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ith a grand sense of adventure, Charles and evolved over time, not overnight. As Charles noted
Ray Eames turned their curiosity and boundless about the development of the Molded Plywood
enthusiasm into creations that established them Chairs, “Yes, it was a flash of inspiration,” he said,
as a truly great husband-and-wife design team. Their “a kind of 30-year flash.” With these two, one thing
unique synergy led to a whole new look in furniture. always seemed to lead to another. Their revolutionary
Lean and modern. Playful and functional. Sleek, work in molded plywood led to their breakthrough
sophisticated, and beautifully simple. That was and work in molded fiberglass seating. A magazine
is the “Eames look.” That look and their relationship contest led to their highly innovative “Case Study”
with Herman Miller started with molded plywood house. Their love of photography led to film making,
Charles and Ray achieved chairs in the late 1940s and includes the world- including a huge seven-screen presentation at the
their monumental success renowned Eames lounge chair, now in the permanent Moscow World’s Fair in 1959, in a dome designed
by approaching each project collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. by their friend and colleague, Buckminster Fuller.

the same way:

Does it interest and intrigue us?
They loved their work, which was a combination of
art and science, design and architecture, process
Graphic design led to showroom design, toy
collecting to toy inventing. And a wooden plank
CAN WE MAKE IT BETTER? and product, style and function. “The details are contraption, rigged up by their friend, director
WILL WE HAVE “SERIOUS FUN” DOING IT? not details,” said Charles. “They make the product.” Billy Wilder for taking naps, led to their acclaimed
A problem-solver who encouraged experimentation chaise design. A design critic once said that this
among his staff, Charles once said his dream was extraordinary couple “just wanted to make the world
“to have people working on useless projects. These a better place.” That they did. They also made it a
have the germ of new concepts.” Their own concepts lot more interesting.

4 5

Who doesn’t recognize the Eames lounge chair and its public debut on Arlene Francis’s Home show, a
ottoman? It lives in museums like MoMA in New York predecessor of the Today show. Commenting on the
and the Art Institute of Chicago, in stylish interiors unique design, Charles Eames told Francis, “We’ve
everywhere, and as a tattoo on a devotee’s arm. never designed for a fashion, and the Herman Miller
It has been the subject of documentary films and furniture company has never, ever requested that we
books. It even has its own fan website. Calling it do pieces for a market.” During the interview, a short
va classic is an understatement. It’s the quintessential film was shown in which a man--Charles described
example of mid-century design—elegant and him as “a typical Herman Miller employee”--
profoundly comfortable too. assembled and disassembled the lounge chair,
showing how simple the design was.
The first Eames lounge chair and ottoman was
made as a gift for Billy Wilder, the director of Francis ended the segment by quoting something
“Some Like It Hot,” “Irma La Douce,” and “Sunset she said she had read about Charles and Ray:
Blvd.” The heritage of the chair goes back to the “The Eameses’ desire to move freely in a world of
molded plywood chairs pioneered by the Eameses enormous and unlimited possibilities is combined with
in the 1940s. Charles Eames said his goal for a very accurate sense of discrimination and taste. It’s
the chair was that it be “a special refuge from the an ability to select among the unlimited possibilities
strains of modern living.” The first lounge chair and and return considerable richness to the world.”
ottoman produced by Herman Miller, in 1956, made Starting at $3,899 •


Among the buildings Eero Saarinen designed in named these the Soft Pad chairs. The chairs’ simple
Columbus was J. Irwin Miller’s home. Saarinen lines, innovative use of materials, and suspension
wanted a high-quality seating product for outdoor comfort have kept the Aluminum Group and Soft
use at the home and asked Charles and Ray Pad chairs among the most popular seating choices
Eames to develop one. The Eameses accepted the for offices and homes.
challenge. Known for their honest use of materials,
the Eameses constructed their chairs with cast It’s a trick only Charles and Ray Eames could pull
aluminum and a seat frame that would support a off: Chairs designed in 1958 as outdoor seating
stretched synthetic mesh. The seat-back suspension still look classic and contemporary in 21st century
they developed was a major technical achievement interiors. The chair’s clean, curvilinear lines
and represented a departure from the concept of the enhance any décor and work well in your home
chair as a solid shell. office, dining area, and living room. Available in
fabric or leather, these Eames chairs are equipped
The Aluminum Group chairs were made for indoor with an innovative suspension that creates a firm,
use in 1958, and they have been in continuous flexible “sitting pocket.” It conforms subtly to your
production ever since. The original mesh was body’s shape and maintains your comfort. With an
discontinued shortly after its introduction in favor aluminum frame and base, the chair is strong, yet
of fabric and leather, ribbed at 1 7/8-inch intervals lightweight and easy to move. Earth-friendly, too:
for a clean, refined appearance. In 1969, the made of 67 percent recycled materials and 90
Eameses extended the original design by adding percent recyclable at the end of its useful life.
plush, individually upholstered cushions. They Starting at $1,749 •


