Amazing resemblance between two chair designs

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The Chamela chair was developed and manufactured in Mexico for several years from 1974 and sold through LOGADO, S.A. a top contemporary furniture design shop when Po Shun was living there.

With a minimum of natural materials, a great deal of comfort came from the seat sling. The Mexico City Museum of Modern Art (MAM) exhibited the chair in a design show that included the works of other designers such as Don S. Shoemaker, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Clara Porset, Oscar Hagerman, etc.

Chamela Chair by Po Shun Leong (1974)

Mexico City Modern Art Museum (MAM) “Diseño en México” 1975 exhibition

In later years the Museum of Latin American Art and the Palacio Iturbide also put this design on display.

Po Shun came across a similar design from Europe called “Fionda”, designed by Jasper Morrison in 2013.

Produced by Mattiazzi, Italy.
Morrison wrote: Thank you for your mail, I can understand your impression that Fionda owes something to your chair, it’s a remarkable coincidence and I think I like your chair more than Fionda! Actually Fionda was inspired by a Japanese camping chair. Perhaps the Japanese camping chair was inspired by your chair! The photo similarities are even more extraordinary, but again it is a coincidence,…

Design comparison Fionda Chair vs. Chamela Chair

So amazing, that this new contemporary chair design from 2013 by Jasper Morrison has such a remarkable resemblance to Po Shun´s Chamela chair presented in Mexico over 40 years ago, isn´t it?

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

20th-century furniture design value – Part # 1

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 The past decade has seen a significant rise in the value of 20th-century design, with vintage furniture pieces achieving record prices at auctions. Buying design objects and furniture at auction has become an event on par with a Modern and Contemporary Art auction in London or New York, etc. Today, all main auction houses around the world such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Phillips, Bonhams, RAGO and Wright have design departments and design auction sessions. The market has also seen a rapidly growing number of websites selling vintage furniture online. Beware of knock-off’s and attributions!

Another factor that has affected the market is the increasing interest of museums all around the world to develop a 20th century decorative arts department. There are some museums as well which have been interested in 20th century decorative arts for many years, in some cases predating the 1950’s. But there is only one goal for all of them: display the masterpieces of designers from as many countries as possible, so, when you visit the museum, you are able to enjoy the ultimate of elegance created by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, the Brutalism of Paul Evans, and world record price setter like Eileen Gray, etc. It is obvious that with big players like museums, 20th century design auctions have become an arena where top prices are paid for furniture pieces.

The trend of investing in mid-century furniture started some years ago when collectors realized that the furniture in their residences were clearly below the level of what was hanging on their walls. It´s like to see a 10 carat flawless diamond mounted in a pull tab! What comes first to your mind is that the gemstone is definitively a fake. And that is exactly the same feeling that you have about the artwork when it is displayed on ordinary furniture. It is shocking to see that you are surrounded of artwork ranging from the US$100,000’s to many US$millions and that to enjoy the view, you are seated in a basic and commercial US$1000 mass-produced sofa or that their US$100 mass-produced coffee tables, credenzas, etc. is the place where they displayed from Henry Moore small sculptures to Alexander Calder mobiles or Gabriel Orozco sculptured stones. You just have to check out the pictures available on the web of celebrities and collector´s homes, and you will see that the boring white or brown mass-produced 3-seater or 4-seaters are the standard furniture at their houses.

Furthermore, the people in the design and art industry began taking an interest in mid-century designers. An important factor is that the shapes of the pieces and the materials used are totally adaptable to today’s way of life; timeless, clean lines and modern, using wood and metal and they also fit perfectly well with modern and contemporary art. The rise in prices for 20th century vintage furniture can be attributed to the change in tastes of affluent individuals that started displaying vintage design furniture pieces along with their collections of Modern and Contemporary Art. Nowadays, the decision to buy a collectible mid-century furniture piece is similar to buying artwork.

And then comes the question: what should you buy? Well, as with stocks, there is no magic list…. American mid-20th century furniture designs are keenly sought after by collectors. Handmade pieces are outpacing the mass produced easily knocked-off early production. Collectors have finally realized that there are millions of Eames chairs, and now they are looking for custom designed pieces by the likes of Vladimir Kagan, just as an example. Sure, some “fatigue” is seen in the George Nakashima market, probably indicating a leveling-off after years of being in very high demand; but Nakashima will remain a “blue-chip” name in American furniture in the future, regardless of the vagaries of the market.

George Nakashima Conoid Bench (1963)

George Nakashima Hanging Wall Case with free edge (1963)




 George Nakashima "Slab" Coffee Table (1969)

Vladimir Kagan Mosaic Trisymmetric Dining Table (1950’s)

Vladimir Kagan “Floating Seat and Back” Sofa (ca. 1952)

 Vladimir Kagan Wing Lounge Chair and Ottoman (1970’s)

Of course, a Charles and Ray Eames Lounge Chair with ottoman can qualify – even if it is mass-produced – as long as it’s the right example. There’s been a trend away from mass-produced pieces. But, with the Eames chair, first made in 1956, YOU WANT ROSEWOOD, the way the designers intended it, black leather, and down fill, as before 1988.

20th century furniture is a good investment as there is a growing global taste for furniture designed during that period. My top American designers are Wharton Esherick, George Nakashima, Paul Evans, Wendell Castle and Vladimir Kagan.

Wharton Esherick Desk (1970)

Wharton Esherick Cherry Sideboard (1960)

Wharton Esherick Hammer Handle Chair (late 1930’s)

Paul Evans Cabinet (1969)

Paul Evans "Argente" Wardrobe, Model no. PE-43 (1968)

Paul Evans Dining Table (1970’s)

Wendell Castle Two Seat Sofa (1967)

 Wendell Castle Stacked Walnut Mushroom Table (1972)

Wendell Castle Starfish Console Table (1995)

If you’re looking for an investment-worthy work of art that you can actually use, mid-century modern furniture is a promising choice. As the market for vintage design and furniture grows, collectors are increasingly seeking out special pieces, limited editions and designs made in rosewood and other high quality hardwoods; pay special attention on designers of this last category. There are many extinct woods that they used and of course, following the economics principle of scarcity, this furniture is the one that will increase its value and desirability via its rarity and irreplaceability.

to be continued in Part #2

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

Building up an icon (mass produced) – Part #15

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In my previous post about this series I introduced the terms “Scandinavian Design” (which includes Denmark, Norway, Sweden & Finland) and “Danish Modern”. Today, the subject will be “Swedish Modern”. This term first became current in the 1930’s when modern Swedish design was becoming increasingly well known in Europe and the United States. However, it was at its height in the 1950’s and was characterized by many of the qualities of Modernism blended with natural materials such as wood and a Scandinavian respect for craftsmanship. Like its counterpart in Denmark (Danish Modern) attributes of the “Swedish Modern” style included the use of light-colored woods, organic shapes, and color schemes with a predominance of white offset by accents of color in textiles, rugs and ceramics. The 1939 New York World’s Fair initiated the so-called Swedish and Danish Modern style but it was not until the decade after World War II that this style achieved maximum international popularity in the home furnishings area. Nevertheless, it had a pronounced influence on mass-production furniture designed in America and it established a furniture aesthetic which was embraced enthusiastically by the more fashion-conscious consumer. In the US, “Swedish Modern” never achieved the popularity of the Bauhaus-inspired Streamline Moderne with its penchant for chrome and aerodynamics (metal ultimately won the battle over wood), but it became a widespread style, symbolizing positive ideas about humanism, tradition, moderation and democracy.

