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Thread: Furniture Design

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    Default Furniture Design

    I have questions about furniture. I imagine others might, too.

    Hopefully there are some folks around here with answers.

    I'll start, but others should feel free to add.

    ***

    I think I want a minimalist-ish recliner for a spot in our living room. I've spotted various renditions of this basic idea:





    Does this design have a name and history behind it?
     

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    I am no expert, but an ahem armchair enjoyer of furniture.

    I would call that chair "contemporary" which I believe is an actual design movement. My wife just says, no, that's more midcentury modern. I love the functionality and elegance of it. I think it might count as contempoary. :) They are similar anyway. A well done Atomic ranch style house might have some contemporary style, and there are also what are called "contemporary" houses, which I like, too. Modernism that's not brutalism, atmo. Function and form pretty close to each other in my opinion, which is a nice thing. I like old farmhouses, French renaissance, furniture, and state-fair quilts, too. But yeah, contemporary design is so nice. We have a Danish modern bed that jives with it, a credenza/record player stand, a sofa, and a handful of other stuff. In fact, I'm typing this at my desk, which I would say is as "contemporary" as anything else we own. Maybe I'll snap a pic.
    Last edited by zambenini; 02-15-2020 at 01:50 PM.
     

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Eh, I can't upload photos from my mobile right now, but yeah, furniture is fun! Our chairs we actually bought at an estate sale, had a horrible fabric print on them, got them reupholstered in leather, saved hundreds off what new leather chairs would cost. Almost all our modern stuff is hand-me-down or acquired at thrift stores. You can find stuff cheap if you know where to look.

    I would say the chair that started it all is the Eames... now made by Herman Miller. They are the scions of that design movement. Lots of nice spin-offs.

    If i had the money, though, we would have a lot of original art deco, craftsman, and campaign style type stuff. It's all good.
     

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    @zambenini listen to your wife, that chair is mid-century.
    I like it.
    There’s a custom furniture maker on YouTube - ‘Four Eyes’ I believe - making some really nice pieces. They’re loosely based on a the mid-century modern theme. His focus is more techniques of building furniture but he does go into some history of his ideas. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to watch.
    Rick Stubblefield

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    This shop in Connecticut specializes in mid-century furniture.

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Ras72 View Post
    @zambenini listen to your wife, that chair is mid-century.
    I like it.
    There’s a custom furniture maker on YouTube - ‘Four Eyes’ I believe - making some really nice pieces. They’re loosely based on a the mid-century modern theme. His focus is more techniques of building furniture but he does go into some history of his ideas. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to watch.
    She is smart. What's contemporary then? And, she says, the rest of our stuff is mid-century.
     

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Quote Originally Posted by zambenini View Post
    She is smart. What's contemporary then? And, she says, the rest of our stuff is mid-century.
    So a lot of these terms are used fluidly to describe any number of things. BUT

    Mid-century refers to a period of design that occurred roughly from the 50's to the 60's. Some famous Mid-century designers are Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Florence Knoll, Russel Wright, etc. Many of those designs are still produced by furniture manufacturers like Knoll, Herman Miller, Vitra, and DWR as fully licensed authentic versions of the earlier original design. They are using the same materials, patterns, process and often, the same factories, that produced the designs originally, though some times finish options are expanded.

    Mid-century style furniture is furniture that is styled to refer to Mid-century designs but is not necessarily designed by a designer, but rather produced by a company who is using the language of Mid-century design to create a line of furniture that will sell to their target demographic. Because many of these designs are protected by copyright, Mid-century style furniture either has to use those designs as a leaping off point for a new design (DWR does some of this) of equal quality and similar original designer involvement, or they create furniture that references but does not copy Mid-century designs exactly (though some copyrighted designs from the Mid-century era have lost strict control of their design - see: Eames shell chair.)

    The word "Contemporary" is a catch-all phrase used to describe objects - not just furniture - the design of which is so far down the path of references to earlier designs that it has sort of lost contact with the original object. In terms of furniture, contemporary is often applied to furniture that presents a blend of Mid-century, Danish Modern and American vernacular (Shaker, Arts & Craft, Mission) styles as a single piece.

    Upper end contemporary furniture is usually designed to be of current style and in fashion without challenging the buyer too much or looking too different from what is probably already in the house. They are blended styles as above, so even if your house is furnished in Colonial reproductions, a contemporary recliner should be able to fit in well enough that it isn't awkward. Newer style with the sharp edges taken off, some aspects of a corporate furniture designs to keep it inoffensive, but also a bit cleaner and trimmer than a Barcalounger to appeal for the target demographic and encourage future purchases. Collect them all!

