Alvar and I

Musings about vintage design furniture

Archive for January 2010

Dutch treat

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Every modern furniture lover will drool in front masterpieces of industrial design like the Compass desk by Jean Prouve, the incredibly elegant M400 helicoidal spiral staircase from Roger Tallon, or the Mies Van der Rohe Brno chair.

Industrial design is consubstantial to the evolution of modern design. Thonet was the precursor with its No. 14 bistro chair. The Bauhaus and American schools of design (the Spring 2010 issue of Modernism has a very nice piece on Gilbert Rohde) investigated the possibilities offered by industrial production techniques to explore new forms and materials such as tubular steel and achieve the cost benefits of mass production.

Simplicity, functionality, versatility, robustness, existence outside of home, and the use of common materials come to define what is industrial furniture design, although we at Alvar and I are not entirely convinced that a satisfactory definition exists (or is needed for that matter).

Well, let us stop here since this post is not so much to write about the history of design than to celebrate the elegance of Dutch design, which we have become to be interested in lately, and not just the pioneers Mart Stam and Gerrit Rietveld.

In the 1950s true to the spirit of modernism of functional and democratic furniture, designers like Wim Rietveld, Dirk Cordemeijer, Friso Kramer, Wilhelm Gispen and Coen de Vries, for manufacturers such as Pilastro, Ahrend de Cirkel, Auping and Gispen.

In true Dutch spirit this is vintage that is practical and still affordable. We hope you will enjoy some of our favorites(from Mid Mod Design a good and friendly dealer for Dutch industrial design):

Coen de Vries¦Toonladder¦Pilastro

Dirk Cordemeijer¦Cleopatra bed¦Auping

Friso Kramer¦Revolt Chair¦Ahrend de Cirkel

Wim Rietveld¦Floor lamp¦Gispen


Bird watching

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Chair names come in various form: sometimes none at all, often product codes relating to form and function (Eames), the designer’s initials and/or the model number (Kjaerholm), a play on a metaphor, recalling a woman‘s first name (less frequently a gentleman’s one), or suggesting a tong-in-cheek joke, or for that matter whatever sprung to mind on that particular day. There are as many variations as the fertile imagination of designers or users of designs.

We were musing the other day over the name of pieces of furniture borrowed from the animal kingdom and nature in general. This is a particularly memorable way of baptizing a striking piece. I guess that what makes those names easy remembering is their association to the perfectness of nature and animals names we may have related since childhood, and of course the mnemonics of associating the organic shape (or use) of the furniture with the animal. Arne Jacobsen was a nature lover. Sometimes the name these pieces became known under where not the one given by their creator.

Thus to celebrate imaginative names for iconic chairs, I decided to do a bit of bird watching today. It also happens that some of my fondest designs have bird names. Everyone should be able to easily recall the name of a few below, but a couple might be more difficult. While you are it, try to get the designer as well and find the odd one out (click on any image to access the gallery and the answer).

Written by Alvar and I

January 24, 2010 at 7:43 pm