Mats Theselius – Swedish Furniture Designer

Posted on 21st September 2011 in Swedish Designers

Seen as a hot new designer in the world of Swedish modern furniture, Mats Theselius was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1956. He studied industrial design at Konstfackskolan, known as HD K and opened his own studio where he began to be noticed in 1985 with the release of his design the “Elk Skin Easy Chair”. He released his first collection called Algskinnsfatoljen, producing a series of 360 chairs resembling a cut out cylinder. This includes well known chairs; the “Rex Chair” in 1994, the “El Rey” in 1999 and the “Embassy Chair” in 1999 for the Swedish Embassy in Berlin. The “Rex Chair” is upholstered in moose leather sporting a steel frame with exterior steel detailing.
Källemo, producing most of his designs since 1989, in 1990, he designed the “Aluminum Lounge Chair” made of aluminum and beech. It is considered post modern with an interesting contrast of a classical weave pattern interfaced with a machine like appearance of the base and back supported by metal legs that resemble more a brace than a leg.
The “Chaise lounge” in 1992, is a limited edition piece made from a steel frame with a car-enamel finish covered in leather. Its’ unique roller coaster curves lay atop felt lined storage below.
With a focus on designing club and lounge chairs, “The Ritz” in 1994, echoes some of the same lines of a classic leather club chair redefined into contemporary furniture by the addition of lacquered metal. With non matching legs in the front and back, it looks as inviting to sit in as it is intriguing to look at.
The release of the “Elektra” in 2001 again with aluminum, leather and lacquered metal appears as if the top half of a traditional club chair has been placed upon a modern metal base. The “El Dorado’ in 2002 resembles a cut out cylinder upholstered in leather with brass accents.
The “Bruno Chair” has a chromed steel frame that is slipped through the leather that forms the main body of the chair. With attention to detail and construction, parts of the leather are snapped around the frame to hold it in place.
It is clear why he is held in high regard in terms of contemporary Swedish modern furniture designers. His design abilities extend beyond furniture to glassware, table ware, lighting fixtures, boots, every day household and decorative accessory items making sure that great design is both affordable and accessible to everyone.

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Louise Campbell – Danish Furniture Designer

Posted on 20th September 2011 in Danish Furniture Designers

Louise Campbell is a contemporary, modern furniture designer who is described as providing a fresh and innovative way of looking at the everyday as well as finding new ways to construct it. Born to a Danish father and an English mother in Copenhagen in 1970, she graduated from the London College of Furniture in 1992. Continuing her studies at Denmark’s Design School in 1995, she opened her own studio in 1996.
Her interest in modern design covers the range of furniture, lighting, table ware, product and interior design. She is actively engaged in designing and setting up exhibitions of contemporary crafts as well as a collaborative effort between her and others in the design industry called “Walk the Plank”. Walk the Plank was started in the late 1990’s as a method for furniture designers and cabinet makers to encourage and support creativity and uphold high standards of craftsmanship among Danish designers. This has held to the design of some rather unique pieces of furniture as the initial starting point is a solid plank of wood. Modern furniture design challenged to provide both form and function organically and utilitarian.
With her modern furniture being produced by Louis Poulsen Lighting, HAY, MUUTO and Zanotta her work has become well known winning several awards. In 2004, she won the Finn Juhl Prize, in 2005 gold for Campbell Pendlen and in 2007, the Bruno Mathsson Award.
With her playful and imaginative sense of bending the possibility of reality, the “Bless You” chair designed in 1999 of felt and gelatin it was inspired by a used pocket handkerchief. “Leave Your Mark’ in 2002 was designed as an attempt to relieve tension in waiting rooms. With four sharp knives attached to the table top, it encourages personalizing the table top in same manner.
The Folda- series , 2001, which includes a sofa and a chair, is unique in its flexibility to accommodate four different positions, from 120 degrees to flat and the method of construction. Unlike traditional manufacturing where the upholstery is sewn last, here it is sewn first and then it is filled with the plywood and foam and zipped together.
A modern furniture piece that she originally designed for the Hay in 2001, she produced by combining water cut neoprene rubber with laser cut steel. A surprising contrasts of visual transparency and materials, it was inspired by Prince Frederik who was at once traditional nobility and yet in tune with his generation. She is noted for producing modern furniture pieces with this particular recurring theme.

