Pouls by Daniel Melente, as seen at Design Without Borders 2024, Budapest

In 1949 Edgar Kaufmann Jr. the, then, Director of the Industrial Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, reflected, not uncritically, that “as more and more new chairs become available to the buying public, the problem of selection begins to be bewildering.” A truism that has lost nothing in contemporaneousness over the decades; and also a very nice eyewitness observation from the early days of the rise of the post 1939-45 War American furniture design industry. And of its associated, parasitic, mimics.

“Is it true”, Kaufmann asks, in context of his reflections, “that our needs are so varied?”1

Just one of a great many questions of chairs, seats, sitting and sitters A Chair and You at the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, encourages, empowers, you to reflect upon…….

A Chair and You, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

Rowac at Berlin Design Week 2024

For all that steel tubing is the popular personification of the rise of the novel in furniture and interior design in context of the developing industrialisation of the first third of the 20th century, that primary representative of the rise of the machine and its victory over craft, in many regards the real symbol of the progress of the period was the novel synthetic plastics being developed, Bakelite being inarguably the best known and most widely employed.

Yet while in the 1920s and 30s the likes of a Christian Dell developed interesting, instructive, objects from novel plastics, ably demonstrated the possibilities of the novel materials contemporary chemistry was bringing forth, their use in objects of daily use remained limited, not least on account of problems of structural stability and durability; limited, save, arguably, and unfortunately, Bakelite’s use in the construction of Walter Maria Kersting’s Volksempfänger radio, that piece of contemporary design the NSDAP used so efficiently and so knowledgeably to transport their nefarious agenda and toxic propaganda into every home. Yes, there is a lesson to be learned there.

The 1930s however also saw the first patents for a novel synthetic plastic that would not only demonstrate the possibilities of the novel materials, but which had the characteristics to enable it to make those possibilities realities: polyurethane

A material that, it’s fair to say, on its commercial introduction in the 1960s, revolutionised not only furniture design but furniture production as fundamentally as a Michael Thonet once had with his adaptation of the dark art of woodbending. While the colour polyurethane enabled brought a vitality and freshness and exuberance that, it’s equally fair to say, revolutionised interiors. Allowed 1960s and 70s interiors to Pop.

And while today polyurethanes are more critically analysed than they once were, their use is rightly questioned today, as is the proposition of alternatives actively considered, the developments of the 1960s and 70s, the positions that were advanced in that period and the understandings of furniture that arose in that period remain.

If often popularly only very poorly, superficially, understood.

As is the (hi)story of furniture and interior design in the two Germanys of the 1960s and 70s.

As are the intersections of the political, economic, social (hi)stories of the two Germanys of the 1960s and 70s.

With PURe Visions. Plastic Furniture Between East and West the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden go deep into the (hi)story of polyurethane furniture in the two Germanys of the 1960s and 70s and thereby also allow one to approach better appreciations of the (hi)story of furniture and interior design in the two Germanys, and of the wider (hi)story of the two Germanys……

PURe Visions. Plastic Furniture Between East and West, Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden

Morari by Jesse Altmann, Valentina Lenk and Klara Schneider, as seen at Berlin Design Week 2024

Dedas by Annabella Hevesi, as seen at Berlin Design Week 2024

As noted from the exhibition Der ungesehene Designklassiker at the Deutsches Stuhlbaumuseum, Rabenau, alongside the introduction, re-introduction, enabled to the EW 1192 by Horst Heyder, a work that was, in all probability, the most widely found, most widely used, chair in the DDR and, potentially, one of the chairs existent in the greatest population densities anywhere ever, and thus a chair that inarguably shouldn’t need to be re-introduced, but which on account of the nature of the development of Europe since 1989 sadly does, one also finds a contemporary 21st century re-design of the EW 1192 by Leipzig based designer Jacob Strobel.

A re-design that poses the question darf one re-design a work such as the EW 1192?, is one allowed to re-design a work such as the EW 1192?

¿Is one allowed to re-design a work that was one of the most widely found, most widely used, chairs in the (hi)story of a nation?

¿Is one allowed to re-design a work that so eloquently and succinctly allows access to more nuanced appreciations of the (hi)story of furniture design in the DDR?

¿Is one allowed to re-design a work that is one of the few surviving testaments to the work of Horst Heyder, an individual who played an important role in the development of furniture design in the DDR?

¿Is one allowed to re-design a work that is one of the few surviving testaments to the work of the Entwicklungsbüro Waldheim, an institution who played an important role in the development of furniture design in the DDR?

¿Is one allowed to re-design a work that is an artefact of daily life in the DDR, in a nation no longer existent?

¿Darfst du?

???

Standing in the Deutsches Stuhlbaumuseum looking at that contemporary re-design it occurred to us that there was one person particularly well placed to answer that question, one person who’d already considered it in a lot more detail than us. So we we asked them: ¿Is one allowed to re-design a work such as the EW 1192, Jacob Strobel?

¿Darfst du?

The EW 1192 by Horst Heyder (l) and the EW 1192 Horst by Jacob Strobel (r), as seen at Der ungesehene Designklassiker, Deutsches Stuhlbaumuseum, Rabenau

Imagine you were one of the best selling and most widely used chairs in your country. But (hi)story had forgotten you.

Imagine you were informative in context of elucidating important, but rarely illuminated, chapters in the (hi)story of furniture design. But (hi)story had forgotten you.

Imagine you were instructive in context of the practice and craft and industry of furniture design. But (hi)story had forgotten you.

Imagine you were in use in a great many locations. But no-one saw you. No-one knew your name. Just sat on you.

Imagine you were the EW 1192 by Horst Heyder.

