Since the 1920’s the quest for the perfect chair begun, and still it’s undecided, but it has very good competitors.
When Modernism, lead by Le Corbusier appear on stage with the LC1 chair, all the design of furniture was disruptive and revolutionary. Fabrics, materials, shapes, all was reinvented. One famous quote from Le Corbusier resumes it well: “Chairs are architecture, Sofas are bourgeoise”. The era of Mid Century Modern Chairs had begun.
What does Le Corbusier mean with “Chairs are architecture, Sofas are bourgeoise”? That famous aphorism meant that traditional furniture and architecture respond to a set of principles or rules that had to change. Expensive materials, luxury fabrics, flamboyant shapes, and excessive sizes were all ideas from the past, a new Epoque had to emerge where purpose had to be over design. That means functionality first.
Since there, another outstanding figure from Architecture and Interior Design will take the message, and the big quest for a perfect chair was on the march. Most of the designs in this quest belonged to Mid Century Modern chairs.
Who were the big names behind this quest?
From Europe and America, the big minds pursuing the perfect chair were basically Architecture and Designers of worldwide fame, such as: Le Corbusier; Eero Saarinen; Niels Diffrient; Charles and Roy Eames, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe; and Hans Wegner, to name a few.
Many of these names developed its career mainly in the United States and Europe, but all of them left works around the world. Their names are part of the movement that we now call Modernism, and Mid Century Modern, both associated with the golden age of Design and Architecture. Let’s talk a little about some of them and the chairs that made it iconic.
The Tulip Chair and Table.
Created by Eero Saarinen; the elegant, clean but beautiful look of the Tulip Table and Chair, originally named the Pedestal Collection, made a huge impact on what we call modernism, and still today we find it in the fashion trends, year after year. The famous American architect of Finnish origin made this famous quote: “The undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes an ugly, confusing, unrestful world” Saarinen was upset about the mess of legs under the tables. By reducing them to one single base, Saarinen refreshes our perspective in any space.
The Eames Lounge Chair.
Considered by many like the chair, the Eames Lounge Chair is the archetype in many cases of what is considered comfort. Supreme, gorgeous. The Eames Lounge Chair, has been one of the most powerful objects of design and décor since its creation in 1945, and its exhibited in the best furniture stores around the world. According to Charles Eames, “The role of the designer is that of a very good, thoughtful host that anticipating the needs of his guests”.
The Womb Chair.
Again, by the genius of Ero Saarinen, this chair is born due to the request of Florence Knoll, an emblematic figure of the Modern Scene. Designed on the theory that a great number of people have never really felt comfortable and secure since they left the mother’s womb, and the need for a large and really comfortable chair to take the place of the old overstuffed chair.
The Shell Chair.
Created by Hans Wegner, a Danish worldwide known designer, this chair represents a never-ending search for the fusion of beauty and design. Ahead of its time, was released in 1963, but the public seemed reluctant, and it wasn’t until 1998 that it was reintroduced. This time it was an instant success, and people were enchanted with the vision of Hans: A design has always to be beautiful, and a chair, always comfortable. Hans was from its very beginnings a true master of the wood, and it was incorporated into many of its creations.
The flag halyard chair.
Again, made by Hans Wegner, this original and distinctive chair prescinds of all the materials that Wegner used to work with, and it shows that he was capable of mastering the techniques and materials characteristic of Mid Century Modern: chrome steel, fiber plastics, and even sheep leather. The legend tells that it was conceived in a family trip to the beach; and the very first canvas for the sketches of this chair where the sands of the beach where Hans play with his kids. Its exuberant design made this model as a classic, where the relaxation is in the first place.
The Barcelona Chair.
One of the all-time classics. Developed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Barcelona Chair has a sophistication and simplicity that hasn’t been matched. He had a very famous quote: “Less is more”, and that applies to its delicate X metal shape frame, ant its distinctive cushions. Originally made to allow some rest to the Kings of Spain if they visit the Pavilion, the Barcelona Chair was an accomplishment in design due to its use of industrial materials, and its ‘X’ shape; made with reminiscences of the ancient Rome. The Barcelona Chair was designed the year 1929, when van der Rohe, the pioneer of Modernism, was in charge of the famous German Pavilion of the International Exposition of Barcelona.
The Barcelona chair is part of a series, that had also a bench, The Barcelona Bench, in its versions of single 3-seater or daybed.
Le Corbusier series.
And finally, we have the archicelebrated LC series from legendary swiss Architect and Designer Le Corbusier. Back in the year of 1929, Le Corbusier teams up with Charlotte Perriand and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret to develop some furniture pieces. The result is the “LC” series, one of the most famous collections ever made in furniture. Named this way, due to his creator, of course, the LC series has a complete scope of the basic furniture in a house: Chairs, sofas, tables, stools, among other items, that will become classics with time.
Some of the more famous members of this series are the LC1, a classic chair; the LC2, an extended, cozier chair; the LC4, a relax long chair; the LC6, the basic table; among other articles, like a portamantea.
The LC1 chair was included in the design collection of the Museum of Modern Art MOMA, NY. It has a chrome-plated painted frame, with its back reclined for comfort and arms of leather straps. The LC2 is an armchair much more fluffy due to its big cushions. With a chrome-plated steel frame, and its cushions with polyurethane foam and polyester padding. It’s somehow the genesis of the LC5 Sofa Bed, another famous creation.
And finally, there is the LC4, a recline relax chair, often called too Chaise longue, due to its particular shape. It required three of the designers in Le Corbusier’s team to get it done, and the objective in this design was to put the human been in front of their design. In this classic masterpiece, the final result of the design is a direct consequence of the requirements of the human body to rest.
What does a Perfect Chair have?
We’ve seen some of the state of the art of the best Mid Century Modern chairs ever made. What is most striking about this outlook is to verify that they all are still on sale, and they sell great. So, its attributes are still useful and beautiful to society.
What do we find in common in all these chairs? Let’s take a look:
Functionality is the measure of success. Sure, beauty is important but what counts better is that furniture works in a balanced way.
New materials. Wood and metals will always be going to be part of our furniture and home décor, in some way, but since the 1950s, with the improvements in technology of materials, plastic, glues, and carbon, new materials gave a whole new world of furniture, where texture, color, and quality led our senses to new levels of comfort.
Ergonomics. Mid Century Modern furniture includes the human body and its comfort for the first time as an integral part of the design. Ergonomics is a discipline that ensures that design includes all the relevant aspects of physiology, psychology, and engineering. That’s why all the chairs designed in the perfect chair quest are comfortable.
Economics. Another element of the new designs in furniture is the search for economic products that can be produced on mass scale. That’s why they use of new materials is fundamental. One of the objectives more treasured by every new Mid Century modern designer is the low cost of its material to be at the reach of most of the people. Beauty, endurance and practicality have to be something affordable for many people.
Have you chosen your favorite chair? Which is for you the best chair in the world? We’ll be talking about it soon. Meanwhile, you can find in Manhattan Home Design the best selection of chairs. Give yourself the opportunity to bring excellence in design to your home, at affordable prices.