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Peter Opsvik – Norwegian Furniture Designer

Posted on 19th September 2011 in Norwegian Furniture Designer

Peter Opsvik, born on March 25, 1939 in Norway, is an industrial designer and jazz musician, and is best known for his innovative and ergonomic chairs. Opsvik has been a keen observer of the human form and how we interact with the space around us. His observations as a professional designer, notably of people sitting in front of computers for long periods, have reinforced his belief that this practice alone is responsible for a multitude of back related injuries. Opsvik is fervently working to change the way we sit, and wrote a book on the quest, “Rethinking Sitting”, 2009, explains the philosophy involved in his chair designs.
After graduating from Bergen arts school in 1963, he studied at the State industrial arts school. In 1965, he joined the Tandberg Radio Factory, designing portable radios until 1970, when he became a freelance furniture designer.
Opsvik’s philosophy combines that of ensuring what is best for the body as well as creatively designing the element. The result is unconventional seating solutions, in which he has attempted to overcome stereotypical sitting habits. While experts have attempted to define a correct sitting posture, Opsvik desires to design products which allow a variety of different postures using the same chair. His belief that “being in balance inspires movement as well as control” challenged the notion that body support must be achieved for sitting comfortably.
He also forces a closer look at the feet which, according to him, are overlooked by ergonomics theories. Propelling us in all situations is the responsibility of the feet and legs. The feet, therefore, are what Opsvik believed to be the natural control which the chair responds to.
Among his chair designs: the Tripp Trapp (1972) a chair designed to grow with a child, toddler to teenager. It continues to be manufactured by Stokke and has sold more than 7,000,000 copies. The saddle chair, launched in the 1980’s, was inspired by the horseback rider’s posture, allowing the user to accommodate a variety of sitting postures. In 2010, this classic could enjoy an even wider audience with the introduction of the Capisco Puls design.
Opsvik continues to innovate new designs suited to the posture and movement among different age groups. He observes, “creating awareness of the need and the possibility of improving in several cases, will be the most valuable thing during the process of designing.”

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Tom Dixon – English Furniture Designer

Posted on 16th September 2011 in English Furniture Designers

Tom Dixon – Tom Dixon is a modern day, self-taught designer, born in 1959 in Sfax, Tunisia, he later moved to England when he was four years old where he discovered a particular love and talent in welding repairing damaged motorcycle frames that led him to bigger design challenges in adulthood.

His talent progressed to the point that he was considered a designer of merit when his S-Chair was produced by Giulio Cappellini 1991. It was during this time he also opened his own manufacturing company Eurolounge, and designed the Pylon Chair in 1991, again for Cappellini who produced it in 1992. He continued his exploration with this kind of production method and materials through his use of welding, manufacturing a hand-formed extruded chair in 2002.

In 1997, he became the head designer for the Habitat furniture chain stores and Artek, a Finnish furniture manufacturer. He left Habitat in 2008 however, he has remained with Artek, which was initially started by Alvar Aalto. As part owner, this experience is teaching him patience and a high level of craftsmanship expressed through wood.

He is also known to have a streak of altruism sometimes giving away his designs for free like the 500 EPS chairs in 2006 that he followed in the next year by giving away 1,000 blow lights in Trafalgar Square. He says his interest is in sustainability and pursues this through a unique process of buying back original Artek pieces from public institutions. He replaces them with newer versions, having found a willing and lucrative market of collectors for the older pieces.

Not content to only design furniture, he also produces accessories and lighting. One of his more recent pieces is the Void Light Mini Brass that references the Olympic medals. Available in stainless steel and copper the Void Light Mini Brass is a double-walled fixture with a concealed halogen bulb that embodies the most basic of modern design, form and function.
The Fan Chair is an interesting re-interpretation of the classic Windsor chair. The wood spindles are steamed allowing them to be thinned and bent to create the unique silhouette. Described as a maverick in the design industry, a friend described him as a “vertebrate designer”.

“That means that I design from the bones outwards and am not really interested in surface.”

While he has never received formal training, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Birmingham City University in 2004 and awarded an OBE for his work for the British Design in 2000.
Currently, he has a company called Art and Technology which owns the furniture lines Artek and Tom Dixon. He also hasa design studio, Design Research. He continues to evolve his design and is currently exploring blow moulding, and vacuum metalizing.

