Modern classic furniture and Bauhaus designs bloomed in a revolutionary way during the last mid century. Bauhaus furniture evolved from the dark and traditional heavy designs to something visually lighter, geometrically smarter and artistically elegant. The birth of Bauhaus furniture was a result of a new technological applications and combination of art design and architectural graphic theories. Most of the classic pieces were inspired during 1950s and 1960s, yet still in they are regarded in our modern age as iconic and modern.The top designers of modern classic furniture such as Charles Eames, Arne Jacobsen, Harry Bertoie, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, Van der Rhoe, Eero Aarnio, they all pioneered the new technologies of mid century era and overcome the boundaries of conventional designs, they understood the need to change ur design to something more elegant, sophisticated and versatile. The concept of minimalistic design and organic furniture played a major part in Bauhaus furniture inspirartions. This is a summary about the top furniture designers who inspired Artists for decades and continue to inspire our contemporary interior designs until the present day.
February 1926 – 5 September 1998
During his career, Verner Panton would create interior design items and furniture using unconventional material such as plastic and opting for vibrant and rich colors. His creations that recently regained popularity in 2004 are still in production. Born on 13th February 1926 in Brahesborg- Gamtofte in the island Funen, Verner is considered one of the most influential interiors and furniture designers of the 20th century. He moved to Odense at the age of 18 where he joined the military for two years. Panton was an exquisite designer who studied architecture at the ROYAL Danish academy of Art in Copenhagen from where he graduated in 1951.
Shortly after that, he established a design company of his own that gave him worldwide popularity for his revolutionary designs including the collapsible house which he did in 1955 and the and two other unique designs that he did in 1960. He became the very first person to design a single form injection moulded plastic chair in 1960, a chair that went into mass production and became one of his most recognizable designs. He experimented with different design both for furniture and upholstery coming up with the exclusive curved furniture designs towards the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s. His well known works include the design of the German boat interior and a hotel in Europe that showcases his exclusive interior design and furniture design.
Panton married Tove Kemp the stepdaughter of architect and designer Poul Henningsen in 1950 but the marriage soon falls apart after only one year due to the death of their young son. His friendship with his father in-law however remains and his father in law mentors and guides Panton until his death in 1967. It was his father in law who introduced him to Arne Jacobsen under whose mentorship Panton would go on to study architecture and design for two years. Panton is quoted as saying that he had learnt so much from Arne Jacobsen. His career is advanced by him travelling across Europe in a VW van that he had converted into an office together with friend and fellow student, Hans Ove Barfoed and together they are able to design and originate ideas for a lot of buildings and interior design works.
Two of his most recognisable chair designs were mass produced by famous Danish furniture manufacturer, Fritz Hansen and would hit the market in 1955. He went on to innovate and design the world’s first inflatable seats in 1960, a design that he had perfected during his travels in Europe. Being made of plastic, the chair had a distinct transparency and the use of plastic plus the transparency become Panton’s, trademark.
He met Marianne Pherson-Oertenheim while on vacation on Tenerife in 1962 and they were married two years later in Basle. His wife was a native of Sweden and already had a daughter from a previous marriage, Cecilia Oertenheim. Two years later the couple had a daughter, Carin and they stayed together until Panton’s death in1988.
Charles Ormond Eames
June 17, 1907 - August 21, 1978
Charles Eames was one of the most famous American designers who made major contributions in modern architecture and Bauhaus furniture. He was remembered for his work in the fields of industrial design including film, fine art and graphic design. His designs were outstanding with the concept of modern furniture design and still that remains as an icon of the 20th century classics. Charles Ormond Eames, the nephew of famous architect William S. Eames was born in St. Louis, Missouri on 17 June, 1907. He demonstrated his designing talents and encouraged by his supportive family. When he was only 14, his interests towards design had already been identified. As a part-time labor he worked at Laclede Steel Company. At that time, he was only a school boy but talented enough to learn the concept of drawing, designing and engineering. Eames met his first wife, Catherine Woermann, while he was attending in Washington University. They got married in 1929. However, they divorced in 1941 and Eames married his colleague Ray Kaiser.
Eames got chance at Washington University in St. Louis on an architecture scholarship. He however left that institution. Though there was a rumor that claimed, he was dismissed from that University for his enrollment with Frank Lloyd Wright. Then he tried to study architecture and furniture design by himself and was offered for a fellowship in Cranbrook Academy of Art. He joined there and developed his designing skills with some friends who used to motivate and encourage him for his extraordinary talent. In Cranbrook Academy, he became the head of Experimental Design Department and shared his experiences from 1937 to 1940.