Designers Charles and Ray Eames established their When the war was over, Charles and Ray applied
long and legendary relationship with Herman Miller the technology they had created to making
in 1946 with their boldly original molded plywood affordable, high-quality chairs that could be mass-
chairs. The aesthetic integrity, enduring charm, and produced using dimensionally shaped surfaces
comfort of the chairs earned them recognition from instead of cushioned upholstery. When they found
Time magazine as The Best Design of the 20th that plywood did not withstand the stresses that
Century. Time called the design “something elegant, occurred where the chair seat and back met, they
light and comfortable. Much copied but never abandoned their original single-shell idea in favor
bettered.” (A locomotive came in second.) of a chair that had separate molded-plywood panels
for the back and seat. The process eliminated the
The story behind the Eames molded plywood chairs extraneous wood needed to connect the seat with
makes clear just how big a role imagination and the back, which reduced the weight and visual
serendipity play in design. In the early 1940s, when profile of the chair and established a basis for
Charles Eames was working on MGM set designs, modern furniture design. Sculpting a seat and back
he and his wife, Ray, were experimenting with to fit the contours of the human body, they designed
wood-molding techniques that would have profound a truly comfortable chair that’s suitable
effects on the design world. Their discoveries led to for businesses and homes.
a commission from the US Navy to develop plywood Starting at $679 •
splints, stretchers, and glider shells, molded under
heat and pressure, that were used successfully in
World War II.


Several models of the molded plastic chairs, including the most extensive tooling challenge. Development
the armchair, were designed as entries in a contest took about three years, and our initial 1950
sponsored by New York’s Museum of Modern Art. production run was 2,000. These chairs had shells
The “International Competition for Low-cost Furniture made from fiberglass in polyester resin. Herman Miller
Design” was intended to spur the development of changed the composition to a more environmentally
well-designed, low-cost furnishings for the post-war responsible material—100 percent recyclable
housing boom. The introduction to the competition’s polypropylene, dyed throughout so the colors are
catalog put it this way: integral and remain vibrant even after many years.

“To serve the needs of the vast majority of The armchair was first offered with the rocker
people we must have furniture that is adaptable base and two others that are no longer in production.
to small apartments and houses, furniture that The “Eiffel Tower” base came later, after a lot of
is well-designed yet moderate in price, that is experimentation with steel rod construction and
comfortable but not bulky, and that can be easily stability spacers. Over the years, Herman Miller
moved, stored, and cared for; in other words, has worked at finding ways to improve the chair
mass produced furniture that is planned and bases, to make them more stable and durable and
executed to meet the needs of modern living.” able to withstand hard use over time.
Starting at $349 •
Following its introduction at the MoMA exhibit,
the armchair was chosen as the first chair to go
into production because mass producing it presented


In 1951, having perfected a manufacturing technique for a striking stage for displaying mid-century fat lava vases,
welding wire-rod bases, Charles and Ray Eames decided fresh flowers, magazines, or a special book in a living
to bridge two bases with a dramatically shaped top large room, waiting room, reception area, or executive lounge.
enough to hold a variety of items and fit comfortably Finished in either black or white laminate, the table makes
with a long sofa or several chairs. They considered a strong and beautiful statement wherever it is.
many shapes. In the end, did they take their inspiration Starting at $649 •
from the surfboards they doubtless saw frequently, given
the commanding view of the Pacific Ocean from their
California home and studio? They never said, but people
often refer to this piece as the “surfboard table.” Whatever
you call it, the elliptical table makes it clear that good
design never goes out of style.

