What can I say about chairs? Well. We sit on them – a lot. We whine about them at work. They can give us so much comfort, yet they have been known to cause some serious aches and pains – so why do we have such an ongoing love affair with the humble chair?
I have long been an admirer of ‘la chaise’ and cannot pass a furniture shop without stopping to drool over the latest ergonomic offering, so with this in mind, I have decided to compile a short modern history for all you furniture fans out there, to give you the low down on the all time best bottom candy.
To begin at the beginning…
Many years after we swapped the hard rock for the patch of moss, some bright spark decided that we were getting a bit grubby on the floor, and it was playing havoc with granny’s lumbago and the chair came into existence (I would just like to point out that this is not historically accurate) and thank God it did.
All hail the Bauhaus
The 20th century was awash with designers, many of whom came from an architectural background, and all were fixated on designing the most fabulous chairs. For the uninformed, Bauhaus is the name given to the particularly pertinent era of design which began in Germany in 1919 and ended in 1933. This design school created a number of amazing furniture designers and sparked a period of experimental and innovative design which has clearly inspired the majority of contemporary furniture creators.
Gerrit Rietveld never actually attended the Bauhaus but was one of the architecht / designers that inspired many who did. He was an early member of the Dutch Modernist Design Movement (De Stijl) before going on to create the Schroeder House in Utrecht, Holland. However, he is probably most famous for his Mondrian-inspired Red/Blue Chair – very stu-stu-studio line ‘n looks a bit of a beast to sit on!
Luwig Mies van der Rohe worked in an architectural firm before turning his hand to furniture, and good job he did as we wouldn’t have the fabulous Barcelona chair as seen propping up the bums of the entrepreneurs on Dragons’ Den. He was actually the director of the Bauhaus from 1930 until it closed in 1933 when the war kicked in and he scarpered to the US.
Marcel Breuer – Hungarian Breuer was a top architect and is famous for his rather quirky steel designs such as the Cesca chair below. A firm favourite of executive types that like to play with stress-bustin’ office gadgets while musing the movements of the stock market.
Le Corbusier an architect by profession is for many the most influential yet most maligned architect of the twentieth century. Famed for his ideas on urbanisation, he was a true modernist and many of his ideas were used to inspire the post war regeneration efforts. I love his Basculante chair below and of course his celebrated chaise lounge…
Alvar Aalto was a bit of a revolutionary and yep, you guessed it, a Scandinavian, well Finnish actually. His work typifies the best of 20th-century Scandinavian architecture, and he was one of the first to depart from the stiffly geometric designs in favour of a more ergonomic expression. I love his simple stool which is as popular now as it has ever been.
Eero Saarinen is more well known in design circles but your average Joe may not be familiar with the name. Another Fin, Saarinen – not to be confused with the evil overlord from LOTR – created the beautiful Tulip Chair below – simple yet beautiful.