The success story of Eames in Bauhaus furniture movement started with the award-winning furniture design for New York's Museum of Modern Art. This piece of modern art attracted admiration at the Organic Design sector in Home Furnishing competition that was held in New York. The work demonstrated modernity and highly appreciated by the critics. He further developed an award winning design of a molded plywood chair with his wife Ray, who was also an American artist, designer, and filmmaker. So, he had to share his award with her. That means, they were jointly awarded for that design. They worked together with Eliel Saarinen to develop many molded plywood products for the US Navy. At that time, Charles achieved his fame for designing the Lounge Chair Wood (LCW). That was considered as a masterpiece with the concept of modern furniture design. The technology incorporated with that design was used to form Charles’ modern design models. In 1979, he and his wife jointly won the Royal Institute of British Architects award. Besides this, the most commonly known ‘Leather lounge chair’ was also designed by him. He used his extraordinary talents for designing this furniture.
The famous quote by Charles Eames ‘Design is the appropriate combination of materials in order to solve a problem,’ express his modern thoughts regarding architectural design. He died in 1978 but still remains as an influential designer of the 20th century who achieved a lot among American architects and furniture designers.
Mies Van der Rhoe
March 27, 1886 – August 17, 1969
As arguably the greatest pioneer of modern day architectural design and the influential leader of Bauhau furniture moement. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously known as Mies is credited with a unique style that combined simplicity and clarity, his choice of material being glass and steel. His style heralded a new era in building design and architecture that has managed to greatly influence the creativity of many architects with his influence being a contributing factor and visible in many design projects today.
Ludwig Miles van der Rohe was born in Germany in 1886. His father was a stone carver. Then known by the name Maria Ludwig Michael Mies, Mies shared his father’s passion for buildings and joined his father’s line of work as soon as he completed school. Not long after that, he moved to Berlin to further his education and pursue a career in architecture. He started His career in architecture by taking an apprenticeship at the studio belonging to Peter Behrens from 1908-1912. Where he was exposed to current designs and even served as the construction manager of the Embassy of the German Empire in Saint Petersburg.
He quickly established a reputation for himself as the architect with intricate designs and an eye for detail forming his own company that would be very busy with private house designed projects by the end of World War 1. He changed his name during this time as he wanted an easily recognizable name that people could associate with architecture. By 1920, he had already started to experiment with modern design that many at the time considered ground breaking as no other architect had come up with anything similar.
He met and married Adele Aguste Bruhn, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist in 1913 and the couple had three children, Dorothea who would go on to be an actress and dancer, Marianne and Waltraut, who would go on to become a curator and researcher.
In 1929, Mies would embark on a project that is the most recognisable of his designs and became known as a symbol of his work, the German Pavilion from which he designed his most Barcelona chair on which he use his focus on high quality materials approach coupled with an exposed frame that resulted in an exquisite piece of furniture. He also served as the Director of the Bauhaus school of design a position he held until the School’s closure in 1933.
A little later after that, in 1937, he defected to the USA to escape the Nazi’s who viewed him as not German enough. His defection to the US only served to further his design and architectural artistry. He lived in Chicago and served as the head of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. During his tenure, he insisted on designing all the new campus buildings for the university that still stand to date. Mies Van Der Rhoe added a glamorous and fashionable touch to Bauhaus furniture by using the metal rod bending techniques combined with leather upholstery, we notice this techniques clearly present in his work of the barcelona chair and sofa in the 1950's. Van Der Rhoe inspirations remain a testament of his inventivness and originality.
He continued to design high profile buildings in the USA as many private companies as government institutions applauded his architectural prowess and artistry. Miles continued his design and top class architectural design up until his death in 1969 in Chicago
August 1910 – September 1961
The Finnish American architect and designer Eero Saarinen was born on August 20, 1910. Unlike other designers he had an unpredictable designing style. He used simple but different styles in his design. As his parents were strict but supportive, he had a good family background from onset. He interestingly shared the same birthday with his father, Eliel Saarinen, who was also an architect. Their closeness benefited Saarinen as he learnt from his father.
The architectural background of Saarinen was concisely set from birth by his parents. The family moved to Michigan, United States of America in 1923 when he was only thirteen years of age. He first married Lilian Swann Saarinen, with whom he had two children. Then after they divorced, he married Aline Bernstein with whom he had a son, Eames, named after his friend Charles Eames.
Saarinen’s father was a teacher at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan where he first got exposed to architecture and design. He also met his friends Charles and Ray Eames who studied at the school at that time too. He later attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, France where he studied sculpture and then proceeded to the Yale School of Architecture where he completed his studies in 1934. He then returned to the United States to take up a position at Cranbrook Academy of Art where his father taught. In 1940, he became a US citizen under naturalisation. His father died in 1950. Soon afterwards, he started his own architect’s office in Michigan where he worked until his death.