The elliptical table’s 89 inches of surface length provide

an expansive arc that lets you spread out or display
items--a lot or a few. The tabletop consists of a seven-ply
Baltic birch core sandwiched between high-pressure black
or white laminate. The edge is beveled on a 20-degree
angle to give the top added emphasis. With its long, low
profile, the Eames elliptical table sits dramatically in front
of a long sofa or in the middle of a chair grouping. It sets


rne Jacobsen bought a plywood chair designed First among Jacobsen’s important architectural
by Charles Eames and installed it in his own commissions was the Bellavista housing project,
studio, where it inspired one of the most Copenhagen (1930-1934). Best known and most
commercially successful chair models in design fully integrated works, are the SAS Air Terminal and
history. The three-legged Ant chair (1951) sold in the Royal Hotel Copenhagen for which Jacobsen
millions and is considered a classic today. It consists designed every detail from sculptural furnishings such
of two simple elements: tubular steel legs and a as his elegant Swan and Egg chairs (1957-1958) to
springy seat and back formed out of a continuous textiles, lighting, ashtrays and cutlery.
piece of plywood in a range of vivid colors.
During the 1960’s, Jacobsen’s most important work
Jacobsen began training as a mason before studying was a unified architectural and interior design scheme
at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts, Copenhagen for St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, which, like his
where he won a silver medal for a chair that was then earlier work for the Royal Hotel, involved the design
exhibited at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des of site-specific furniture. Jacobsen’s work remains

A pastry usually tastes better Art Decoratifs in Paris. Influenced by Le Corbusier, appealing and fresh today, combining free-form

IFin fact-there
Gunnar Asplund and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, sculptural shapes with the traditional attributes of
Jacobsen embraced a functionalist approach from the Scandinavian design, material and structural integrity.

is nothing I mind outset. He was among the first to introduce modernist

AS LONG AS IT LOOKS NICE ideas to Denmark and create industrial furniture that
built upon on its craft-based design heritage.

16 17
Arne Jacobsen designed the Egg for the lobby and
reception areas in the Royal Hotel, in Copenhagen. The
commission to design every element of the hotel building
as well as the furniture was Jacobsen’s grand opportunity
to put his theories of integrated design and architecture
into practice. The Egg is one of the triumphs of Jacobsen’s
total design - a sculptural contrast to the building’s almost
exclusively vertical and horizontal surfaces. The Egg sprang
from a new technique, which Jacobsen was the first to use;
a strong foam inner shell underneath the upholstery. Like a
sculptor, Jacobsen strove to find the shell’s perfect shape
in clay at home in his own garage. Because of the unique
shape, the Egg guarantees a bit of privacy in otherwise
public spaces and the Egg – with or without footstool – is
ideal for lounge and waiting areas as well as the home.
The Egg is available in a wide variety of fabric upholstery
as well as leather, always combined with a star shaped
base in satin polished aluminium.
Starting at $5,934 •

he Finnish designer Eero Aarnio is regarded as a is even stronger in the 1968 “Bubble Chair”; its
pioneer in using plastic materials. Between 1954 curved seat consists of transparent perspex and is
and 1957 Eero Aarnio studied at the Institute of dangling from the ceiling. Another 1968 Eero Aarnio
Industrial Arts in Helsinki. In 1962 Eero Aarnio set chair is “Plastil”, for which Eero Aarnio received the
up his own studio there. He worked as an interior American Industrial Design Award. Even though Eero
decorator, industrial designer, graphic designer and Aarnio’s design objects coincide with the era of Pop
photographer. For his early furniture designs, Eero design, he repudiated the throwaway ethic of the
Aarnio mainly used natural materials, for instance, 1960s and 1970s. Far from it: Eero Aarnio explored
for the basket chair “Jattujakkare”. In the 1960s the possibilities of the new material plastic while
Eero Aarnio turned increasingly to the new plastic remaining true to the Scandinavian tradition of quality
materials, especially fiber glass. and durability.

A ROOM In 1965, Eero Aarnio designed the legendary “Ball

Chair” (or “Globe Chair”), a globular seat made from
plastic that was reinforced with glass-fibers. The seat
is based on a narrow plinth with a broad bottom;

there is a round opening in the front. The inner part
of the globe is padded and soft and serves as a
seat. Sitting inside, the noises from outside seem to
be quite absorbed and far away, whilst sound from
the inside is actually amplified. This cocoon feeling