With Der ungesehene Designklassiker the Deutsches Stuhlbaumuseum, Rabenau, not only enable one to imagine, but for all begin to redress the situation……

Der ungesehene Designklassiker, Deutsches Stuhlbaumuseum, Rabenau

Beetlechair by Alexander von Dombois, as seen at Passagen Interior Design Week Cologne 2024

The Historia Supellexalis T for Thonet

Thonet

A Michael; A Twist; A Portfolio of Patents

The H2L lounge chair by Studio Machwerk, as seen at Grassimesse 2023, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

New Sources by Matthias Gschwendtner, as seen at Grassimesse 2023, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

“Something is happening to the way people live” opined Nanna Ditzel in 1961; changing realities which caused her to reflect that, in terms of our furniture and interiors, “don’t we carry around a whole load of stuff that is old and defunct – and could actually be different.”1

With the exhibition Nanna Ditzel. Taking Design to New Heights, Trapholt, Kolding, explore how Nanna Ditzel approached and understood and realised that “different”…….

Nanna Ditzel. Taking Design to New Heights, Trapholt, Kolding

Rom and Lupa from Lentala, as seen at Stockholm Furniture Fair 2023

Stockholm Furniture Fair 2023: Say Hej! to... VS Stakki by Martin Ballendat for VS Vereinigte Spezialmöbelfabriken

Stockholm Furniture Fair 2023 Say Hej! to... Nychair X Rocking by Takeshi Nii & Makoto Shimazaki

Our recent reflections on the La Fonda bar stool by Charles and Ray Eames, and also our recent reflections on Goethe’s Donkey, Goethe’s chair “just high enough that one can sit half-standing”, got us very naturally thinking a lot about stools of all types, the various and varied places one meets stools, the various and varied manners via which stools interact with and contribute to our daily lives, the (hi)story and development of the stool, in particular in context of the (hi)stories and developments of global societies; and also the cultural and social relevance of the stool, and the stool figurative, the stool metaphoric……

Radio smow: A Stool Playlist…….

Upholstered furniture is called upholstered furniture for a reason, yet how often do we consider the upholstery rather than the furniture; or more accurately, how often do we consider the upholstery that makes furniture upholstered furniture? How often do we consider the upholstery that makes upholstered furniture such a singular genre of furniture? How often do we consider the upholstery that bequeaths upholstered furniture such a singular status?

With the exhibition Deep-seated. The Secret Art of Upholstery the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, invite you to do just that…….

Deep-seated. The Secret Art of Upholstery, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

“Dear Architect” wrote Maria Chinaglia Ponti in 1967 to the architect, but no relation, Gio Ponti, “why don’t you design us some modern furniture? Daddy Walter is worried because our traditional stuff is not selling as it used to”.1

An unsolicited request, from a company of whom he’d never heard, an architect of the status of a late 1960s Gio Ponti could have turned down, it wasn’t as if a late 1960s Gio Ponti needed the commission; however, something about the letter from Maria Chinaglia Ponti interested, intrigued, Gio Ponti. Beyond the shared surname. For as he continues, in his recounting of the tale, “Ci vado“.

“I went to see them”…….

Gabriella Chair by Gio Ponti for Walter Ponti

With furniture, as with so much in life, it is rarely the showy, high profile, works, or individuals, that teach us most, but those works, and those individuals, who in their anonymity and modesty accompany us in invisible silence.

Or rather the anonymous and quiet could teach us most, if we spent less time being distracted by, letting ourselves willingly be distracted by, the noise of the showy.

With the project Monobloc author and director Hauke Wendler, and a team of co-collaborators, offer us all an opportunity to focus on, and learn from, an object we’ve all seen and used, but only rarely, if ever, openly engaged with…….

Monobloc Hauke Wendler Rutger Fuchs Hatje Cantz

“…one only finds warmth of life and sincerity where human nature is allowed to flourish”, opined the German designer Erich Dieckmann in 1931, “one shouldn’t forget that in our apartments. Let’s treat our contemporary homes to something humane. Something unelaborate, something provisional, with some leeway and space for things to grow as they wish over time.”1

With the exhibition Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann, the Kunststiftung des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt and Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin extend an invitation to explore how Erich Dieckmann understood an unelaborate, humane, contemporary apartment full of leeway and space to grow…….

Chairs: By Dieckmann!, as seen at Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann, Neuwerk 11, Halle

The Historia Supellexalis G for Grcic

Grcic

A Konstantin; A Nurturing; A Reduction

As Peer Gynt reminisces with his dying mother, they dwell long and fondly on how, when Peer was a child, they would imagine his bed was a sleigh whisking them across a frozen fjord, a sleigh pulled by “fleet-foot horses”.

Or more accurately by a cat proxying for fleet-foot horses; a cat who before being pressed into service as a horse had been peacefully “sad på en kubbestol1, sat upon a kubbestol: a chair hewn from a tree trunk, and an item of furniture which is as closely associated with Norway as is Peer Gynt, and which may have led just have as many lives and have just as many tales to tell…..

A World of Vernacular Furniture: The kubbestol/kubbstol

In all corners of the globe one finds objects of furniture which developed in response to local conditions, traditions and practices; vernacular objects without a formal author and which although, on account of?, arising from a very specific place and time can, invariably, both teach us a lot about the essentials of furniture and help explain furniture’s relationships with wider realities.

And objects we want to celebrate, starting with arguably, one of the best known examples of vernacular furniture: the Windsor chair.

A World of Vernacular Furniture: The Windsor Chair

The metal wire chair is such a well established seating genre it is hard to imagine it is possible to do anything new with it. Far less anything exciting.

However……

ArNO by Bright Potato, as seen at Meet My Project, Paris Design Week 2018