Born into a family of carpenters, it was expected that Bruno Mathsson would take up the trade that had been in the family for four generations. Born in Värnamo, Sweden, Mathsson’s interest in furniture design, especially in the form and function of furniture led him to be a great modern furniture designer, with a particular talent in creating modern chairs. The Swedish architect, born in 1907, focused primarily on furniture, but also designed homes around the world.
Bruno Mathsson learned his trade at the heels of his father, who had learned the same way. And while he enjoyed learning how to work with wood, it was obvious he was destined to move into something bigger.
As a member of the early modernist movement in the 1920, Mathsson took his knowledge of wood technology and brought it to the next level by following the trend of using form and function combined with new materials to create new furniture. Surrounded by an era of new technologies. Mathsson was born to be a carpenter, but the environmental influences of art, forum and function conjoined together to capture the young mind of Mathsson.
For over 10 years he studied design before he created his first modern piece of furniture – the Grasshopper after an inspirational visit to the Stockholm Fair of 1930.
With its long streamlined legs, lack of upholstery and a frame covered with a pleated webbing around solid birch legs, the chair was modern design at its best. Created for the local Värnamo Hospital, the Grasshopper chair was hidden away because people thought it so ugly. But young Bruno Mathsson did not give up.
The modern furniture designer had fallen in love with his bent-wood technique and continued to create new chairs until his first show in 1936 where he displayed his modern designs at the Röhsska Arts and Craft Museum in Gothenburg.
However, it wasn’t until the following year in 1937 when Mathsson began to garner international acclaim as a modern furniture designer. His appearance at the World Fair in Paris 1937 and subsequent appearance at the New York Museum of Modern Art when it opened in 1939 as well as a fair in San Francisco brought Mathsson fame world-wide as a furniture designer.
Despite beginning to garner international acclaim, Bruno Mathsson kept his roots close to home, opting to keep his hometown Värnamo as his place of work. Mathsson did however, keep in contact with designers and furniture stores all over the world, including America where he traveled to visit in the 1940s learning from some of the greatest furniture designers in the United States—Walter Gropius, Hans Knoll and Frank Lloyd-Wright. These visits resulted in one of Mathsson’s largest design achievements—the glass house.
These glass houses were built atop a concrete plate with all the wiring and electrical placed under the floor. Only one wall was constructed of solid material such as brick while the other three were made of a specially-designed glass that was triple-glazed and had nitrogen filling in the air gaps to seal the house.
As technology began to transform the materials available for furniture design, Bruno Mathsson went back to creating modern furniture in the 60s after growing tired of building glass houses. After a few successes with a table and other chair, he began traveling to Japan where he began using Japanese influences to create new designs.
It was the ergonomic and classic shapes of Mathsson’s furniture that have made him one of the greatest furniture designers of the modern world. Even when he began using steel, he didn’t change the soft flow of his designs, keeping the streamlined and elegant look to his creations.
Today, his creations can be found worldwide, with influences in furniture stores worldwide. As a great Swedish designer, Bruno Mathsson is replicated by furniture designers all over.