Many Swedish furniture designers were highly influential in formulating the Swedish Modern style. I have put together the most renowned contributors, and I will begin with Carl Malmsten, who is regarded to be the father of Scandinavian furniture design. When he refused to participate in the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition he was bitterly criticized as a reactionary anti-Modernist; he advocated the survival of folk traditions in craftsmanship and their application to modern design. He regarded modernism as short-lived because it failed to see that humans and human needs had not changed because of industrialism. Malmsten’s influence on Swedish furniture design is particularly significant through the schools he founded, including Carl Malmsten Furniture Studies in Stockholm and Capellagården on the island of Öland, both of which are still in operation. It was Malmsten’s wish to restore elements of the old master – apprentice institution that united professionalism with an education in craftsmanship. As a furniture maker he expressed the old, inherited forms as well as the new, bold ideas with his language of design.

Back in the 1950’s, Carl Malmsten presented to Oskar Herbert Sjögren a series of designs which were produced for many years through O.H. Sjögren. Today the family firm is still active in the production of furniture and is run by its 4th generation, today O.H. Sjögren Tranås.

The collaboration between Estrid Ericson, founder of Svenkst Tenn and Austrian-born architect and designer Josef Frank (inventor of the Swedish Modern style) began in 1934. The Swedes were slow to adopt modernism, and it was not only in the later 1920’s that modern furniture began to appear in the country. The early Swedish modernists were drawn to German and Dutch functionalism—the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition featured many examples of a hard-edged modernism. When Frank began to work for Svenskt Tenn as its chief designer in the 1930’s, he introduced the idea of a humane, mitigated modernism. It was this vision of the new design that eventually began the dominant direction in Sweden, and later became widely known as “Swedish Modern”. Frank mostly used hardwood and liked to mix different sorts of wood for the same furniture. The Swedish Modern design of the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s, which became famous around the world, bore the strong imprint of Frank’s conception of a softened modernism.

Josef Frank was known throughout Europe in the 1920’s as one of the continent’s leading modernists. Yet despite his important contributions to the development of modernism, Frank has been largely excluded from histories of the movement. Frank became the leader of the younger generation of architects in Austria after World War I; but, he fell from grace when he emerged as a forceful critic of the extremes of modern architecture and design during the early 1930’s. Dismissing the demands for a unified modern style, Frank insisted that it was pluralism, not uniformity, that most characterized life in the new machine age. He was able to put his ideas into practice when, in 1933, he was forced to leave Vienna for Sweden. Frank designed many different types of furniture pieces, from sofas and tables, to lamps and accessories. He designed some remarkable cabinets as well, but his true specialty was the design of textiles.

Erik Gunnar Asplund is mostly known as a representative of Swedish neo-classical architecture of the 1920’s and during the last decade of his life as a major proponent of the modernist style, which got its breakthrough in Sweden at the 1930 Stockholm exhibition. His work has influenced architects and designers such as Alvar Aalto, Erik Bryggman, Arne Jacobsen, Jørn Utzon and others. Asplund’s major work is probably the Stockholm Public Library, constructed between 1924 and 1928, which stands as the prototypical example of the Nordic Classicism and so-called “Swedish Grace” movement. His work is clearly a part of the modern movement in Sweden, but his use of carvings, decorative details and color suggest the influence of neo- classic and romantic Scandinavian revival. Italian furniture manufacturer Cassina still produces some of his iconic furniture designs today.

The company Karl Mathsson was created in 1933 by Karl Mathsson. A 4th generation cabinet maker, Karl Mathsson taught his son Bruno Mathsson about wood and furniture business. Bruno Mathsson took over management of the family furniture-making company in 1957; his furniture ”became a symbol for Swedish Modern”. Mathsson never went mass market and he wouldn’t collaborate with anyone until the 1960’s, when Dux Industries of Sweden took on production of some of his chair designs. Later he allowed Tendo of Japan to manufacture some of his designs on a smaller scale for the Japanese market. In 1978 Dux Industries purchased the Mathsson firm and began manufacturing and distributing Mathsson´s bentwood furniture. Today Bruno Mathsson´s furniture designs are manufactured by Bruno Mathsson International and Dux Industries.

Bruno Mathsson was probably Sweden’s most successful modern furniture designer in the 20th century. Inspired by Le Corbusier, Mathsson experimented with the physiology of the seating curves adjusted according to the body, which in turn resulted in prototypes for the work, easy, and lounge chairs. His furniture is undoubtedly influenced by the bentwood designs of Alvar Aalto, but Mathsson’s commitment to bentwood and the range and virtuosity of the material he achieved exceeds all of his contemporaries, including Marcel Breuer, among others. Mathsson designed some of his most attractive and collectable furniture pieces during the 1930´s such as the “Pernilla” Chair and the “Eva” Chair. Most of his designs were named after women.

Mathsson´s international breakthrough as a furniture designer however came at the 1937 World Fair in Paris. His popularity dwindled somewhat during the 1950’s when, despite requests by many distributors of modern furniture (like KNOLL) to manufacture and distribute his designs, he refused to succumb to the demands of the marketplace by altering the specifications of his bentwood designs to enable large orders. In the 1960´s he created the famous “Superellipse” Table together with Danish mathematician Piet Hein. This series was produced both by Swedish manufacturer Karl Mathsson and by Fritz Hansen in Denmark.

Swedish architect Carl-Axel Acking was one of the leading names on the Swedish interior decoration scene during the 1940-50’s. In the 1940’s he experimented with molded plywood and designed chairs for mass produce purpose. Acking’s designs were manufactured by producers such as Nordiska Kompaniet (NK)*, Bodafors, KF and Nordiska Möbelfabriken.

*Nordiska Kompaniet was a licensed manufacturer of Herman Miller’s furniture, many of Charles & Ray Eames’ chairs where produced by them. Designers who worked for or cooperated with NK included: E. Gunnar Asplund, Carl-Axel Acking, Stig Lindberg and Astrid Sampe. Unfortunatelly, the factories closed in 1973.