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Ray Eames – American Furniture Designers

Posted on 15th September 2011 in American Designers

Charles Ray EamesRay Eames – To speak about Ray Eames necessitates speaking about her husband Charles Eames as well. A couple famous for their work together to produce classic modern furniture and architecture, she was born in Sacramento, California on December 15, 1912. She graduated from Bennett Women’s College in 1933 and went onto to study abstract expressionist painting with Hans Hofmann founding the American Abstract Artists group three years later in New York.

It was in 1940 that she entered the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Here she met her future husband, Charles Eames while putting together her drawings and models for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition. Moving to Los Angeles their marriage would prove to be the merging of outstanding design talent in both modern furniture design and architecture.
Ray Eames also designed several covers for the magazine Arts & Architecture in 1943, 1944 and 1947. As well, her design interest led her to explore the creation of several textile designs, two of which the Crosspatch and Sea Things were produced by the same company that also produced Salvador Dali and Frank Lloyd Wright, Schiffer Prints.

Ray Eames opened an office with Charles Eames in Venice, California from 1943-88. Like other modern designers during this time, they explored modern furniture design utilizing new materials in innovative ways. They were particularly creative first with molded plywood and later in the 1950’s, experimenting with fiberglass, plastic resin and wire mesh. These were turned into chairs that were designed for and produced by Herman Miller. While Charles Eames received credit for the designs Ray Eames should have received equal credit. Prolific, their designs spanned from 1935 to 1984 with the Eames Sofa that was produced after Charles Eames death.

The furniture they designed such as the Eames Plywood Lounge Chair (1945) was to be produced as an affordable item that was both comfortable and suitable for mass marketing. It was in 1956 that they designed their first high-end modern design, the Eames Lounge Chair that incorporated their signature molded plywood and leather.

Not content to only design furniture and buildings they also explored film making producing Powers of Ten in 1977. Fascinated with technology and rationalism as a part of modern design, they created a number of exhibitions, “Mathematica: a world of numbers…and beyond” in 1961 that still exists today.

It is ironic but perhaps not surprising that when she died in 1988 it was exactly ten years later to the day when Charles died.

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Robert Wilson – American Furniture Designer

Posted on 14th September 2011 in American Designers

Robert WilsonRobert Wilson – Born in Waco, Texas in 1941, Robert Wilson is a multi-talented artist, performer, director, lighting designer, sculptor and furniture designer. When creating modern furniture and sculpture pieces for his stage productions, they are usually limited collections, highly prized for his imagination and re-envisioning of the material world. His works can be seen in galleries, museums and of course as part of private art collections.

First studying business administration at the University of Texas, he continued his studies and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute in 1965. Expanding his artistic repertoire, he also studied painting with George McNeil and architecture with Paolo Soleri.

Forming his own company in 1968, one of his first successes was his collaboration with Philip Glass for the production of “Einstein on the Beach” in 1976. He designed the Einstein on the Beach Chair that appears to be an elongated segmented chair of steel.

His reinterpretation of function through form sometimes provides for a second look. Such is the case in the Parzival chair which literally has its shadow attached to it. It was inspired by the production “Parzival” in 1987 and made of bleached birch with black lacquer. He also likes to play with scale in its extremes as shown with the pencil thin soaring lines of the Little Prince Chair designed for “Wings on Rock” in 1998, the Elsa Chair designed for “Lohengrin” in 1991 made of brass and the impossible over the top Lear Throne which has a back almost 166 inches high.
For the production of “Madame Butterfly” in 1992, the Madame Butterfly Chair is made of lacquered wood, bamboo and steel and the Malady of Death Chair designed for the production of “The Malady of Death” in 1992 sweeps with soaring, modern minimalist lines that twists onto itself using upholstery over wood.

“The chairs that I’ve designed are more like sculptures, I always give them names…The Marie Curie chair, made from thin, steel rods, comes with an audio tape extract from the scientist’s dairy.”

The Meek Girl Chair designed for the production of “The Meek Girl” in 1994 is a simple design of a wonderfully curved back suspended by a single rod above a half circle seat, both of wood with veneers and a single extended animals hoofed leg.