20 21
ADELTA • 1965

“ The idea of the chair was very obvious. We had moved to our
first home and I had started my free-lance career in 1962. 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. I pinned the full scale drawing on the wall and
sat in the chair to see how my head would move when sitting
inside it. Being the taller one of us, I sat in the chair and my wife
drew the course of my head on the wall. This is how I determined
the height of the chair. Since I aimed at a ball shape, the other
lines were easy to draw, just remembering that the chair would
have to fit through a doorway. After this I made the first prototype
myself using an inside mould, which has been made using the
same principle as a glider fuselage or wing. I covered the
plywood body mould with wet paper and laminated the surface
with fiberglass, rubbed down the outside, removed the mould
from inside, had it upholstered and added the leg. In the end
I installed the red telephone on the inside wall of the chair. The
naming part of the chair was easy, the Ball Chair was born.
- Eero Aarnio “
Starting at $6,860 •

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
he United States has a love-hate relationship with wood, then stone, and then brick before progressing
Mies van der Rohe. Some say that he stripped to concrete and steel. He believed that architects
architecture of all humanity, creating cold, sterile must completely understand their materials before
and unlivable environments. Others praise his work, they can design.
saying he created architecture in its most pure form.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe began his career in his Mies van der Rohe was not the first architect to
family stone-carving business in Germany. He never practice simplicity in design, but he carried the
received any formal architectural training, but when ideals of rationalism and minimalism to new levels.

A chair
he was a teenager he worked as a draftsman for His glass-walled Farnsworth House near Chicago
several architects. Moving to Berlin, he found work stirred controversy and legal battles. His bronze and
vin the offices of architect and furniture designer glass Seagram Building in New York City (designed
Bruno Paul and industrial architect Peter Behrens. in collaboration with Philip Johnson) is considered
is a very difficult object America’s first glass skyscraper. And, his philosophy

A skyscraper Early in his life, Mies van der Rohe began

experimenting with steel frames and glass walls.
that “less is more” became a guiding principle for
architects in the mid-twentieth century. Skyscrapers
is almost easier He was director of the Bauhaus School of Design around the world are modeled after designs by

That is why
Chippendale is famous
from 1930 until it disbanded in 1933. He moved
to the United States in 1937 and for twenty years
(1938-1958) he was Director of Architecture at the
Mies van der Rohe.

Illinois Institute of Technology. Mies van der Rohe

taught his taught students at IIT to build first with

24 25
KNOLL • 1929
The Barcelona chair was exclusively designed for The Barcelona chair was manufactured in the US
the German Pavilion, that country’s entry for the and Europe in limited production from the 1930s to
Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, which was the 1950s. In 1953, six years after Reich’s death,
hosted by Barcelona, Spain. The design resulted van der Rohe ceded his rights and his name on the
from collaboration between the famous Bauhaus design to Knoll, knowing that his design patents were
architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his longtime expired. This collaboration then renewed popularity
partner and companion, architect and designer Lilly in the design. Knoll claims to be the current licensed
Reich, whose contributions have only recently been manufacturer and holder of all trademark rights to
acknowledged. An icon of modernism, the chair’s the design. In 1965, Knoll purchased the trademark
design was inspired by the campaign and folding rights to the Barcelona word from Drexel. In 2004,
chairs of ancient times. Knoll received trade dress rights to the design from
the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Despite these
The Barcelona Chair frame was initially designed to trademarks, a large replica market continues. Gordon
be bolted together, but was redesigned in 1950 using International New York has continued to manufacture
stainless steel, which allowed the frame to be formed the designs since the 1970s, even after a court
by a seamless piece of metal, giving it a smoother battle against Knoll in 2005. In 2008, another court
appearance. Bovine leather replaced the ivory-colored battle erupted between Knoll and Alphaville Design
pigskin which was used for the original pieces. California; the outcome is pending Summary Judgment
The functional design and elements of it that were in Federal District court.
patented by Mies in Germany, Spain and the United Starting at $4,523 •
States in the 1930s have since expired.

26 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 27

here aren’t many teenagers who could design to design that would become the backbone of her
a house, complete in every architectural space and furniture creations. Florence met furniture
detail, but Florence Knoll did – aged just 14. manufacturer, Hans Knoll, in 1943 and persuaded
Trained as an architect and designer, Knoll created him to change the way he created furniture –
practical, yet beautiful furniture and interiors that introducing interior design to his operations. Within
transformed the way living and work spaces are three years, Florence had founded the now world-
now perceived. Knoll believed in total, holistic famous Knoll Planning Unit and become Hans Knoll’s
design, and considered all aspects of a space when wife and full business partner. When Hans Knoll died
creating interiors: architecture, interior design and in 1955, Florence went on to run the company – an

furniture design. Her ‘total’ approach led Knoll to unprecedented move for a woman in the 1950s.
create clear, uncluttered corporate spaces in the Her ability to spot talent meant that designers such
1950s that revolutionised the way workplaces were as Eero Saarinen created key furniture pieces for the
arranged. To these spaces she added functional, company under her leadership.

