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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Christophe Pillet – French Furniture Designer

Posted on 6th September 2011 in French Designers

Christophe Pillet – French Furniture Designer – A younger modern furniture designer, he was born in 1959. Graduating from the Fine Arts Academy in Nice in 1985, he continued his studies at the Domus Academy in Milan. A year after he opened his own design firm in 1993, he was awarded the title of Best Designer of 1994.

Using his creative abilities to work in a wide swath of fields like stage design, architecture, interior design, product and furniture design he has worked with well known Phillipe Starcke for over five years and in 2005 began collaborating with Porro.

One interesting element that he likes to weave into his modern furniture designs is the use of fire which he views as a sensual and delicate element that works well with contemporary furniture. He also designed a collection of minimalist tables labeled “Neat” produced by Kristalia. While the materials used aluminum, plywood and white lacquer are straightforward enough it is the actual production that gets more involved. With a barely there profile it lives up to its name as no frills, only the most essential of bare modern lines.

The chair “Pulp” is a unique one piece molded to conform to the shape of the human body it cantilever’s back with a profile as intriguing as its appearance. Immensely suitable for constant use such as in an office setting or public reception areas, it can be easily cleaned and lends itself easily to being stacked.

He is responsible for creating the interiors for the Hotel Sezz in Saint-Tropez, France. With his signature less is more approach to his minimalist modern furniture designs, the “Triomphe Sofa” typifies his interest in designing furniture that has what it needs and no more with a softly rounded back and strikingly defined lines.

An intriguing outside patio furniture piece is the “Loop Bench” which is made of polypropylene which is color fast and resistant to fading from the sun.  Completely 100% recyclable, it also collision proof. With an understated brilliant simplicity, imagine a rubber wrist band compressed with an oblong void left in the middle. With completely rounded edges it is child friendly as well.

He also works with more luxurious materials and finishes as well. The “Rive Droite Armchair” is made of walnut with seat and back cushions filled with down and covered in either textiles or leather. With almost no apparent connections between the pieces of the frame it is a simple and elegant design of pure modern furniture.

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Finnish Furniture Designer Eero Aarnio

Posted on 5th September 2011 in Finnish Designers

Furniture Designer Eero Aarnio

Furniture Designer Eero Aarnio – Images used to recall the 1960’s might include these: Twiggy, go-go boots, clear plastic bubble umbrellas and matching raincoats made from shiny, brightly colored plastic, and, of course, the iconic Ball Chair by Eero Aarnio.

Aarnio, a Finnish interior designer, was born July 21, 1932, became well known for his furniture designs, most notably the fiberglass and plastic chairs.

Upon completing studies at the Institute of Industrial Arts in Helsinki, he started his own practice. One year later, in 1963, he designed the Ball Chair – a hollow ball seat for one person on a stand. Referred to as a “room within a room” (his original prototype included a red phone built into the upholstery), is a cozy and peaceful atmosphere, insulating outside noises. While it reflects private space, that the chair can move about on its stand, allows the enclosed individual to see the outside world on his own terms, from his own perch.

In an interview with Aarnio, he explained, “The idea of the chair was very obvious. We had a home but no proper big chair, so I decided to make one, but some way a really new one. After some drawing, I noticed that the shape of the chair had become so simple that it was merely a ball.” Pinning a full-scale drawing on the wall, he “sat” in the chair to see how a head would be able to move seated within. In similar tests, he determined the height of the chair, making sure that it would be able to fit through a doorway.

In creating the chair’s prototype, he explained that he used “…inside moulding, using the same principle as a glider fuselage or wing.” The chair was finally laminated in fiberglass. “…the naming of the chair was easy, the BALL CHAIR was born.”

The chair, presented at the international furniture fair in Cologne in 1966, was quite the sensation, resulting in Aarnio’s designing an entire line of fiberglass designs. The design was followed by the Bubble Chair – a clear seat suspended from a ceiling. Aarnio’s other designs included the floating Pastil chair (modeled along an inner tube) and Tomato chair (a more stable seat between three globes).
His designs were an important part of the 1960’s culture, and were seen in sets of period science-fiction films. As the designs used simple geometric forms, they were ideal for the venue.

As fiberglass was known to be a dangerous material to those working in its manufacture, Aarnio replaced it with safer types of plastic. Toys and furniture for children are still designed by Aarnio.

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Charlotte Perriand – French Furniture Designer

Posted on 5th September 2011 in French Designers

Charlotte Perriand – Living from 1903 to 1999, she was a French architect and designer that pursued her design from a philosophical base. She believed that the better the design the more it helped to create a better society.