Swedese was founded in 1945 (initially ESE Furniture) by the 2 brothers Yngve and Jerker Ekström and Sven Bertil Sjöqvist, with Yngve leading the company. Yngve Ekström together with names including Alvar Aalto, Bruno Mathsson, Arne Jacobsen and Poul Kjaerholm was at the core of a generation of designers who made the concept “Scandinavian Modern” famous all over the world. Yngve Ekström´s breakthrough came with his Easy Chair “Lamino” in 1956, combining austerity with lightness, beauty with function. In the 1960’s he creates a variety of furniture made of Swedish pine. Around these years the 2 brothers also started a lighting factory, Lystella AB. Ekström also designed furniture for companies such as Stolab and Broby.

Designers that have collaborated or are currently working for Swedese: Arik Levy, Broberg & Ridderstråle, Bror Boije, C-H Spak, Christine Schwarzer, Claesson Koivisto Rune, Edward Barber, Jay Osgerby, Eva and Peter Moritz, GamFratesi, Isaac Chen, Katrin Olina, koncept., Lars Pettersson, Lime Studio, Marina Bautier, Michaël Bihain, Michael Young, Monica Förster, Naoto Fukasawa, Roger Persson, Setsu and Shinobu Ito, Skala, Sofia Dahlén, Staffan Holm, Thomas Bernstrand, Yngve Ekström.

Swedish furniture designer Arne Norell founded Möbel AB Arne Norell in 1954. Arne Norell was a multifaceted designer who tried many different material combinations. His most well-known and appreciated piece is the Easy Chair “Ari”, designed in 1966. Many of his designs are still manufactured by his company now under the name Norell Möbler AB. Marie Norell-Möller carries on the family tradition and style with her work.

One four-letter word particularly comes to mind when thinking of Swedish design – IKEA. The world’s largest furniture manufacturer, founded in 1943 by 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad, is known for its modern and minimalist design. The IKEA brand is associated with simple, low cost and stylish products. Rather than being sold pre-assembled, much of IKEA’s furniture is designed to be self-assembled. IKEA contends that it has been a pioneering force in sustainable approaches to mass consumer culture. Kamprad refers to the concept as “democratic design,” meaning that the company applies an integrated approach to manufacturing and design. Although IKEA household products and furniture are designed in Sweden, they are largely manufactured in developing countries to keep costs down. As of October 2011, IKEA has 332 stores in 38 countries and the IKEA website contains about 12,000 products. The company is keen to show leadership in adopting more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, however, IKEA is the world’s third-largest consumer of wood, behind The Home Depot and Lowe’s. IKEA´s 2010 annual catalog (first issued in 1951) was published in 20 languages and 61 editions, covering around 197 million copies.


IKEA’s main contribution to Swedish design was its ability to bring functional designs to a mass market. Swedishness also plays a role: IKEA products tended always to be of light wood with organic shapes and fresh colors. As the company has grown bigger and more global, the style has become less distinctive. On the other hand, their designs are only rarely completely original — they are often inspired by others – yet IKEA produces its own versions at a fraction of the cost. The “Billy” Bookcases for example, have sold 28 million times worldwide since they first appeared in 1979. When they were removed from the IKEA product range in 1991, there were major customer protests. They returned to the stores in 1993. Most IKEA items end up in garbage piles, vintage pieces are not easy to find.

…to be continued in part # 16

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.



Brazilian Modernism: Furniture Design in Brazil – Part #2

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continues from Part # 1

Considered one of the founding fathers of Brazilian design, Sergio Rodrigues, is still producing some of his best known designs. The roots of Rodrigues’ work lies in his use of traditional raw materials such as jacaranda, eucalyptus, peroba and imbuia woods to create icons of Brazilian taste, value and identity. His most famous design is his “Poltrona Mole”; his furniture was utilized in a large scale for Oscar Niemeyer´s iconic buildings of Brasilia. In 2001 the Brazilian manufacturer LinBrasil acquired the rights for the reproduction of the “Sergio Rodrigues furniture line” and meanwhile produces 28 of Rodrigues’ works.

Italian born Lina Bo Bardi began her career in Milan under Gio Ponti, she was a prolific architect and designer who devoted her working life, most of it spent in Brazil, to promoting the social and cultural potential of architecture and design. She would pioneer in the use of laminated and compensated wood, at a time the use of massive logs prevailed. However, bent tubular metal would be the main component of Lina’s most notable creations, which include the Tripé chair (1948), the Bola chair (1950), and her famous Bowl chair (1951). These chair designs would be used for the furnishing of one of Brazil’s architectural masterworks, designed and erected by Lina in 1951: the Casa de Vidro, the couple’s residence in Sao Paulo’s Morumbi neighborhood. Nowadays, Brazilian furniture company ETEL is launching a new series of 12 re-issues on Lina Bo Bardi´s work; and Italian chair manufacturer ARPER has released a limited-edition of 500 chairs of Bo Bardi’s charming Bowl chair.

Cadeira Tripé designed by Lina Bo Bardi (1948)

Lina Bo Bardi´s Poltrona Bola (1950)

Lina Bo Bardi Cadeira Auditório MASP

Bardi Bowl Chair (1951)

José Zanine Caldas is known as the “Master of the Wood” due to his knowledge and passion for solid wood as a material, he was possibly the first to utilize the tropical hardwoods in their most raw and pure state. Austrian born designer Martin Eisler, after meeting the Hauner brothers in Brazil, started designing for FORMA. Eisler also opened Forma in Buenos Aires, as an architectural, industrial and interior design firm known as Interieur Forma. Eisler´s “Poltrona Costela” is his best known design.

There were also other mid-century Brazilian furniture designers like Ricardo Fasanello working with more innovative materials. Fasanello’s work blends unmistakable Brazilian aesthetics with a cool sophistication. His studio developed into a sort of design laboratory for experimenting with a wide range of materials. Steel, glass, resin, fiberglass, leather and wood were all explored to make beautiful and functional objects. He was inspired by mathematical shapes of curves, circles and spheres, which recalled his penchant for automobiles and speed. The “Fardos” Sofa was his first international success.

Moving on to contemporary names in Brazilian furniture design, we have Hugo Franca, a Brazilian designer who works in the same tradition as modernist Brazilian masters; Hugo is best known for his reverential use of raw Brazilian hardwoods. Working exclusively with fallen and dead trees and old canoes he purchases from the Pataxó Indian tribes in Bahia, França creates unique designs that showcase the beauty of these natural materials. Another outstanding young Brazilian designer is Julia Krantz: Julia is part of an emerging generation embracing and redefining the sense of “Brazilianess” that has long shaped their country’s art and design. Her furniture is carved from stack-laminated plywood, crafted in sensuous, organic and monumental pieces, inspired by the rich landscape of her native Brazil. In her work, ecology plays a fundamental role. She has a commitment to only using materials obtained through sustainable management and refusing to employ endangered species.