minimalist furniture, such as the Florence Knoll Sofa,
which combined usability, space-saving functionality, Knoll is also credited with bringing exceptionally
comfort and style. Knoll’s design genius was spotted high standards to her furniture designs, and is
early in life, when as an attendee of Kingswood thought to have boosted furniture industry standards
School – part of the famous Cranbrook Academy as a whole. Her fastidious attention to detail earned
of Art – she became the protégé of school president her a reputation for perfectionism: a quality evident

A DECORATOR and Finnish Architect, Eliel Saarinen. Under his in her meticulously finished Florence Knoll Sofa, and
tutelage, Florence learned the holistic approach other furniture creations.

28 29
KNOLL • 1954
As a pioneer of the Knoll Planning Unit, Florence
Knoll created what she modestly referred to as
the “fill-in pieces that no one else wants to do.”
She refers to her own line of lounge seating as
the equivalent of “meat and potatoes,” asserting,
“I needed the piece of furniture for a job and it
wasn’t there, so I designed it.” Like so many of
her groundbreaking designs that set the industry’s
gold standard, the 1954 Lounge collection has
made it into the pantheon of modern classics.
Consistent with all of Knoll’s designs, the Lounge
collection has a spare, angular profile that
reflects the objective perfectionism of modern
design in the early 1960s. Versatile collection
includes lounge chair, settee, sofa, two-seater
bench and three-seater bench.
Starting at $2,263 •

ero Saarinen was born in Finland in 1910 and of which was for the founder of the Case Study
emigrated to the USA with his family when he program and publisher of avante-garde magazine
was 13 years old. His mother Loja was a sculptor Arts & Architecture, John Entenza. While Saarinen’s
and textile designer, while his father Eliel was a furniture output was relatively small, several of his
highly regarded architect who became one of the designs, such as the Womb and Tulip chairs, have
principle lecturers at the Cranbrook Academy of Art been in constant production since their launch. The
in Michigan. Saarinen studied sculpture in Paris then Tulip collection (1955) was a unique expression of
architecture at Yale University, completing his degree an architectural mind. Of the reduction of chair and
in 1934 and joining his father’s architecture practice table legs to a single central pedestal, Saarinen said,
soon after. He went on to design such architectural “I wanted to clear up the slum of legs.”
icons as the St Louis Gateway Arch in Missouri, the
TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International

I WANTED TO Airport and the CBS Building in New York.

CLEAR UP THE Saarinen formed a friendship with Charles Eames

SLUM OF while Eames was lecturing at Cranbrook. By

1940 they had collaborated on their first joint
design, which won two first prizes at the New
York Museum of Modern Art’s ‘Organic Design in
Home Furnishings’ competition. The pair went on
to create two Case Study houses together, one

32 33
KNOLL • 1956
The Tulip Chair and Stool is Saarinen’s purist No detachable parts, no legs, no separation
approach to architecture and interior design. He between component parts. It was unified. Winner
sought the essential idea and reduced it to the of the 1969 Museum of Modern art award, the
most effective structural solution within an overall chair is available with or without arms, and with
unity of design. To that end, Saarinen designed the complementary stools and tables.
1956 Tulip chair in terms of its setting, rather than Starting at $1,284 •
a particular shape. “In any design problem, one
should seek the solution in terms of the next largest
thing,” he said. “If the problem is a chair, then its
solution must be found in the way it relates to the
room....” in Tulip, a single-legged chair made from
fiberglass-reinforced resin, Saarinen realized his
ideal of formal unity: “every significant piece of
furniture from the past has a holistic structure.”

He was an essentialist, breaking a chair or a

piece of furniture down to its most basic form and
function, and marrying that to an equally pure
design aesthetic. The Tulip Chair is an essential
art object, a lovely chair, and a piece of furniture
design history. The entire chair was of a piece:

