Iconic Design: The Barcelona Chair

“The chair is a very difficult object. Everyone who has ever tried to make one knows that. There are endless possibilities and many problems – the chair has to be light, it has to be strong, it has to be comfortable. It is almost easier to build a sky scraper than a chair.”

~ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Photo by Mikael Leppä via Flickr
Photo by Mikael Leppä via Flickr

Originally designed as the centerpiece for the German Pavilion at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain, the Barcelona chair was a design sensation that has lasted nearly nine decades. Though Bauhaus designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his design partner Lilly Reich usually created designs for the ‘common man’, these chairs (and their matching stools) were created for the King and Queen of Spain, who were to preside at an opening reception in the German Pavilion. The Barcelona Chair was the talk of the design world at the time and is still a “must have” piece in the homes of architects, designers, and modernist design aficionados.

Mies van der Rohe, along with Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture. Often associated with the aphorisms, “less is more” and “God is in the details”, Mies (as he is commonly referred to) believed in the use of simple rectilinear forms, clean lines, pure use of color, and the extension of space around and beyond interior walls. His collaborator for more then ten years, Lilly Reich, was a modernist designer who began her career as a designer of textiles and women’s fashion. When Mies became the director of the avant-garde Bauhaus School of architecture and design, Reich joined the faculty, teaching interior design and furniture design. It was during this period of professional and personal partnership with Reich that Mies van der Rohe became involved in furniture design.

Since it’s introduction, the Barcelona Chair has been in production (with the exception of one sixteen year period), with very few changes from the first version. The original frame was designed to be bolted together, but in 1950, Mies redesigned the chair using stainless steel, which had recently become available. Cowhide replaced the ivory-colored pigskin which was used for the original pieces. In 1953, Mies van der Rohe ceded his rights to the design to Knoll, who has manufactured the chair since then. Though Knoll claims to be the current licensed manufacturer and holder of all trademark rights to the design, replicas abound and are sold under different marketing names. (Click here to get the scoop on licensed reproductions and reissues here on Apartment Therapy.)

For more remarkable chair designs, from classic to funky to fabulous, check out our Pinterest board! 

Classic design that will will stand the test of time is what you will get with a natural stone countertop from Prestige Marble & Granite. Stop by our showroom and let our knowledgable staff help you select the most beautiful and enduring countertops for your home. Our highly skilled fabricators use the latest in technology to ensure precise cutting, fitting, and installation of your natural stone, for a beautiful look for years to come. 

 

 

Iconic Designs: The Eames Lounge & Ottoman

A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous ~ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

If you were a fan of the TV show, Frasier, you’ll recognize the Eames Lounge that was often featured in Frasier Crane’s apartment; and this particular episode is a classic. The Eames Lounge chair is quite possibly, to quote Dr. Crane, “the best engineered chair in the world,” but do you know the story behind this iconic chair that is still being made today?

EamesesThe Designers

The famous husband and wife design duo, Charles and Ray Eames, made significant historical contributions to the development of modern architecture and furniture. They also worked in the fields of industrial and graphic design, fine art, and film. The Eameses pioneered technologies in furniture design, such as molded plywood work, fiberglass furniture, plastic resin chairs, and wire mesh chairs.

Eames Lounge and OttomanThe Design

Charles’s vision was for a chair with “the warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.” He said he thought of the human body as a baseball, sinking comfortably and correctly into the inviting, soft leather of the mitt. Unlike its purely modern molded plywood predecessors, the lounge chair was first and foremost, comfortable. It also looked comfortable – a look quite different from the more spartan furniture of earlier modernist designers. But it also had the modern “Eames look:” playful, functional, sleek, sophisticated, and beautifully simple.

The Materials

The chair is composed of three curved plywood shells: the headrest, the backrest and the seat. In early production, beginning in 1956 and running through the very early 1990s, the shells were made up of five thin layers of plywood which were covered by a veneer of Brazilian rosewood. Because excessive harvesting of this species since colonial times has led to its extreme endangerment, the use of Brazilian rosewood was discontinued in the early 1990s. Current production uses seven layers of plywood covered by finishing veneers of cherry, walnut, and other non-endangered woods.

The seat cushions eschew standard stapled or nailed upholstery. Instead, the cushions are sewn with a zipper around the outer edge that connects them to a stiff plastic backing. The backing affixes to the plywood shells with a series of hidden clips and rings.

Introduction

While the Eamses aimed to develop furniture that could be mass-produced and affordable, the Eames Lounge was an exception; it was the the first chair that the couple designed for a high-end market. When the chair was dramatically unveiled on the Arlene Francis Home show in an aura of glamour, the Eames Lounge and Ottoman instantly became a status symbol for the well appointed home of the 1950’s.

Production

Since its introduction in 1956, the chair has been in continuous production by Herman Miller in America, and later by Vitra in Europe. Immediately following the chair’s release, other furniture companies began to copy the chair’s design, but only Herman Miler and Vitra produce authentic chairs with the Eames name attached.

The Eames Lounge chair embraces the ideals of comfort, simplicity, and even elegance; it is truly one of the greatest pieces of furniture ever made.

Any time one or more things are consciously put together in a way that they can accomplish something better than they could have accomplished individually, this is an act of design. ~ Charles Eames

 

Let Prestige Marble & Granite play a role in your “act of design,” by helping you select the most beautiful and enduring countertops for your home. Our highly skilled fabricators use the latest in technology to ensure precise cutting, fitting, and installation of your natural stone, for a beautiful look that will stand the test of time.