Historically Brazil ranks among the world’s 10 largest furniture manufactures and produces today an astounding variety of modern architecture and furniture, only partially known. Design and production are concentrated in the country´s southern states, perhaps not coincidentally, as they have large Italian immigrant populations dating from the 19th century. A strong tradition of craftsmanship and a national love of modernism combined with a wealth of resources, a relatively weak local currency and an unfaltering Euro, set the stage for Brazilian designer-manufactures to become important players in the world of high-profile furniture design. European furniture companies EDRA and Vitra have given Brazilian design in general and the Campana Brothers in particular an international profile. Fernando and Humberto Campana were first noticed by the media in the late 1990’s when they became the first Brazilian artists to exhibit their work at The Museum of Modern Art in New York; their breakout design of the “Vermelha Chair” is still their best seller.


Now that you have finished reading my posts about modernist furniture design in Brazil, I would like you to revisit some of Don S. Shoemaker´s design lines (in particular his famous “Descanso Line”, the Perno´s chair and his iconic Sling Casuals Line) in order to be able to clearly differentiate Don’s work from the top furniture designers just discussed above. Why? Because several of Don´s furniture pieces have been mistaken for 1960’s Brazilian designs…

We could definitely establish some parallelism between Don and his Brazilian counterparts:

  • Brazilian rosewood species (Bahia Rosewood, Jacarandá da Bahia, Rio Rosewood, Jacarandá De Brasil, Pianowood, Caviuna or Obuina) belong to the same genus “Dalbergia” (native in the Americas to the tropical regions of Mexico, Central and South America); Don used Mexican rosewood varieties (cocobolo, granadilla, gaiac, curamo, etc.) to produce his furniture pieces, while his Brazilian counterparts used hardwoods from similar species available in their country.
  • Don essentially utilized leather in his furniture designs, as Brazilian furniture designers did during the same period of time.

If there was any kind of connection between Don and the Brazilian modernist movement is hard to say,  since Don began working on his first furniture designs in the early 1950’s to finally introduce them in the year 1960.

The Mexican modernist movement developed in a different way and I will write a separate chapter on this.

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.


Brazilian Modernism: Furniture Design in Brazil – Part #1


When Le Corbusier visited Rio de Janeiro for the first time in 1929, his impression was that Brazil was a fascinating country but rather provincial. Although he gave a few lectures, these were reserved for a privileged, highly educated circle that was able to follow his talks in French. Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer were among these few; they would later come to define “Brazilian Modernism”. Both, Niemeyer and Costa made a stunning entrance with the “Brazilian Pavilion” at New York World’s Fair in 1939, followed in 1943 by the ‘Brazil Builds’ exhibition at the MOMA and later on, with a touring exhibition of the same name in Europe.

Today Oscar Niemeyer is considered one of the most important names in international modern architecture. Niemeyer’s architecture serves as the singular visual reference for Brazilian modernism worldwide, with the most iconic example being his full-scale design of the capital city, Brasilia. Much like his architecture, Niemeyer’s furniture designs were meant to evoke the beauty of Brazil: the exceptional local craftsmanship, the sweeping organic curves imitating the female form and the hills of Rio de Janeiro, and the use of rich native materials like leather and Brazilian hardwoods. Oscar Niemeyer´s “Rio Chaise Lounge” is his most famed furniture design and embodies all that is Brazil.

Joaquim Tenreiro, Sergio Rodrigues, Jorge Zalszupin, Percival Lafer, Jean Gillon and Michel Arnoult are the pioneers of the Brazilian Modernist movement. Using natural resources, tropical hardwoods, cane and understanding the need for comfort and beauty, these architects and designers produced furniture for everyone. Lafer and Arnoult were at the forefront of Ready-to-Assemble furniture that was made of solid hardwoods, like Goncalo-Alves (Tiger wood) which resembles Jacaranda (Brazilian rosewood) and utilized leather upholstery. Below I have put together a brief portrait of the most influential Brazilian furniture designers that have contributed to Modernism in Brazil:

Rumanian born Jean Gillon moved to Brazil in 1956, where he developed simultaneously projects on interior architecture, fine arts and design. He projected luxury hotels throughout Brazil as well as stores and homes and he was a remarkable creator of tapestries – usually one-of-a-kind pieces elaborated with different techniques, based on gouache drawings. Gillon started to design furniture due to his architecture clients demands and, in 1961, he founded his first company, Fábrica de Móveis Cidam, later followed by WoodArt, in which he produced full lines of Brazilian rosewood furniture pieces and objects, using leather as well as upholstery. As a visionary businessman, he turned to exports and at one point he worked with 22 different countries. He collaborated with MTM – Indústria de Móveis Village, Italma, and Probel, which produced his designs. His most famous design is his “Cadeira Jangada” Chair and Ottoman, also called ‘Captain’s Chair’.

French born Michel Arnoult is recognized as one of the fathers of the Ready-To-Assemble furniture (RTA) and the flat-packaging. He arrived in Brazil in the early 1950’s and made friend with modern architect Oscar Niemeyer and painter Cândido Portinari. At this time, modern architecture and its applications in the field of social housing reach their peak and Arnoult realizes that there is no suitable furniture for the smallest dimensions of these new interiors. He decides to design simple furniture and focuses its researches on the concept of RTA furniture. Arnoult becomes the first businessman of RTA furniture in Brazil and sets up in 1952 his company “Mobilia Cotemporânea” in Curitiba. This company was one of the very first companies in the world to be devoted exclusively to RTA furniture design and manufacture. It was the premises of the current Cash & Carry. One of the best examples of this concept is his armchair “Peg Lev” literally “I take and I carry”.

Michel Arnoult PegLev Armchair (1968)

Percival Lafer took over his father’s furniture company The Lafer Co., founded in 1927. The factory was named “Lafer MP”, the initials MP meaning “Moveis Patenteados”, Portuguese for Patented Furniture. The Lafer Co. has become synonymous with high design, often employing some of Brazil’s most famous designers and architects to create furniture pieces. Percival Lafer dedicates most of his time working on new products.

Graceful lines, strong use of local woods and a combination of impeccable woodworking and classical detailing mark Jorge Zalszupin’s furniture. Polish born Zalzsupin founded the design collective “L’Atelier” in 1959, which would become one of the most important furniture companies in Brazil. Starting as a small workshop where Jorge had brought together a team of highly-skilled craftsmen, L’Atelier soon turned into a power house, a direct competitor to Sergio Rodrigues’ Oca, with 300 employees at the end of the 1960’s and outlets all across the country – and even in the US. Zalszupin’s pioneering use of plywood and chromed metal became the signature of L’Atelier furniture, but the company also had an important role in the introduction on the Brazilian market of injection-molded plastic objects – L’Atelier was the licensee for Robin Day’s Hille chair. In the early 1980’s, Zalszupin left L’Atelier in order to devote himself to architecture.