    Looking at this recliner, I can see some Shaker Ladder-backed chair references - don't want to get too hedonistic, after all work is honest and makes us strong:



    Some Hans Wegner Danish Modern - love that wood, so much better than Ikea wood:



    Or perhaps Carlo Mollino's Piuma tilting lounge, designed for Canali in Italy, 1960's, this one an original from that time period:



    The big thing with contemporary production furniture, even the better quality examples, is that retailers often pull from the same producers, just like carbon bike frames. So if you are a retailer who is creating a home brand, you can do everything from just buying out of a cookie-cutter wholesale catalog of designs to creating minor modifications to make the item yours to paying for a copyrighted design from an actual designer to having an independent designer create furniture pieces for you that are then translated by a producer into a mass producible product.

    DWR offers a similar recliner, but their recliner has an actual designer's name and face attached to it. The designer is Milo Baughman, the chair produced by Thayer Coggin, and built in High Point, North Carolina, a center for furniture production in the US. Baughman is sort of the definition of a contemporary furniture designer. Highly referential to other more innovative designs by other designers, relatively inoffensive, somewhat corporate and reasonably well-made.



    Some of Carlo Mollino's designs from the 60's make the DWR chair seem retrograde, so how could Baughman's design be called contemporary at all?



    Cassina, one of the preeminent modern furniture makers, builds all their own furniture in Italy by hand. Lots of joinery. Both current and historical designs that they own the production license for, like the Superleggera Chair by Carlo Ponti in the 1950's. Mid-century Italian design, but very highly skilled hand production. The chair references Shaker design, but no one would confuse it with Shaker furniture. Referential but original, built in their own factory, when ordered, one by one. Almost antique!

    Last edited by j44ke; 02-16-2020 at 02:16 PM.
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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Alright @j44ke, circle takes the square. I think I was conflating "contemporary" houses (actually a thing) with contemporary furniture. In some cool renos of contemporary houses, I see a lotta midcentury furniture.

    I love that Shaker chair so bad. We used to live near the largest Shaker establishment in the South, in Kentucky. Would visit all the time. The craftsmanship they didn't manage to pass down to their kids was stunning.
     

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Best post I’ve read in a while, Jorn.
     

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Lounge Chairs & Ottomans Archives - Thos. Moser

    No recliners, but some very nice ottoman’s for those lounge chairs.

    We look through their website about twice a year, but with two kids and two Newfoundlands(about 300 lbs of dog), we rethink our furniture priorities.
     

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Strongin View Post
    Best post I’ve read in a while, Jorn.
    Thanks! I just spent the last year figuring out what furniture to put the new house.

    Plus an art history minor in undergraduate. I am so entirely unemployable.
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    Lightbulb Re: Furniture Design

    My experience has been to visit a retailer, spend a decent amount of time in a chair, then place your order for delivery.
    Chairs will occasionally start as pretty comfortable, yet one needs 10-15 minutes to truly make a solid evaluation.
     

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    I'm a big fan of mid-century modern furniture, especially now that I live in a house with mid-century ceiling heights. My wife pointed out that our Chippendale wingback chairs looked and felt gargantuan once we moved away from Victorian-height ceilings. They've been replaced...

    We've ended up with some lovely mid-priced pieces from Room & Board and Crate & Barrel. I certainly don't love all of their stock but we've found some attractive, comfortable furniture for less than, for example, DWR.

    20180303_121622.jpg 20180303_121239.jpg

    I was delighted and nonplussed to recently discover, though, that mid-century modern furniture has entered the realm of antiques. Like Peter, I've found a fantastic local store selling a lot of gorgeous stuff. They're selling the real deal for reasonable prices.

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Polack View Post
    This shop in Connecticut specializes in mid-century furniture.
    GO!

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    @j44ke Thanks so much for the informative thread. If a person wanted to learn more about some of the now-referential furniture designs of the 20th century, is there a book or three you'd recommend to start?

    @Todd Amunrud I've admired the Moser workshop's work since seeing a friend's bench outside his office made from cherry with ash spindles. The contrast in the woods was and is just stunning. We currently have four dining room chairs that either need regluing or replacing. In my best of all possible worlds, we'd replace them with four of the Eastward Arm Chairs in walnut and ash:



    But, $6k for four dining room chairs that a puppy would put teeth marks in is a little steep.