The Pamina Bed designed for the production “The Magic Flute” in 1991 and the Leonce and Lena Bed are fanciful ideas of a function. Modern furniture is accelerated with his design of the Rudolf Hess beach Chairs, 1979 constructed of nickel plated and steel and Marion’s Chaise designed for “Danton’s Death” in 1992 prove his facile incorporation of function to form, pure modern furniture.

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Charles Rennie Mackintosh – English Furniture Designer

Posted on 13th September 2011 in English Furniture Designers

Charles Rennie MackintoshCharles Rennie Mackintosh -  Born June 1868 and living until December 1928 in Glasgow, he designed in the Arts and Crafts movement incorporating modernist design influences. First apprenticed to John Hutchinson, a local architect he moved to a larger firm of Honeyman and Keppie in 1889.

Wanting to expand his talents as an architect, he enrolled in the Glasgow School of Art where he earned the Alexander Thomson Traveling Studentship to travel to Italy. As he continued to develop his architectural designs he felt that designers should be given greater freedom of artistic expression. To this end, he began to expand his artistic aspirations to include decorative forms, graphic art, metalwork and the beginnings of modern furniture design. He embraced the modernist concepts of design of innovation rather than a repetition of traditional design. Modern design would continue to evolve including the use of organic forms and materials, his designs remained focused around the needs of people. He viewed his designs as a work of art to be appreciated and used.

He, like Frank Lloyd Wright, was not content to only design the building but to include the complete design of the interiors as well. This included the furnishings down to the smallest of details, the silverware as well.

In 1904, he was commissioned to design The Hill House in Helensburgh in 1904. Designing both the exterior and the interior furnishings, he went on to design a series of tearoom interiors sponsored by Catherine Cranston. This commission lasted between 1896 t0 1917. He was given a free rein to design as he pleased resulting in his signature high-back chairs, light fixtures, wall decorations and the silverware.

His modern furniture designs were produced with care and skill incorporating the influences of Glasgow, the Art Nouveau movement, the Japanese and the refreshingly, unexpected lines, materials and the exploration of new construction methods of the Modernist era.

The curved lattice-back chair designed for the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow, was a stylized interpretation of a willow tree, with the seat made of horse hair and the frame with ebonized oak used by the Willow Tea Rooms to separate his all white front saloon from the darker, back one.

With an impossibly tall back, he designed a desk for the drawing room, 120 Main Street in Glasgow. This was a piece that he collaborated with Margaret Macdonald who supplied the silvered metal panels portraying stylized female figures. The desk, of oak painted white, was practical designed for side doors that provided storage for paper. He designed another writing cabinet for this same home, highly imaginative, using mahogany and sycamore, ebonized with pear tree, mother-of-pearl, ivory, glass inlays with metal fittings.

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Verner Panton – Danish Furniture Designers

Posted on 12th September 2011 in Danish Furniture Designers

Verner Panton – Considered one of Denmark’s most influential furniture and interior designers of the 20th century, Verner Panton (1926-1998) was a fearless pioneer in designing with a variety of materials, including plastics in bold colors. Though his style most often invokes the 1960s, his designs continue to be popular today. Panton’s classic furniture models were, as of 2004, still in at the house of Vitra and others.

He studied architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Art, and graduated in 1951, becoming a uniquely gifted and talented artist. His work would reflect his skill in his designs in seating, lighting, wall elements, the environment and fabric through the late 1970s. His early career was began working at the firm of another Danish architect and designer, Arne Jacobsen. Panton, not known to work well with others, opened his own design and architectural office. This era of his work included a collapsible house (1955) and the Cardboard House and the Plastic House (1960.)

His seating designs towards the end of the 1950s became more unconventional – chairs were made with no legs and without a visible back. In 1960, Panton introduced the Stacking chair or S chair – the very first single-form injection-molded plastic chair. It has become his most famous and mass-produced piece. The chair realized one of Panton’s fundamental objectives: a plastic chair as an affordable industrial product. A cantilever base offers seating comfort and its shape conforms to the body. The piece is can be used indoors or outdoors.

Among some of his other highly acclaimed achievements: he was the first to create inflatable furniture; the interior design of a German boat, now a famous museum; the cone chair (1958); a European hotel that designed with cylindrical furniture and circular patterns and his design work conducted for Der Spiegel, a German publication.