Portuguese born furniture designer Joaquim Tenreiro took a different approach by creating furniture that was an exercise in lightness. His furniture designs all made use of the indigenous Brazilian woods that are known for not only their beauty, but also their strength. With the help of his major client, architect Oscar Niemeyer, he was able to experiment on his ideas to create furniture that was “formally light”, a lightness which had nothing to do with weight itself, but with graciousness and the functionality of spaces. His exquisitely crafted pieces evoke a refined coexistence of traditional values and modern aesthetics, strongly bound to the Brazilian cultural milieu. With an unparalleled acuity for form, scale, detailing and craftsmanship he helped steer his generation of designers away from copies of traditional European furniture to a “new look” that embraced Brazilian culture and emerging modern preferences. In spite of his success and his professional recognition, sometime in the late 1960’s Tenreiro decided to close up his shops – retail and manufacturing. The Father of the Brazilian Modernist Design Movement had decided to concentrate on his painting and sculpture – activities in which he had been engaged privately for many decades.

Architect of Italian origin Giuseppe Scapinelli ran a furniture shop in Sao Paolo in the 1950’s, from which he sold his own designs. Opposite to Tenreiro, Sergio Rodrigues and Zanine Caldas, he remained rather anonymous for many years; he made his first appearance in the “Brazilian Modern” exhibition at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba in 2010. His style is characterized by curvy lines and soft shapes, very much away from the mainstream designs of his fellow retailers. Scapinelli was rediscovered and is now a synonym of boldness, sophistication and quality in Brazilian furniture in 1950´s and 1960´s.



… be continued in Part # 2

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer.
All Rights Reserved.

Building up an icon (mass produced) – Part #14

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The term “Scandinavian Design” (which includes Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) originated from the show “Design in Scandinavia” that toured the US and Canada from 1954 to 1957. Promoting the “Scandinavian way of living”, it exhibited various works by Nordic designers and established the meaning of the term that continues until today: beautiful and clean line designs, inspired by nature and the northern climate, accessible and available to all. Danish teak furniture, Swedish crystal and textiles, Norwegian enamel, Finnish furniture and glass merged into a concept generally perceived as Scandinavian. On the other hand, “Danish Design” is a term often used to describe a style of functionalistic design and architecture that was developed in mid-20th century. Influenced by the German Bauhaus school, many Danish designers used the new industrial technologies, combined with ideas of simplicity and functionalism to design furniture which have become iconic. A number of firms continue to be active in producing both classic Danish Modern designs and in introducing variants designed by a new generation of artists. I have put together a small summary of the most prestigious Danish furniture makers and the designs they have been producing from famous contributors to “Danish Modern” like Finn Juhl, Kaare Klint, Mogens Koch, Børge Mogensen, Nanna Ditzel and Hans J. Wegner:

Rud Rasmussen, a family-owned and family-run furniture company founded in 1869 by Rudolph Rasmussen. Since then, the company has been handed down from generation to generation and today it is run by the 4th generation, by master cabinet maker and architect Jørgen Rud. Rasmussen. Their claim to fame is its close collaboration between architect and cabinet maker. In the late 1920´s contact was established to Kaare Klint and Mogens Koch whose designs Rud. Rasmussen has produced ever since. Rud Rasmussen´s list of recognized designers include: Kaare Klint, Mogens Koch, Hans J. Wegner, Børge Mogensen, Mogens Lassen, Poul Kjærholm, Finn Juhl, Ole Wanscher, Bernt, Larsen & Bender Madsen, Hans Bølling, Nanna Ditzel, Cecilie Manz, Jørgen Rud. Rasmussen and Vagn Jacobsen.

Specialized in seaweed mattresses in the early days, Getama was founded in 1899. Getama has manufactured furniture designs by Hans J. Wegner for almost 60 years and they still are the company´s best-seller. In 1994 Getama became part of Temco A/S, a Danish manufacturer of steel products; this cooperation resulted in a range of models that combine the elasticity of steel with lines of wood and upholstery. Hans J. Wegner, Nanna Ditzel, Bernt, 2R Rasmussen & Rolff, Niels Jørgen Haugesen, Jens Ole Christensen and O&M Design have collaborated with Getama.

Carl Hansen & Son opened his furniture workshop in Odense, Denmark in 1908. At the beginning, the company produced bespoke furniture – including everything from dining room sets to bedroom suites. As the company grew and times changed, it gradually began to produce smaller series of its most popular pieces. This combination of hand craftsmanship and rational series production soon became the firm’s hallmark – and continues to set it apart today. Until the mid- 1940’s, Carl Hansen & Son cooperated with Frits Henningsen, a Danish architect and cabinetmaker. It was Carl Hansen’s son Holger, who took a chance on the groundbreaking designs of the young Hans J. Wegner and the collaboration between Wegner and Carl Hansen & Son began in 1949. Wegner designed 4 chairs especially for Carl Hansen & Son that very same year (CH22, CH23, CH24 and CH25) – all of which came into production and were launched in 1950. Wegner’s first pieces for series production were anything but easy to make. With their distinctive, sculptural forms, CH24 (The Wishbone Chair) and CH25 (The Paddle Chair), were the most ambitious designs. The Wishbone Chair was particularly challenging. Its back rail was steam bent, its rear legs required turning by a sub-supplier and its construction demanded perfect craftsmanship. Holger Hansen, himself a master cabinetmaker as well as a businessman, worked closely with Wegner to adapt the company’s series production to the radically different designs. Today, Carl Hansen & Son continues to cooperate closely with the Hans J. Wegner Studio to introduce or re-issue outstanding designs from the treasure chest that Wegner left behind.

Fredericia Furniture’s history dates back to 1911, when the furniture company Fredericia Stolefabrik was founded. Closely connected to the name of Børge Mogensen, it produces the majority of this architect’s classic furniture designs. Their collection is based on furniture from Børge Mogensen, Nanna Ditzel and Hans J. Wegner, as well as new designers such as Alfredo Häberli, Shin Azumi, Thomas Pedersen, Hans Sandgren Jakobsen and many others. The Fredericia Furniture Collection ranges from classic designs rooted in the golden age of Danish furniture architecture to daring and innovative designs such as Cecilie Manz’s prized side table “Micado”:













PP Møbler is a family owned Danish joinery workshop established in 1953, with a strong tradition for crafting high quality design furniture. Throughout the years, PP Møbler has manufactured several unique pieces of furniture in cooperation with different designers. They are all characterized by exquisite craftsmanship and at the same time marked by the overall design vision. Types, styles, form, and material have never limited PP Møbler. The majority of the production consists of Hans J. Wegner’s furniture – mainly chairs – but several other designers have left their mark as well like Thomas Alken, Soren Ulrik Petersen, Zaha Hadid, Lise & Hans Isbrand, Jorgen Hoj, Cecilie Manz, Poul Kjaerholm, Ole Gjerlov Knudsen, Nanna Ditzel, Verner Panton, Gunnar Aagaard Andersen, Frederik Mattsons, Jeremy Walton, Lovorika Banovic and Komplot Design.