Saarinen’s design work started drawing attention as early as 1940 when a design he did together with his collaborator, Charles Eames, won an award at the "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition. The creatively designed moulded plywood furniture, which had a delicious and wonderful inclusion of modernity, was a perfect start for him. In 1948, while still working under his father’s care, Eero Saarinen also won an award for designing Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St Louis. The catenary arch he designed was a catchy and rich in skills. This work was really admired by many people and he started receiving recognition for the unique designs. His “Grasshopper” armchair, designed in 1946 and “Womb” chair, designed in 1948 proved the already confirmed modernistic style of design that he preferred. The other impressive design was his “Pedestal Group”. The pedestal furniture was more than a design which was stunningly designed in 1956 with interesting materials (plastic and wood) that perfected its outlook.
Before Saarinen died of brain tumor in 1961, his designs were already accepted globally for their simplicity but uniqueness. His work remains an indication and reminder to many designers that simplicity is still worth in creating beautiful designs.
July 21, 1932 –Present
Earo Aarnio is one of the modern designers who initiated modern furniture designs. He is particularly renowned for his plastic designs that have formed the basis for creative and fashionable designs. He was born on the 21st of July, 1932 in Helsinki, Finland. His ideas and innovations for plastic chair designs have the true reflection of his area of interests. He cleverly used geometric designs to create wonderful shapes of chairs and tables. Plastics and fiberglass were used by him with inclusion of wood and steel frames to perfect the designs.
Aarnio attended the Institute of Industrial Arts in Helsinki from 1954 to 1957. He gathered interesting and enjoyable experiences during his stay there. His desire to create the best quality design led his talents into forming a base for his ideas. His first award came just after he finished his course in1958. He won this prize in the Valmet Trade Mark Competition.
Aarnio set his skills by starting an office in 1962 where he would practice the knowledge and skills that acquired from school. After being trained as an interior and industrial designer, he started focusing on his creative ideas through experimenting with the plastic materials. His designs were considered to be of traditional styles, but were also largely on the contemporary themes. He used some natural materials to cushion this creative design. His dedication and inspiration are the still important facts that led him in achieving successes. In 1963, he presented the fabulous Ball Chair, commonly known to others as the Globe Chair. This was truly a unique design that no one ever imagined.
In the same year Aarnio won an award on Export Furniture Competition. His designs soon gained popularity and admiration from everyone. This was a great achievement he felt was just and surely it motivated him tremendously. The one side hollow chair was an innovative design that used a globular plastic creatively fortified with a transparent fiberglass surface which gave this piece of art an amazing outlook. This design also won the International Competition on Furniture Design in 1964. The Pastil Chair which was another awesome design by Aarnio affirmed his great innovative designs when he won the American Industrial Design award in 1968. Other famous designs like the Bubble Chair, among others, have also contributed to his successes which are still awarded and appreciated globally.
Aarnio’s fiberglass materials faced criticisms especially because they are not safe for those manufacturing them. This meant that he had to seek alternatives to the fiberglass material and happily found one. Today, his designs are mostly the reflections of what he used to design some years back, but with safer plastics as alternatives to the fiberglass materials. Aarnio is still respected for the designs of cool and stylish chairs, toys and other designs and undoubtedly was awarded for the good and impressive work he has always shown.
Oct 1887-Aug 1965
Charles- Edouard Jeanneret-Gris popularly known as Le Corbusier a name he permanently adopted in the 1920s and one that he derived from the name Lecorbesier was a famous architect, designer, painter and urban planner who would be famed one of the many pioneers of modern architecture. Born in Switzerland, Le Corbusier would adopt French citizenship in 1930. His buildings would dot the landscape throughout Europe, India and America in the 30 years that he was a designer.
As a young man, Le Corbusier showed a lot of interest in art and design and studied under the mentorship of another great designer, Charles L’Eplattenier. He received early mentorship in architecture from Rene Chapallaz who was himself a well known architect and his teachings had great influence on his early designs. He was able to make travel to Italy for the first time in 1906 and in 1907 while in Paris he started to work in Auguste Perret’s office. He would go on to study architecture in 1908 together with Josef Hoffman in Vienna and between 1910 and 1911, when he was able to work for Peter Behrens a renowned architect near Berlin. During his stay in Germany, Le Corbusier may have met other architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius who are both very well known designers and he also learnt and became fluent in German.