KNOLL • 1948
“When I approach an architectural problem,” Eero
Saarinen once said, “I try to think out the real significance
of it. What is its essence and how can the total structure
capture that essence?” Florence Knoll had put forth the
challenge of creating “a chair she could curl up in.” the
Finnish-born architect and interior designer responded with
the 1948 Womb chair, part of his breakthrough seating
collection. With its steel rod base with a polished chrome
finish and a frame upholstered in fabric over a fiberglass
shell, the chair is designed to facilitate a relaxed sitting
posture, providing emotional comfort and a sense of
security—hence, the name “Womb,” now one of Knoll’s
most recognizable designs as well as one of the most
well-known pieces of 20th century design. Designed for
comfort, there is no chair more soothing than the Saarinen
Womb Chair. In addition to its impeccable comfort, the
Saarinen Womb Chair’s design is impossible to ignore.
It’s testament to both Saarinen’s skill and challenging of
rules, the result of which is this true icon of design.
Starting at $3,076 •

KNOLL • 1946
The design of Eero Saarinen’s Executive Side at the dome-shaped glass wall of the Kresge
Chair (1946) began more than a decade earlier, Auditorium at MIT, it’s not a big leap to see the
when he and Charles Eames submitted several same shape in the back of his Executive Chair.
designs to the Organic Design in Home Furnishings This chair is Greenguard Indoor Air Quality
competition at the MoMA. The pair, who’d Certified; for its use of low-emitting products.
been friends and collaborators since meeting at Manufactured by Knoll according to the original
Cranbrook Academy of Art, won first prize. These and exacting specifications of the designer.
fluid, sculptural shapes influenced the future work Starting at $840 •
of both men; for Saarinen, most notably in his
Womb, Tulip and Executive chairs.

The Executive was originally made of fiberglass

but was later updated in polyurethane to take
advantage of the technical advances in plastics.
The feel of this classic seat, however, remains
unchanged. The molded shell flexes slightly
with the sitter and the contoured plywood
seat supported by metal or wood legs. Unlike
Saarinen’s furniture, which was consistently
sculptural in form, these fluid lines didn’t appear
in his architecture until the 1950s. When looking

eorge Nelson studied Architecture at Yale, Herman Miller’s president. In 1945 De Pree asked
where he graduated in 1928. He continued his him to become Herman Miller’s design director, an
studies and received a bachelor degree in fine appointment that became the start of a long series
arts in 1931. A year later while preparing for the of successful collaborations with Ray and Charles
Paris Prize competition he won the Rome prize. With Eames, Harry Bertoia, Richard Schultz, Donald
Eliot Noyes, Charles Eames and Walter B. Ford he Knorr and Isamu Noguchi. He set new standards
was part of a generation of architects that found too for the involvement of design in all the activities of
few projects and turned successfully toward product, the company, and in doing so he pioneered the
graphic and interior design. A few years later he practice of corporate image management, graphic
returned to the U.S.A. to devote himself to writing. programs and signage. His catalogue design and
Through his writing in “Pencil Points” he introduced exhibition designs for Herman Miller close a long list
Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier of involvements designed to make design to the most
and Gio Ponti to North America. At “Architectural important driving force in the company. From his start
Forum” he was first associate editor (1935- 1943) in the mid-forties to the mid-eighties his office worked
and later consultant editor (1944-1949). for and with the best of his times. He was without
any doubt the most articulate and one of the most

GOOD DESIGN By 1940 he had drawn popular attention with several

innovative concepts. In his post-war book: Tomorrow’s
eloquent voices on design and architecture in the
U.S.A. of the 20th century.

IS TIMELESS House, for instance he introduced the concept of the

”family room”. One of those innovative concepts, the
“storagewall” attracted the attention of D.J. De Pree,

40 41
What kind of person thinks up a chair that looks Because of its unique, striking design, the
like a chunk of coconut? How about the person Coconut chair is part of the permanent collection
who came up with the Marshmallow sofa. The in museums worldwide. Because of the comfort
person who said, “Total design is nothing more Nelson provided in his design, it’s also part of
or less than a process of relating everything to the “permanent collection” in homes and offices.
everything.” Who brought modernism to American The chair, as we produce it today, is true to
furniture. George Nelson. 1950s. Call it what you Nelson’s original design, materials, and detailing.
will—classic, icon, slice of hard-shelled tropical A modern classic, plain and simple.
fruit. Half a century later, it’s as wonderful to look Starting at $3.999 •
at—and sit in—as ever.

Introduced in 1955, the coconut chair is one

artifact of the burst of creativity issuing from
George Nelson’s design studio and changing
the look and feel of American furniture. Once
our founder, D.J. De Pree, convinced Nelson to
become his director of design, a warm personal
and professional relationship between the two
led to a stunning range of products—including
the Marshmallow sofa and the first L-shaped desk,
a precursor to today’s workstation. And this chair.

