In the 1950s and 60s, furniture design was in a period of reduction to cleaner, less fussy lines. One of the elements to come under attack was the forest of legs supporting the traditional chair, and this led to three of the most iconic mid-century chairs still in production today.
The Panton Chair c1960 (available since 1965) takes a very pleasing bite out of the space around it, and its elegant one piece engineering leaves the sitter cantilevered in a refreshing bounce during work or dining. Created by Verner Panton, Denmark’s most influential designer, it has a historical significance as the very first moulded, all plastic chair. He was a master colourist and there’s a choice of primary shades, making these ideal accents in a raw minimalist room.
The early models made before 1999 were experiments in plastic types before the switch to polypropylene and with heavy domestic use didn’t hold up well. Vitra still produce the Panton, and if you want an original chair, they run around €215 for a genuine piece without a seat pad. www.ambientedirect.com.
Rabid fans of the HBO series Mad Men will know that Roger Sterling’s office is always ahead of the décor of his colleagues. In the latest series, set in the early 1970s, he favours a tulip dining suite in white. Eero Saarinen vision has never been more popular, with the Tulip form of his Pedestal collection wildly copied today. This piece was way ahead of its time in 1955 and the first onelegged chair to be mass produced. The Tulip table came first, and were marketed by Knoll of New York.
The chairs closely follow its stem support but are topped by a blossoming tulip that speaks of an age of fascination with space travel, organic sculpture and new materials. The chairs made the bridge of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek.
Like Panton, Saarinen was hoping to make a chair in one single piece of unbroken material to counter what he called ‘the slum of legs’ in classical seating. Following several collapses over drinks during trials at the family home, Saarinen realised that the complex engineering required an aluminium base matched to moulded fibreglass seat.
Original tulips are found in junk shops and house auctions from time to time, but are increasingly rare in vintage form from the 50s and 60s.
Today, the Knoll Tulip without surrounding arms and including a seat pad colour of your choice comes in at £1,200 (€1,456) from Nest.co.uk with €39 delivery per chair to Ireland.
The next step was a chair that floated up off the floor completely. Created by Eero Aarnio in 1968 in Finland, as an extension of his highly popular Ball Chair c1963, a chair was conjured almost entirely from pure light. Blown in from a steel ring, softened up with a couple of feather cushions this delicate, womb like environment put the sitter fully on show. Sound is also isolated in the sphere, adding a calming, meditative quality to the Bubble’s maternal charms. Suspending the chair from the ceiling or a dedicated frame contributed to that essential, floating feeling. The Bubble Chair has retained its status as a design royalty. You can order one from Inreda.ie for a gossamer €4,500.