The Erik Jørgensen Møbelfabrik was founded in 1954 by Erik Jørgensen. Erik combined his skills as a craftsman and good understanding of materials with new functionalist design trends and he lead the small company to success within a few years. He thought it was essential to have a constant interaction with the architects in order to create the right combination of design, function and quality. Several chairs and sofas produced by Erik Jørgensen have already become classics and their furniture is frequently used by actors, pop idols and heads of government. Jack Nicholson was one of the first stars to sit in a chair by Erik Jørgensen when he first leaned back in a “Corona Chair” in the film “Carnal Knowledge” (1971). The list goes on, and there are countless examples of music videos and fashion shoots in which the “Corona Chair” or the “Ox Chair” have been showcased. Erik Jørgensen´s leading designers: Foersom & Hiort-Lorenzen, Louise Campbell, Poul M. Volther, Jensen/Ernst, Niels Gammelgaard, Hans J. Wegner, EJ DesignTeam, David Lewis, Erik Ole Jørgensen, Jørgen Gammelgaard, Tine Mouritsen & Mia Sinding, Hannes Wettstein, Tine Mouritsen. Also, Erik Jørgensen´s annual “EJ Design Award”, launched in 1995, ensures that a new generation of young designers is introduced into the trade when invited to present their daring ideas and visions.

Ivan Hansen & Hans Henrik Sørensen founded their furniture company Hansen & Sørensen in 1990. In 1998 Hansen & Sørensen (the present Onecollection), was contacted by Finn Juhl’s second wife Hanne Wilhelm Hansen, she requested the company to produce a Finn Juhl Model 57-Sofa for an exhibition. This led to the cooperation with Hanne regarding the re-launching of Finn Juhl’s* furniture. Today Onecollection has (as the only part in the world) the rights to produce and sell Finn Juhl’s designs, for the past 10 years the company has put 15 pieces of his many models in production. *Finn Juhl is regarded as the father of “Danish Design” and he introduced Danish Modern to America. With Finn Juhl as their flagship, Onecollection offers an interesting collection of furniture together with other Nordic designers like Nanna Ditzel, Erla Óskarsdóttir, Rud Thygesen & Johnny Sørensen, Søren Holst, Henrik Tengler, Niels Gammelgaard, Linn Bjørk, Tove & Edvard Kindt-Larsen among others.

Danish furniture manufacturer Johannes Hansen produced a number of furniture between the 1940’s – 1970’s. While there has been no production since then, several pieces have appeared in auctions during recent years; their beauty and rarity have kept prices high. An important part of Johannes Hansen’s success was based on the fruitful cooperation with Hans J. Wegner initiated in 1940. The first pieces of furniture designed by Wegner were displayed in Johannes Hansen’s store in Copenhagen in 1941. Even though Johannes Hansen was more than twice as old as Wegner, the unique collaboration between the two men became the undisputed backbone of Danish furniture design and the main reason for its recognition in the 50’s and 60’s. In 1944 Wegner designed for Johannes Hansen the first of a long series of ‘Chinese’ chairs, a series of chairs inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Ming chairs. Another of his famous designs, the ”Peacock Chair”, was first introduced in 1947. The chair was manufactured for a very long time by Johannes Hansen, later picked up and resumed by PP Møbler in 1992, as Wegner had upgraded the basic design in the late 1980’s.

In the 1950’s, American manufacturers obtained licenses for the mass production of Danish designs – keeping high standards of craftsmanship at the beginning. Later the designs were altered to suit American tastes and American parts were introduced to reduce costs. When Sears and Woolworth’s entered the market, the Danes countered by producing new designs based on new materials. In the early 1960’s American manufacturers introduced molded plastic and wood-grained Formica as cheaper substitutes and the demand for Scandinavian Modern declined. Nevertheless, Scandinavian Modern is unlikely to ever go out of style. Today, the demand is worldwide from Australia to the US and the market is booming – from Jacobsen’s stylishly simple chairs to Wegner’s rounded, organic ones – displayed in top design showrooms and galleries across the globe as the ultimate image of modernity. An interesting clue: Hans J. Wegner (regarded as ”the master of the chair”, with more than 500 chair designs to his name) designed chairs for a long range of furniture manufacturers in Denmark: PP Møbler, Johannes Hansen, Carl Hansen & Son, Fritz Hansen, Getama, Fredericia Stolefabrik and many others. In his later years, Wegner entered the mass market through industrial furniture production. To this day, more than 25,000 of his best-selling “The Wishbone Chair or Y Chair” are sold each year. Mass-produced works of Hans J. Wegner, Finn Juhl and Arne Jacobsen are still in demand, but collectors are increasingly turning to limited production items from these and other great designers.

When buying classical Scandinavian Modern furniture pieces with investment in mind, I have to emphasize how essential it is to look for a design no longer in production (or re-issued); take as an example the Hans J. Wegner pieces produced by cabinet maker Johannes Hansen; one of his long version ‘Dolphin’ Chairs from 1950 recently sold for £75,650 at an auction.

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer.
All Rights Reserved.


Building up an icon (mass produced) – Part #13

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Vitra was founded in 1950 by Willi and Erika Fehlbaum in Weil am Rhein, Germany as a shop-fitting company. Business flourished when in 1957 Herman Miller Inc.* assigned Vitra the license to produce and sell the products of Charles & Ray Eames and George Nelson in Germany and Switzerland. The influence of Charles & Ray Eames was fundamental to the development of the company. *As far as the partnerships that Herman Miller had in Europe back in the 1950’s, there were originally 4 companies: Vitra in Switzerland, Hille in the UK (which I already discussed in my previous post), ICF in Italy and Mobilier International in France; nowadays only Vitra retains a license from Herman Miller Inc.

In the 1970’s Vitra’s growing reputation for high-quality designs combined with a dynamic corporate identity was further enhanced by Rolf Fehlbaum who commissioned company buildings by highly innovative designers, including factory buildings by British architect Nicholas Grimshaw (1981) and Italian Antonio Citterio (1992), a conference building by Japanese architect Tadao Ando (1992), and the world-famous Vitra Design Museum by Frank O. Gehry, completed in 1989. The Vitra Design Museum maintains one of the largest collections of modern furniture design in the world with objects representing all of the major eras and stylistic periods from the beginning of the 19th century to the present. Special areas of the collection include early industrial bentwood furniture, turn-of-the-century designs by Viennese architects, Gerrit Rietveld’s experiments, tubular steel furniture from the 1920´s and 1930´s, key objects of Scandinavian Design from 1930 to 1960, Italian Design and contemporary developments. A further area of special interest is American Design, ranging from Shaker pieces to the postmodern seating of Robert Venturi. The Museum Collection also holds several prominent estates, including those of Charles Eames, Verner Panton, Anton Lorenz and Alexander Girard. The Collection is complemented by an extensive archive and research library. When the Barrágan papers in Mexico were in danger of dissolving into dust, Vitra rescued them. Vitra’s work with the Barrágan and Eames archives have allowed the Museum to celebrate established reputations and to throw new light on them, as well as in some cases, to overcome unjustified neglect.