Studying furniture design at the Ecole de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs furniture she already started exerting her influence at a young age of 24. She was known for creating modern furniture design using chromed steel and anodized aluminum. Championed by the critics when she presented at the Salon d”Automne in 1927, she went on to collaborate with the world famous architect Le Corbusier known for his strict attention to minimalist lines and details. Lasing nearly ten years with him she created during this time “The Equipment of Habitation: Racks, Seats, Tables” which was produced initially by Thonet and then Cassina. Some of the pieces she designed while she was with him were the “LC2 Grand Comfort” armchair, the “B301” reclining chair and the “B306” chaise lounge.

Becoming more involved in the politics of her time during the mid-1930’s she joined several leftist organizations and continued to design both modern furniture and living spaces. Perhaps because of her involvement in these groups it began to influence her design style which started to shift towards the use of more traditional materials and affordable materials along with an emphasis on handcrafted techniques.  She experimented with wood and cane in the hope that she could produce well designed and affordable furniture at a mass production scale.

Part of this exploration was to collaborate with Jean Prove and Pierre Jeanerette on designing prefabricated buildings.

Spending time in Japan from 1940 to 1942 as well as reading the Book of Tea, greatly influenced her designs from 1940 until her death. While she was sent their as an advisor on industrial design to the Ministry of Trade and Industry she eventually was forced to leave the country as an “undesirable alien”. She continued to design both interiors and furniture and helped to design a prototype kitchen for Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation apartment building in Marseille in 1950 and the ski resorts of les Arcs in Savoie in 1962.

As a part of the machine age view of living, some of her best works are a series of tubular steel chairs the “Fauteuil Dossier” the B301 in 1928, the “Swivel” chair  the B302 from 1928-29 and the “Chaise Lounge” the B306 in 1928.

As she moved away from working with Le Corbusier and became independent,

she stated  “The most important thing to realize is that what drives the modern movement is a spirit of enquiry, it’s a process of analysis and not a style…We worked with ideals.”

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Charles Eames – American Furniture Designer

Posted on 2nd September 2011 in American Designers

La Chaise by Charles and Ray EamesA profile of Charles Eames could not be complete without including the importance of his collaboration with his wife, Ray. Both were American designers who made enormous contributions to modern architecture and furniture. Research into various books about Eames as well as photographs of furniture development makes evident that her involvement was crucial, demanding that she be considered an equal partner. Fabrics by Eames were Ray’s designs, including the Time Life Stools.
Born in 1907, the nephew of architect William S. Eames, Charles knew by age 14 that architecture would be his career. As a part-time laborer at the Laclede Steel Company, and a high school student, he was exposed to engineering, drawing and architecture – all of which became life-long passions. Later on in college, sources indicate that his devotion to Frank Lloyd Wright and modern architecture resulted in his dismissal. That he was also employed as an architect while attending classes, seems the more likely reason for the expulsion, in that sleep deprivation led to poor performance in his studies.
Influenced by the architect Eliel Saarinen, Charles moved to Michigan in 1938 to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He would later teach there and head the industrial design department. With Saarinen’s son, Eero, their furniture designs for the New York Museum of Modern Art “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” won the competition. The furniture exhibited the new technique of wood molding, which Eames throughout his career, would develop in a variety of molded products: in addition to chairs and other furniture, splints and stretchers for the U.S. Navy during World War II.
“Take your pleasures seriously”, (Charles Eames). He and his second wife, Ray, moved to Los Angeles in 1941. The pivotal Eames House, also known as Case Study #8 – became their home. The duo designed it as part of the Arts & Architecture Magazine’s “Case Study” program. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the house was set upon a cliff and constructed by hand in several days entirely of pre-fab steel parts for industrial construction. The house continues to be considered today a beacon of the unlimited commercial and residential possibilities presented by modern architecture.
Ray-Bernice Kaiser Eames was born in 1912 and was an artist, designer and filmmaker. She studied abstract painting with Hans Hoffman and in 1936 became founder of the American Abstract Artists. She met Charles during her studies at the Cranbrook.
During the 1950s Charles and Ray furthered Charles’ work in molded plywood, resulting in innovative technologies such as the fiberglass, plastic resin chairs and the wire mesh chairs they designed for Herman Miller. Charles’ interest in photography began their foray into the production of short films, which were chronicles of their ideas, experiments and education.
For more than 40 years (1943-1988) their office included the talents at various times of designers a few among them, Richard Foy and Henry Beer, Harry Bertoia, Gregory Ain and Deborah Sussman. During this time span, ground-breaking designs which originated there were molded-plywood DCW (Dining Chair Wood) and DCM (Dining Chair Metal with plywood seat) (1945), the Aluminum Group (1958) as well as the Eames Chaise in 1968 – which was designed for the film director Billy Wilder, a friend of Charles’. In addition, an early experiment into solar energy and a variety of toys were developed in the co-op.
Eames died in 1978, Ray died 10 years later.

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