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Edward Wormley – American Furniture Designer

Posted on 8th September 2011 in American Designers

Edward Wormley – Born at the turn of the century in 1907, Edward Wormley started to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. Unable to finish because of financial constraints he became an interior designer for Marshall Fields & Company department store. His life improved when he was hired by Dunbar Furniture Company located in Berne, Indiana.

Directed to upgrade their product line, his understanding of historical and classical elements and his refined reinterpretation through the modern furniture design venacular proved to be immediately successful. When the company chose in 1944 to focus exclusively on modern lines, he incorporated Scandinavian and European influences producing high quality and elegantly subtle modern furniture. The company also stood out for its reputation of making each piece of furniture by hand.

When he opened his own office in 1945 in New York, he remained as a consultant to the Dunbar Furniture Company. Designing the “Precedent” collection for Dunbar’s competition, the Drexel Furniture Company put his relationship with Dunbar at risk. One of his earlier pieces was the “Long Bermuda Bench” produced between 1949-1950, an understated piece of minimalist furniture with teal colored seat pad and side bars perched atop five slender wood tapered legs.

While his designs were successful and popular, it was when he was included in the Good Design Exhibitions from 1950 – 1955 that his designs were given a more prominent spot next to other well known designers of his time.

With a stronger connection to the Dunbar Furniture Company he launched the “Janus” collection in 1957. One of his designs focused on occasional tables the better known of the Janus line topped with red Natzler tiles. Made from walnut wood, its detailing is unique, purely modern in line with an octagonal shaped top.

Even Playboy choose to showcase modern furniture and in an article in 1961 they featured one of his designs called the “Téte-â-Téte” sofa which featured an opposing back and arm rest so when seated the sitters are face to face. Like an extended cube it was supported on each end by three legs with padded leather overall.

Modern furniture designers sometimes would inject humor into the design of the furniture as well as its name. In 1964, he designed the “Toadstool Stools” which look not surprisingly like a toadstool. Made from 8 steam-bent oak paddles held together by an enameled steel ring along with a “crown” padded leather seat it was both fun and functional, true to modern design principles.

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Cini Boeri – Italian Furniture Designer

Posted on 7th September 2011 in Furniture Designers

Cini Boeri – Born in Milan in 1924, she is an Italian designer who studied and graduated as an architect from the Politecnico di Milano University in 1951.

Starting her own modern furniture design studio in 1963, she released the first mono-block polyurethane foam seat absent of internal structure. It was produced by Arflex, an Italian furniture company. This began a long period of cooperation between her and Marco Zanuso, founder of the firm.

Working again with polyurethane, the “Serpentone” sofa was designed with thin strips of this material wrapped around a flexible central core producing modern furniture pieces that were unrestricted as to shape or length.

Modern furniture designers with their endless imagination and fanciful disregard for the traditional and the expected, Cini Boeri created the “Strips” sofa that has been best described as a quilted puffed jacket.

Expanding into international markets, some of her designs were also produced by the Italian company Gavina and in 1968 Knoll Furniture began distributing her designs from Gavina into the United States. While these pieces are more rigid in shape, her signature inclusion of soft upholstery remained intact.
She also ventured into working with glass and designed the “Ghost” chair with collaborator Tomu Katayanagi in 1987 that received world acclaim. It is fabricated from a single piece of 12 millimeter glass.

Having been awarded many prizes like the Compasso D’Oro in 1979 for the “Strips” sofa and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles in 2008, her work is on display in museums and international exhibitions. She has also been engaged to teach around the world including the University of California in Berkeley, the Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Michigan and where she attended school, the Milan Polytechnic.

She continues to produce notable modern furniture pieces. One of her more recent pieces is the cini boeri sofa produced in 2008 of a powder coated formed steel tubing with an option of either textile or a leather finish; it is graceful and sleekly modern with a European aesthetic. The collection includes a lounge chair and ottoman as well in the same contemporary style.

As she continues to design, her interest in the exploration of materials and stretching the limits of their physical properties has allowed for creative and innovative modern furniture designs. With her compounded interest in industrial design, she has made a note of specializing in understanding the relationship between people and their physical surroundings and in expressing this in modern furniture designs unique to Cini Boeri.

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