This is a sofa to brighten a room, to be happy elements and making them appear to float on
and relax on. You look at its 18 10-inch air, Nelson and Harper achieved this sofa’s
“marshmallow” cushions and you can’t help but unique appearance and eye-catching appeal,
smile. It’s been that way since it began turning which led the way into the pop art style of the
heads in 1956, when the Nelson Marshmallow 1960s. And by the way, that young designer
sofa was described in our catalog this way: - Irving Harper - also designed the famous
“Despite its astonishing appearance, this piece Herman Miller company logo.
is very comfortable.” Starting at $3.099 •

George Nelson and Irving Harper, a young

designer working in Nelson’s design firm, were
approached by an inventor who had created an
injection plastic disc that he insisted could be
produced inexpensively and would be durable.
The designers took a look and arranged 18
of them on a steel frame - the origin of the
Marshmallow sofa. The inventor’s cushions
turned out to be impractical, but Nelson and
Harper were intrigued by the design they had
created so casually, and Herman Miller decided
to manufacture the sofa. By joining separate

ow does one sculpt space? How do objects give Back in America, Noguchi met choreographer
form to the surrounding emptiness? This puzzle, Martha Graham and began a long friendship with
posed both by Europeans like Giacometti and Buckminster Fuller. Graham and Fuller provided
Brancusi and the Zen artists of Japan, creates a theme Noguchi with inspiration, ideas and opportunities
that runs through the work of Isamu Noguchi. It is not to create new forms like the sets he designed for
one he attempted to solve, but like the Zen master, Graham’s dance programmes. In 1939, he designed
posed the question in different ways. a free-form dining table for the president of the
Museum of Modern Art, New York, A. Congers
One of the great sculptors of the 20th century, Goodyear. The table’s seductive organic form
Noguchi created “lived spaces” for the theater, presaged the coffee table Noguchi would design
interiors gardens and playgrounds. He also sought for Herman Miller in 1944 and the wide range of
to bring sculptural qualities to the many objects products that he would design all during the 1940’s,
he designed for common use. As a young man, furniture informed by the biomorphic imagery of his
Noguchi studied medicine at Columbia University, but sculpture.From his sculpture to his garden design to
ART SHOULD BECOME abandoned medicine to pursue painting and sculpture the Akari lamps designed in the 1950’s, Noguchi’s

and in 1927, a Guggenheim fellowship took him to work sought always to resolve life and aesthetic
Europe. In Paris, he had the great good fortune to practice, the art object and the utensil, just as he
be apprenticed in the studio of Constantin Brancusi, sought to reveal the essential unity of form and space.
whose investigations of form and space recalled the

WITH ITS SURROUNDINGS art and architecture Noguchi knew from childhood
years spent in Japan.

46 47
A legendary piece of furniture gives rise to legends Were the tables in these two stories one and the
about its inception, and the Noguchi table is a perfect same? Probably. Because George Nelson asked
example. Where did the design begin? We know that Noguchi to allow him to use the design he saw that
Noguchi was an inveterate scrounger. He scavenged day to illustrate an article called “How to Make a
his New York neighborhood for all kinds of materials Table.” And he also wanted Herman Miller to produce
he could use for his sculptures and other projects. it. From the time it first appeared on the market as
George Nelson, our design director at the time, said a Herman Miller table in 1948, it became perhaps
he was visiting Noguchi’s studio while Noguchi was Noguchi’s most recognized work.
creating a table for his sister; the prototype he was
working on was made from materials he had picked Noguchi was, first and foremost, a sculptor who
up in alleys and on the street. believed his task was to shape and bring order
to space. He also believed that art should become
Isamu Noguchi says in his autobiography that the as one with its surroundings. In a long lifetime of
design began after another designer “borrowed” a creative work, Noguchi designed gardens and
Noguchi design for a three-legged table, then offered plazas, fountains and murals, furniture and paper
it for sale. That designer answered Noguchi’s protests lamps, and stage sets for modern dance pioneer
by saying, “Anybody can make a three-legged table.” Martha Graham. But he said that of all the furniture
So Noguchi set out to design a different three-legged designs he created, the table that bears his name
table. One that not just anybody could make. represented his only true success.
Starting at $1,349 •