    @zambenini I'm all in on solid vintage furniture, but around here anything but armchairs and tables have gotten pretty pricey. We spent about two years looking for a vintage sofa without success. Options included original ones for $4-6k, or buying one with good bones for $1-2k and having it refurnished for $3-5k+.

    A former neighbor of ours is a furniture restorer who mostly does craftsman and midcentury pieces, and he said they've gotten to the point that shops are taking trips to Scandinavia to fill shipping containers. They started several years ago with stuff that could be sold as-is, but now they're down to restorable pieces. And prices have gone up accordingly.

    After two years of living without a sofa, we finally broke down and ordered one from West Elm. As an aside, we both agreed that a West Elm store on a Saturday night is one of the most depressing places on earth.



    We kind of hated giving in to this sort of thing, but we got to the point of just wanting a sofa to sit on. I do wish we'd been able to find a vintage piece at a price we were willing to pay.
     

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    That thing rules! For the least depressing Saturday night possible, put a bear skin rug in front of it.
     

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Quote Originally Posted by caleb View Post
    @j44ke Thanks so much for the informative thread. If a person wanted to learn more about some of the now-referential furniture designs of the 20th century, is there a book or three you'd recommend to start?


    Thanks Caleb. I will have to look at our bookcases, which are not where I am right now.

    Based on your couch, you might start with Florence Knoll. She was a designer and, along with her husband, Hans Knoll, the head of the mid-century furniture company, Knoll. Besides bringing Eero Saarinen's and Isamu Noguchi's mid-century designs to market, she designed furniture of her own - pieces with lower profiles and squarer shapes to fit into newer style house influenced by the Case Study commissions as well as newer apartments with lower ceilings and wider windows. She is also the creator of the Knoll Planning Unit that redesigned the look of the modern office. If you've sat in an office within the last twenty years, good chance something around you was made by Knoll or influenced by their designs.



    Charles and Ray Eames I think are probably the most important mid-century designers, partly because they wrote so much and produced short films that recorded how they thought and what they thought and partly because what they were designing was so accessible. An Eames Shell Chair is brightly colored, easy to clean, easy to sit in and reasonably priced (originally - now not so much.) The Eames lounge chair, whatever your objections to modern design, was immediately comfortable to sit in - and watch TV! which was also new at that time. It even had a foot stool.

    One of their most famous short films was "The Power of 10" which talks about the relationship of scale to life & living.



    And the house they designed for themselves is still influential. Most of the ideas that they worked out while building this house - space, height, arrangement of rooms, windows - have become standards of house designs now. Even McMansions in Phoenix AZ have large high ceiling sitting/dining room areas with kitchens and bathrooms off that main space and bedrooms and offices above (even if their exteriors look like meh.)



    There is also a very good documentary worth watching on the Eames' called "Eames: The Architect and the Painter."

    I excerpted a smaller list of designers I think are important off a big list on one of the furniture sites.

    Alvar Aalto - You'll recognize his bent wood chairs probably with their serpentine curves that make arms legs and feet all one part.

    Marcel Breuer - The Wassily is a very famous chair, heavily copied. Breuer also designed the original Whitney Museum on Madison and 75th in NYC (among others.)

    Charles & Ray Eames - As above.

    Greta Grossman - A lesser known designer but one of the best (IMHO) furniture designers participating in the Case Study movement in California. Her lamps are heavily copied.

    Finn Juhl - Very influential Danish modern designer. His 108 chair will look very familiar.

    Arne Jacobsen - Particularly famous for watch and clock face designs as well as silverware. But also lots of furniture.

    Harry Bertoia - The metal Bertoia chair is everywhere, from leather upholstered side chairs to larger lounge chairs for outdoors.

    Florence Knoll - As above.

    Le Corbusier - Along with the Eames', probably one of the most important designers. Worked in a firm with Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand on a lot of designs.

    Ludwign Mies van der Rohe - Famous architect and known in the furniture world for his collection designed for the German Pavilion at the Barcelona World's Fair, now simply called the Barcelona Pavilion. The pavilion, the Barcelona Chair w/ottoman and the Barcelona Day Bed are all super significant and highly influential (all are produced by Knoll.)

    George Nakashima - American woodworker and designer extraordinaire. Brought hand made into mid-century and created the "live edge" table.

