Vintage View: Pull up a seat to learn about iconic chair designs

Vintage View: Pull up a seat to learn about iconic chair designs

Take a seat as Kya deLongchamps sets the table for a visual feast of iconic dining chairs.

Want to dine in on your style credentials? You couldn’t do better than iconic seating by some of the most celebrated creatives of the last 100 years. Here’s my personal banquet of “chic chaises” — as lovely to look at as they are comfortable and functional.

WISHFUL THINKING

The very first model Hans J Wegner (1914-2007) designed exclusively for Carl Hansen & Søn in 1949, the CH24, Y or Wishbone Chair, has been in continuous production since 1950. It’s heavily reproduced and available from €175 in a close, shameless copy and for €150-€500 in versions that are so close in line and detail the retailers should blush.

The Considered Tribeca from Helen James for Dunnes Stores is design flattery but at least Helen has the class to firmly reference Wegner’s creation (€150 in solid oak).

The CH24 is available in authentic form in 97 different finishes and colours. It has a basket or U-back with a distinct Y-shaped “splat”.

The shape was drawn like many other iconic chairs of the time by the bodies of early 17th-century Ming dynasty “horseshoe” Chinese court chairs.

These have the same embracing comfort, supporting the arms with rests that are connected directly to the crest and style, or as an extension of the back rail.

 Harry Bertoia side/dining chair with blue covers.
Harry Bertoia side/dining chair with blue covers.

The square base and legs together with the rounded rail has a spiritual, cosmological meaning — square heaven and round Earth — the Tian Yuan Di Fang. It’s the sort of cultural provenance designers like Wegner loved to bury in their work — fully expressed in Wegner’s China Chair, c 1944.

The seat is in paper cord and every chair receives a soap and oil finish; €979, suppliers include Lost Weekend and Arnotts.

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SUPER STOOL

Yes, I know, it’s a stool, but this three-piece wonder — also known as the “L-leg stool” in glued, laminated bent wood and a simple round seat is as instantly recognisable as a Thonet chair or a curvaceous bottle of vintage Coca Cola. Brilliant for seating kids and even extra adults, the E60 can spend its free days serving as superb elegant and functional little side table.

It’s unlikely you have not at some time perched on an E60. Designed by Aalto Alvar (1898-1976) in 1933 it’s casually comfortable, it stacks and even vintage examples are highly prized for its pioneering look and innovative laminate technique.

[meida=insta]https://www.instagram.com/p/B0O4UlvBU6U/[/media]

Developed with the Finnish furniture firm of Otto Korhonen (Artek), other current designers like Tokyo-based architect Jo Nagasaka, take the E60 and trick it up with applied design (try 1st Dibs for examples). New stools are priced from €237 in a huge variety of colour, finnishdesignshop.com

1. The CH24 Wishbone Chair by Hans J. Wegner (1914-2007) inspired by the Ming dynasty horse-shoe chairs, c.1949, suppliers include Lost Weekend.
1. The CH24 Wishbone Chair by Hans J. Wegner (1914-2007) inspired by the Ming dynasty horse-shoe chairs, c.1949, suppliers include Lost Weekend.

DESIGN HIT

Jumping to coated metal, the 1952 Harry Bertoia (1915-1978) dining chairs for Knoll International are right on trend for an airy, architectural hit. What we love about these diners is that they can take a fitted cushion with really any fabric you fancy to soften their presence if and when you like.

They are also gorgeous naked and positioned to show off their line as side-chairs anywhere in the house with a bit of back-lighting.

The construction of the seat is a basket of powder-coated welded steel rods that has just enough give for comfort. The seat pads (as supplied by Knoll) have snaps to hold them in place.

Artek Stool 60 ColoRing by Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) c.1930 with colour to seat by Jo Nagasaka (present day). 1stdibs.com.
Artek Stool 60 ColoRing by Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) c.1930 with colour to seat by Jo Nagasaka (present day). 1stdibs.com.

The full cover is held in place with hooks. Today you can have the chairs in a polished or satin chrome finish. Don’t leave them outside — they look fabulous raked by full daylight, but they are not weatherproof. The metal can be ordered in red, green, yellow or powder blue.

For a dining chair, keep in mind that solid arms seen in many collections or offered as a carver may irritate or comfort depending on the individual sitter. Also, slipping out of the chair at a crowded, smaller table is easier without a cage of arms.

GHOSTLY CHOICE

Baroque lives afresh — at least in a spectral form. The “Ghost” by French designer Philipp Starck for Kartell c 2002 comes in a transparent and coloured poly-carbonate in a full, unabashed Louis XV style. It was created in a single mould and has been copied and referenced by many plastic, fantastic chairs to follow. It was the first transparent chair of its kind. Despite its aristocratic line, the Ghost is shock resistant and can stack up to six high, and will sit outside in warm, wet weather without a problem.

Starck’s only comparable triumph to my mind is his Master’s chair which so cleverly references past design triumphs in a swirling three-line back. Kartell says it best — a sinuous hybrid which combines the “Series 7” by Arne Jacobsen, the Tulip Armchair by Eero Saarinen and the Eiffel Chair by Charles Eames in a single seat.

Victoria in multiple colours, variant on the Ghost. Philipp Starck c.2002, Kartell.
Victoria in multiple colours, variant on the Ghost. Philipp Starck c.2002, Kartell.

The original Ghost (€298) in clear or tinted colour has arms, but you can lose them in another chair of the same group — the Victoria (€896 for four, ambientedirect.com). Combine as a set, the Ghost playing carver at the head of the table. The Ghost and Victoria rely on the right choice of table and can be utterly lost on a hefty contemporary wood refectory — take advice and try glass first.

If you want to deploy the chair elsewhere, there’s even a petite model for a child’s room (€96-€127).

Starck’s latest creation is the A.I, a streamlined, injection moulded plastic diner/occasional in opaque plastic. It’s minimalist but robust frame was created using the latest CAD tools by AutoDesk for weight and line.

The prototype was launched at this year’s Milan Design Week and should be available in 2020. Delicious!

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