ew would protest that Le Corbusier, Charles- Paradoxically, Le Corbusier combined a passion for
Edouard Jeanneret, is one of the most influential classical Greek architecture and an attraction to the
architects of the 20th century. He articulated modern machine. He published his ideas in a book
provocative ideas, created revolutionary designs and entitled, Vers une Architecture, in which he refers to
demonstrated a strong, if utopian, sense of purpose to the house as a “machine for living,” an industrial
meet the needs of a democratic society dominated by product that should include functional furniture or
the machine. “equipment de l’habitation.” In this spirit, Corbusier
co-designed a system of furniture with his cousin
Le Corbusier was encouraged by a teacher to take up Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. The tubular
architecture and built his first house at the age of 18 steel furniture, like the famous chaise and Grand
for a member of his school’s teaching staff. In 1908, Confort chair, projected a new rationalist aesthetic
he went to Paris and began to practice with Auguste that came to epitomize the International Style. During
Pierret, an architect known for his pioneering use of the 1920s and 30s, Le Corbusier concentrated on
concrete and reinforced steel. Moving to Berlin, Le architecture and during the 1950s he moved towards
Corbusier worked with Peter Behrens, who taught more expressive forms that revealed the sculptural
The home should be thE him about industrial processes and machine design. potential of concrete. Over the decades, his work has

treasure chesT In 1917, he returned to Paris where he met post- included mass housing blocks, public buildings and

cubist Amedee Ozenfant and developed Purism, a individual villas, all conceived with what he called
new concept of painting. In 1920, still in Paris, he the “engineer’s aesthetic.”
adopted the pseudonym, Le Corbusier.

50 51
CASSINA • 1928
The Le Corbusier group referred to their LC2
Collection as “cushion baskets,” which they designed
as a modernist response to the traditional club
chair. These pieces reverse the standard structures
of sofas and chairs by having frames that are
externalized. With thick, resilient pillows resting
within the steel frames, the idea was to offer all
the comfort of a padded surface while applying
the elegant minimalism and industrial rationale of
the International Style. The resulting aesthetic of the
simple tubular structure is remarkably relevant to
how we live today, more than 80 years later. Each
piece is signed and numbered and, as a product of
Cassina’s Masters Collection, is manufactured by
Cassina under exclusive worldwide license from the
Le Corbusier Foundation.
Starting at $3.780 •

orn 1926 in Gamtofte, Denmark, Verner Panton Panton’s collaboration with Vitra began in the early
studied at Odense Technical College before 1960s, when the firm decided to develop what
enrolling at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine became his best-known design, the Panton Chair,
Arts in Copenhagen as an architecture student. He which was introduced in 1967. This was also the
worked from 1950-52 in thearchitectural firm of first independently developed product by Vitra.
Arne Jacobsen and founded an independent studio
for architecture and design in 1955. His furniture Verner Panton died in 1998 in Copenhagen.
designs for the firm Plus-linje attracted attention Vitra’s re-edition of designs by Panton, as well as
with their geometric forms. In the following years the retrospective of his work mounted by the Vitra
Panton created numerous designs for seating furniture Design Museum in 2000, bear witness to the special
and lighting. His passion for bright colours and relationship between Vitra and Verner Panton.
geometric patterns manifested itself in an extensive

CHOOSING COLORS range of textile designs. By fusing the elements of

a room—floor, walls, ceiling, furnishings, lighting,
SHOULD NOT BE A textiles, wall panels made of enamel or plastic—

GAMBLE into a unified gesamtkunstwerk, Panton’s interior

installations have attained legendary status. The most

famous examples are the “Visiona” ship installations
for the Cologne Furniture Fair (1968 and 1970), the
A CONSCIOUS DECISION Spiegel publishing headquarters in Hamburg (1969)
and the Varna restaurant in Aarhus (1970).

54 55
VITRA • 1960
“Most people spend their lives living in dreary, beige
conformity, mortally afraid of using color. The main
purpose of my work is to provoke people into using
their imagination and make their surroundings more
exciting.” Created by Verner Panton in 1960, and
with the assistance of Vitra technicians a version was
finally ready for series production in 1967. The Panton
Chair is the very first ever to be constructed from one
continous piece of material. Since its market launch, the
Panton Chair has undergone several production phases.
Not until today was it possible to produce it in line with
Panton’s original idea, namely from consistently dyed,
tough plastic with a matte surface and an affordable
price. The Panton Chair has won various design awards
world-wide and graces the collections of numerous
renowned museums. Its expressive shape makes it a true
20th century design icon. The chair offers great seating
comfort thanks to the cantilever base, together with its
shape and flexible materials. It can be used on its own
or in groups and even outdoors.
Starting at $260 •