    George Nelson - Clean simple designs with some whimsy leaking out around the edges. Famous for a line of creative and colorful clocks and a sofa called the Marshmallow sofa.

    Richard Neutra - Architect known best for designing the houses that the work of many furniture designers went into. His houses for the Case Study program are nearly museum pieces (that people live in.)

    Isamu Noguchi - Designer with an incredibly long design life who made the quintessential mid-century glass coffee table and the paper globe lamps copied everywhere.

    Charlotte Perriand - Designer in the same firm as Le Courbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. She was far more influential on Le Courbusier's designs that was originally thought, and many designs originally attributed to him alone were actually collaborations or original work of Perriand's. She just had a major retrospective in Paris.

    Gio Ponti - To my mind, along with Carlo Mollino, one of the best designers from Italy in the mid-century. Really great (nearly) minimal design with a flair for angles to break up any possible monotony.

    Jean Prouvé - Angular, modern, functional designs, for schools, libraries, government offices & outposts - many designed for use in the (French colonial) tropics where wood rot was an issue. Used steel and wood. Solvay table is a favorite of mine.

    Jens Risom - Designer of the webbing chair, originally and still to this day made by Knoll. A surprisingly comfortable chair "upholstered" with woven webbing.

    Eero Saarinem - Super important architect and designer. Early collaborator with the Eames', designed the swoopy kitchen table we (and most of our friends) had in our kitchen growing up, along with the tulip chair and the womb chair - all produced by Knoll. Also designed the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Dulles Airport, TWA Terminal at JFK, Yale Hockey rink, and Lincoln Center. He liked everything to swoop.

    Ettore Sotsass - Designer of the Valentine Typewriter which came with a case that doubled as a paper holder and trashcan - for Olivetti Typewriter. Among many many other objects.

    Hans Wegner - Dutch modern designer of stately beautiful wooden furniture with nuanced curves, wood joinery and simple adornment. Amazing work, still produced by the original maker, Carl Hansen and Son.

    Russel and Mary Wright - designers of affordable dinnerware, wood furniture and home furnishings. Their American Modern dinnerware was manufactured by Steubenville Pottery and sold in incredible numbers. You will see their dinnerware in many retro shops. They wrote a book called "Guide to Easier Living" that argued for integration of living dining and cooking areas of the house and to include guests in the preparing of food and the washing up. Big proponents of devices that lessened the workload of women so they could participate in an entire evening of socializing. Manitoga, Russel Wright's house built after his wife's death, is located in Garrison NY and open for tours.

    Eva Zeisel - Zeisel was a designer of ceramics and silverware who worked with prestigious porcelain companies, Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and later with Crate & Barrel where she created a best-selling silverware set (in the late 90's?) Long life (105 years!) and prolific designer of daily usable ware.
    Last edited by j44ke; 02-20-2020 at 08:16 PM.
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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Totally tangential (except that I will often sit in a chair to enjoy it), I've got the Eames' "Powers of Ten" flipbook sitting on a nightstand next to our guest bed. It's a wonderful example of turning abstract and challenging information into an easy-to-experience design:

    GO!

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Just to throwing these out there because I love their stuff (I had Craft Associates build me a coffee and some end tables but the OTRA stuff was a bit pricey but I think it belongs in any mid-century/ modern/ contemporary discussion). Not recliners, but to add to furniture porn.

    Homepage | Craft Associates(R) Furniture – craft associates(R) furniture

    This page of the above is germane to the OP....Finished Modern Sofa's and Chairs | Craft Associates(R) Furniture – craft associates(R) furniture

    Catenary Collection – OT/TRA by Zimmerman Workshop
    Jon Mandel

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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    Here's a Wegner and I forget what else from my current collection, chairs can be as much fun as bikes:

    IMG_1417.jpg

    IMG_1419.jpg
    Steve Hampsten
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    Default Re: Furniture Design

    We got this (which is amazing that my vegetarian wife ordered it with this cover. It does come in fabrics...and other animal things). It is the most comfortable thing I have ever reclined in. It is highly adjustable. I found it at a store in British Columbia for 1000 less than Design Within Reach priced it at. (I will admit I overspent at DWR on other stuff simply because they sponsor @e-RICHIE's team and I like that). It is the Corbusier LC-4. Oh, that little table is one of the ones from Craft Associates that I mentioned above.

    LC-4 by Jon Mandel, on Flickr
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