In the closing decades of the 20th century Vitra became widely known as a fashionable manufacturer of furniture; it was precisely during the 1980’s that the “Vitra Editions” initiative was launched, commissioning experimental designs from a range of designers including Ron Arad, Frank O. Gehry, Shiro Kuramata, Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass, Borek Sípek and Philippe Starck. We can recall as the most successful chairs in this experiment to have been: Kuramata’s “How High the Moon” Armchair in nickel-plated steel mesh (1986), Sípek’s Ota Otanek Chair (1988), Philippe Starck’s Louix XX Stacking Chair (1992) and Frank Gehry’s “Grandpa Chair” (re-issued in 1993).

Today Vitra’s product line consists of designer furniture for use in offices, homes and public areas. Apart from the company’s own designs, it also manufactures and distributes the works of great names such as Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi, George Nelson, Verner Panton, Antonio Citterio, Sori Yanagi, Philippe Starck, Mario Bellini, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Greg Lynn, Hella Jongerius, Glen Oliver Löw, Dieter Thiel, Jasper Morrison, Alberto Meda, Ron Arad, Maarten Van Severen and Jean Prouvé among other leading designers.

The close collaboration in the early 1960´s with Danish designer Verner Panton played an important role in Vitra´s success story, when the company decided to develop what became Panton´s  best-known design: the “Panton Chair”, introduced in 1967. The “Stacking Chair” or “S Chair” became Panton´s most famous and mass-produced design. Sleek, sexy and a technical first, the “Panton” was the chair of the era.



A good eye for targeting production rights for the right furniture designs was also a key to Vitra´s success:

  • Sori Yanagi´s iconic “Butterfly Stool” was originally produced only by Japanese Tendo Mokko Corp. An example of Vitra´s timing (being in the right place at the right time) they own the production rights for the “Butterfly Stool” in Europe, North & South America & Africa.
  • In 2002 Vitra obtained the rights from Prouvé´s family to re-edit Jean Prouvé´s famous designs with the “Jean Prouvé Collection”. Furthermore, in 2011 Prouvé´s original designs have been updated with ideas from G-Star & Vitra giving birth to the “Prouvé RAW”, a collection of furniture classics from this French designer and artisan, newly interpreted. Mainly focused on chairs, lamps, tables, a chaise longue and others that were updated in new materials and colors while leaving the structure of the pieces largely unchanged.

OK. If you think that the last paragraph is redundant you are right, but it is exactly the way most consumers feel at this moment after 20 something years of re-introductions, re-issues, re-launches, revivals, re-interpretations, reproductions, re-editions of rediscovered design classics have become very fashionable AND PROFITABLE with a proven formula so they are currently marketed at rather high prices by the many renowned furniture manufacturers around the world, becoming a very important part of the bottom line for the furniture business. The question is: will the industry ever see farther than its comfort zone? Is the new talent dead? How many design students are there in the universities in the world? I hope that there are only 2 or 3 and that they are aware that the leading companies of the industry rather be in their comfort zone than offering opportunities to new-comer designers. Of course, re-copycats and cheap re-imitations have flooded the markets. Do you re-understand that we are tired of the re-formula? This re-marketing is extremely dangerous to the point of re-tiring consumers in the long run.


…to be continued in part # 14

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.


Building up an icon (mass produced) – Part #12

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The Hille furniture company was established in 1906 in London by Salamon Hille, a Russian emigrant, to renovate and reproduce 18th century furniture. By the 1930’s the company had already an international reputation, supplying products all over the world. Then in 1948, the MoMa in New York held the “International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design” where British designers Robin Day and Clive Latimer won a 1st prize with a plywood storage system they designed together, this called Hille´s attention. Hille was eager to modernize and its owners decided to engage Robin Day in 1949 to design and produce their low-priced furniture that could be manufactured on a large scale; in the years to follow Day became Hille´s head designer. Well known furniture pieces designed by Robin Day for Hille include the “Hillestak” (1950), a chair with a beech wood frame, seat & back of laminated wood with walnut veneer, and a simple armchair for the Royal Festival Hall in London in 1951. Whereas pre-war furniture was solid and ponderous, Day’s designs were pared down and seemed to float above the ground, as with his 1952 “Reclining Chair”. After 5 years of collaboration with Hille, Robin had been instrumental in transforming the company from a small cabinet making firm into a producer of innovative and modern furniture; Hille became Herman Miller´s partner in the UK. An interesting coincidence: Robin Day and his wife Lucienne where Britain’s most celebrated post-war designer couple and they have often been compared to their US contemporaries, Charles and Ray Eames.



In 1962-63 Robin Day designed for Hille “Polyprop”, a stackable chair inspired by the Charles and Ray Eames “Plastic Shell” chairs. Polypropylene had been invented in 1954 and by the end of that decade Shell Chemicals produced the material in various formulations. Day realized that polypropylene would be perfect for a low cost mass produced chair. Manufactured by the injection blow  molding process, the plastic was inexpensive, light, and very durable. Moreover, the plastic could be stained in all colors. With this chair Robin Day hit on a very reasonably priced chair, so successful that it has been a long-term bestseller. Durable, stylish and cheap, it was bought in bulk by airports, canteens, hospitals and restaurants. To put the success of Day’s polyprop chair designs into  context: an estimate of 500,000 units a year are currently being sold. A worldwide hit, produced in the millions, which of course, has also spawned innumerable copies. Robin went on to create a  whole ‘Polyprop’ family – the 1967 Polypropylene Armchair, the 1971 Series E school chairs and the 1972 indoor/outdoor Polo Chair.

Robin Day had the highest profile of all of Hille´s designers, but their scholarship scheme (set up in 1967) and their willingness to work with designers to offer prototyping and small production runs brought other dividends. One of which was the collaboration with Fred Scott, known for his “Supporto Office Chair”designed for Hille. The company´s focus on affordable innovative designs continues, as we can see with the new SE Ergonomic Chair, a project with designers Richard Snell and David Rowe, Birmingham City University, Hille and BKF Plastics. The posture theory behind the chair was the result of 2 years of research. From launching the first polypropylene education chair range in 1971, Hille has used its experience to develop further affordable ranges to compliment any classroom environment. Designers that have worked for Hille include Robin Day, Fred Scott, Richard Snell and David Rowe.

Robin Day and his textile designer wife Lucienne transformed British design after World War II by pioneering a new modern idiom. He experimented with new materials in inexpensive furniture for manufacturers like Hille and she revitalized textile design with vibrant patterns. Whereas the Eames designed as a team, the Days mostly worked independently in separate fields. When Hille commissioned Robin to design their low-priced furniture for a large scale production, he changed the company´s future and for sure, he will be best remembered for his polypropylene molded stacking chairs which have sold around 50 million units since the launch of the “Polyside” chair in 1963 – the ultimate mass produced chair.


