100 Midcentury Chairs reading notes

We have an intimate connection with chairs. They surround our bodies, they receive our imprint, they leave memories and are often passed down from family member to family member. No wonder chairs can bring out the best and worst in people. They are also the quickest way to connect with the public, which is why so many architects design them.

During the midcentury, architects found they could send a message to the world with a mass-produced chair much more quickly than they could convey it in a building.

“There is a degree of honesty and solidity about Finnish design that gives it its value. Some of the furniture is being sold now 70 years later and looks as contemporary now as it did then. They are justifiably proud of their international icons.”  – Tom Dixon

1934 – Eva Chair, T101, Bruno Mathsson, Firma Karl Mathsson

  • “The act of sitting comfortably is a skill, although it shouldn’t be. Instead, the manufacture of seating should be carried out with such skill that the act of sitting in them becomes quite simple.” – Bruno Mathsson

1934 – Chaise A, Xavier Pauchard, Tolix

  • The Tolix name was trademarked in 1927 (with the ‘x’ at the end for Xavier) after Pauchard designed a pressed, folded and welded chair with an arched back and legs, round at the front and curved at the back, with a small flare to make it stackable, and other pieces of furniture went into production. The most popular of all Tolix chairs, the Chaise A was launched in 1934.
  • “Making space profitable, putting as many drinks as possible on the tables and optimizing the back and forth journeys of the waiters; turning cafe terraces into profitable business was the challenge of my family.” – Xavier Pauchard
  • With forty-five different colours and a choice of five separate varnish coatings, the Tolix A has returned as the ubiquitous cafe chair.

1938 – Butterfly Chair, 198

  • There was no way of sitting upright in it. The only option was to slouch.

1945

  • 45 Chair
    • “The sculptural in my designs, as for instance the armrest of the 45 Chair, was probably a desire to design a chair with a certain subtlety… I measured everything I could get close to in order to find out how high the armrest could be and how high and how deep the seat could be. I had no idea as I hadn’t been taught how to design furniture.” – Finn Juhl
  • DCW (Dining Chair Wood) and LCW (Lounge Chair Wood)
    • “We have two types of plywood chairs. One has a metal base and the other has a wood base. Actually I have enjoyed the ones with the metal base the most, because I felt that in a way it divided the function of these two elements. And what I would like to feel is that you walk in the room and not feel conscious of it, I would like to feel conscious of the seat and the back, just as the two would determine the need and that the metal thing would sort of disappear in the room.” – Charles Eames

1946 – Womb Chair

  • “The womb chair attempts to achieve a psychological comfort by providing a great big cup-like shell into which you can curl up and pull up your legs, something women especially like to do.” – Eero Saarinen

1948 – Listen-To-Me Chaise, 4873, Edward J Wormley, Dunbar

  • “Modernism means freedom – freedom to mix, to choose, to change, to embrace the new but to hold fast to what is good.” – Edward J Wormle

1952 – Ant Chair, 3100, Arne Jacobsen, Fritz Hansen

  • “I based my work on a need: what chairs are needed? I found that people needed a new type of chair for the small kitchen dinettes that are found in most new building today, a little, light and inexpensive chair. At the same time, I made one that can also be used in lunchrooms, as a stacking chair. It can be stacked by inserting the chairs into one another, consequently saving both time and energy.” – Arne Jacobsen

1954-6 – Eames Lounge Chair, 670, and Ottoman, 671, Charles and Ray Eames

  • “The role of the architect or the designer is that of a very good, thoughtful, host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests.” – Charles Eames

1958 – Egg Chair, 3316, Arne Jacobsen, Fritz HansenSwan Chair, 3320, Arne Jacobsen, Fritz Hansen

  • “The primary factor is proportions. Proportions are what make the old Greek temples classic in their beauty. They are like huge blocks, from which the air has been literally hewn out between the columns.” – Arne Jacobsen

1959 – Hanging Egg Chair, Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel, R. Wengler

  • One evening in 1952 Danish husband-and-wife team Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel counted fifty furniture legs in their small sitting room and, thinking they could come up with a better seating arrangement if they worked vertically as well as horizontally, they designed their first domestic multilevel seating system. “My parents were very interested in using all dimensions of the room,” remembers Dennie Ditzel. “I think the Hanging Egg Chair is a result of the same thinking.”
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One comment

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