read this letter and give us your input on the value of leaving things out.

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