…to be continued in part # 13

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

Building up an icon (mass produced) – Part #11

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Italian furniture manufacturer Arflex was founded in 1947 (a division of the Pirelli Corporation otherwise known for rubber tire manufacturing). The company’s initial purpose was to develop materials for the furniture industry, notably polyurethane foam and Pirelli webbing. By 1948, Pirelli commissioned Marco Zanuso, one of the very first Italian architects involved with the systems of product industrialization to investigate the potential of latex foam as an upholstery material together with a team of technicians. In 1951, after 2 years of intense experimentation, Arflex was presented to the public for the first time at the IX Triennale in Milano, hitting the designer-furniture scene with avant-garde, artistic panache, featuring the elegant “Lady” armchair designed by Marco Zanuso which was awarded with the IX Triennale Gold medal.

Arflex´s attention was focused on cultural experimentation, imposing new technological products, very uncommon for that time. Very soon other Arflex design icons followed the “Lady” armchair: the Fiorenza armchair (Franco Albini, 1952), the Martingala armchair (Marco Zanuso, 1952 first example of removable cover), the Delfino armchair (Erberto Carboni, 1954 among first experiments of animal-design), just to name a few. Marco Zanuso became a symbol of the developing design culture in post-war Italy, a generation of designers whose social commitment was colored by the ideological heritage of the Modern Movement. The Arflex product collection was first and foremost an overview of the fruitful collaboration of manufacturer and designer.

Between 1951 and 1954 Arflex also produced various models of car seat designed by Carlo Barassi. These could be fitted into the vehicle instead of standard production seats and offered outstanding comfort, thanks to the use of foam rubber and elastic tape. The covers could be removed and the seat-backs were adjustable. Arflex strove to make its contribution to the comfort of those Italians who were beginning to travel just after the war. The most successful of those car seats were the “MilleMiglia” and the “Sedile Lettino”, a seat that could be turned into a makeshift bed. Both were designed for the Fiat Topolino.

The style of Arflex in the years to follow was defined by Alberto Rosselli, through his line of furniture for management offices, by Carlo Bartoli, through Bicia, produced with an innovative material, fiberglass, but above all by Cini Boeri and Mario Marenco. The “Serpentone” Sofa (1971) by Cini Boeri was conceived by the designer as an endless length seat, with flexible forms, straight and curved, produced with a cheap but extremely pliable material.

The list of designers who have contributed through the decades and/or are still working with Arflex is endless: Franco Albini, De Carlo, Studio B.B.P.R., Belgiojoso, Peressutti, Roger, Erberto Carboni, Pulitzer, Menghi, Joe Colombo, Casati, Spadolini, Tito Agnoli, Carlo Colombo, Cristof Pilelt, Vincent Van Duysen, Michele De Lucchi, Marco Piva, and many others. Arflex also collaborates with international architects such as: Studio Cerri, Studio Sottsass, Michele De Lucchi, Isao Hosoe, Hannes Wettstein, Prospero Rasulo, Christophe Pillet, Carlo Ferrando, Mauro Lipparini, Burkard Vogtherr, Claesson Koivisto Rune and young designers like Monica Graffeo, producing the Mints chair (Young & Design Award 2004).

Pirelli´s vision to experiment with foam rubber upholstery and nylon cord for the design of innovative seating models and the engagement of Marco Zanuso, who was pioneering the use of different materials and new technologies, was the perfect match. Zanuso’s early experiments with bent metal had already brought him international recognition at the Low-Cost Furniture competition sponsored by the MoMa, New York in 1948; his breakthrough came with his designs made for Arflex. Marco Zanuso (as a designer) and Arflex (as a manufacturer) started out together; the only such case in the history of furnishings in Italy, the outcome of this joint adventure marked the Italian Style of the 1950’s and that of following years. Zanuso designed many iconic furniture pieces not only for Arflex, but also for Zanotta and Kartell between 1947 to the late 1970´s. Arflex is today one of the most experienced furniture manufacturers in the use of foam rubber upholstery.

…to be continued in part # 12

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

Building up an icon (mass produced) – Part #10

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Established in 1954, Zanotta SpA is one of the leaders in modern and contemporary Italian furniture design and production. Guided by the insight and entrepreneurship abilities of its founder Aureilio Zanotta, the company flourished in the 60’s and 70’s working with internationally respected architects and designers such as Carlo Mollino, Achille Castiglioni, Marco Zanuso and Bruno Munari. Many of Zanotta’s iconic creations are mentioned in design history books and are displayed in world’s museums. Key designs include the “Mezzadro” Tractor Seat by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, the legendary “Sacco” by Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini & Franco Teodoro, the “Leonardo” Work Table created by the Castiglioni’s, and most recently the “Bigwire” Table by Arik Levy in 2007.

Considered to be one of Italy’s most prestigious furniture brands thanks to its emblematic products and technological innovations, Zanotta is known for the use of experimental metals like (aluminum alloy, stainless steel, brass, bronze, etc.), plastics, glass, marble, granite, wood, fabrics and leather to create unique designs. The “Zanotta Edizioni” collection was created in 1989 as a special collection of furnishing items verging on art and design. Freed from the constraints of mass-production, the claim to fame of the furniture pieces included in this collection is that to a great extent they are handmade, reviving and reworking disused techniques, like mosaic, inlay and painted decorations.

Through the decades many internationally famed architects and designers have collaborated with Zanotta like Achille Castiglioni, Gae Aulenti, Marco Zanuso, Ettore Sottsass, Joe Colombo, Alessandro Mendini, Andrea Branzi, Giuseppe Terragni, Carlo Mollino, De Pas-D’Urbino-Lomazzi, Enzo Mari, Bruno Munari, Alfredo Häberli, Werner Asslinger, Todd Bracher, Arik Levy, Noé Duchaufour Lawrance, Roberto Barbieri, Ross Lovegrove, among others. Strategically, Zanotta has also managed to obtain the licenses to produce iconic furniture pieces created early in the 20th century, like Bernard Marstaller´s “Moretta Chair” from 1917 and the “Genni Lounge Chair” designed by Gabriele Mucchi in 1935.


Emblematic products, avant-garde designs, always open to unusual new ideas and ready to experiment with technological innovations, that´s the name of the game. Zanotta is one of Italy’s most prestigious furniture brands. Many of Zanotta´s creations are displayed in major museums (New York’s MOMA and Metropolitan Museum, the Paris Centre George Pompidou, the London Design Museum, Berlin’s Arts and Crafts Museum, the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, etc.), Zanotta has also received legions of prizes for its  achievements, all together key elements to build up a premium brand. Bravo!

…to be continued in part # 11

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.


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