During this time, he visited the Charterhouse of the Valley of Ema a visit that would profoundly influence his design and architectural philosophy one that he would carry and practice for the rest of his career. In 1911 he was able to fill at least 80 books with his designs that were mostly inspired by the numerous journeys to the various parts of Europe. During World War 1, Le Corbusier took a teaching job at the La-Chaux-de-Fonds an art school that he himself attended and he didn’t return to France until the end of the war. While in Switzerland during the war, he worked on various architectural design projects such as for his world famous design of the Domino House from 1914- 1915 which comprised of an exquisite design that employed open floor plans as well as a reinforced concrete additional along the edges. This design would become the template for most other designs that were made during that era and also for about a decade after that.
On his way back to Europe after a short visit to South America in 1929, he would meet entertainer and Actress Josephine Baker while on board the Ocean Liner, Lutetia and he would make a few nude sketches of her. On his return to France, he met and married Yvonne Gallis, who worked as a dressmaker and model and the couple stayed married to until her death in 1957. He is also believed to have had a long extramarital relationship with Marguerite Tjader Harris. He died on August 27, 1965 after he went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea but didn’t return. After his body was recovered an autopsy revealed the cause of Death as a heart attack.
March 1915- November 1978
Harry Bertoia was born on March 10, 1915 in San Lorenzo, Pordenone, Italy and is best recognized for his work as both an art sculptor and modern furniture designer. Beginning his interests in the arts at the age of 15, Bertoia traveled from Italy to Detroit, where he enrolled in Cass Technical High School and concentrated on crafting handmade jewelry. He then parlayed his talent as he enrolled in the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, in which he was noticed and given a scholarship to study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
After his studies, Bertoia opened his own metal workshop in 1939, where he taught jewelry design and metal work to further refine his craft. Eventually, he transitioned into crafting wedding rings and other fine jewelry making until he married Brigitta Valentiner, and relocated to California to work for the Evans Product Company till September 1945.
In 1950 he moved to Pennsylvania and established a studio and began working with wire pieces, which developed most notably into his work known as the Bertoia Collection for Kroll, which included the famous “Diamond Chair”. It can be described as a sculptural work made from molded work of welded steel. The chairs were produced with light upholstery over an underlying grid-work, and were praised for their handmade qualities. Bertoia was granted a patent for this work, and upon collaborating with artist Herman Miller, crafted a new edge for the seat using a thicker wire, which is the basic formation of the chair that brings his commercial success to this day. Because of the success he experienced with this work, he was able to devote his time solely to sculpture, and in 1957 he earned a fellowship at the Graham Foundation in Chicago. At this venue, Bertoia was able to begin refining his work by stretching and bending metal, making it easily responsive to even the slightest of touch as he subsequently discovered. This delicate metal was found to have musical qualities when the right amount of wind pressure was given to it, which he then developed into a series of musical pieces according to pitch.
Bertoia performed in concerts and even created a series of ten albums entitled “Sonambient”, which was a unique creation of music derived from his original metalwork art. Manipulating the metal by just using his hands and the elements of nature, he was able to become renowned for his musical abilities. The Brooklyn Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Walker Art Center, among many others, are holding his work as public collections. He was commissioned to create the Marshall University fountain in Huntington, Virginia, the Gordon Bunshaft building for now JPMorgan Chase, and the “Golden Sun” for the Whiting in Flint, Michigan among various other contracted projects.
He died of lung cancer at the age of 63 in 1978. Known best for his modern furniture designs and revolutionary work as a sound sculptor, Bertoia will be ever remembered for his varied and expressive artistic and musical endeavors.
11 February 1902 – 24 March 1971
Arne Emil Jacobsen was one of the most successful architects and designers appreciated in the Scandinavian countries and worldwide. He was renowned for his advance designs, such as the Egg and Swan chairs. Jacobsen was born on 11 February, 1902 in Copenhagen where he grew up as a painting enthusiast, but later was encouraged by his father to opt for architecture. He came of a middle class Jewish family and lived a visionary life with a perfect background. His family was behind him and encouraged him all the way during his training years.
Jacobsen was trained as a mason before he was admitted to the Architecture School at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where he studied architecture since 1924 to 1927. During his time at this institution, he showed his mighty skills in architecture. In 1925, he won a medal for designing a unique chair model at the World Exhibition in Paris. However, Jacobsen took part in various contests which indeed placed him above his colleagues. His motivation and architectural passion enabled him to win so many awards including a gold medal in his graduation project which was influenced by other works he observed outside his country.
After being graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1927, he established his own company at Hellerup. Here his designs and architectural works rose to a peak. His work was first blessed when he won the award for a project in the "House of the Future" contest in 1929. Jacobsen’s simple but impressive chair designs brought him worldwide admiration and respect. Later he won a competition for designing a complex but admirable seaside resort that earned him respect in Denmark. Jacobsen created a unique but interesting design that was characterized by modernity and a sense of pure understanding of what the world needed at that time. In 1932, he designed the amazing Bellevue Sea Bath. This was one of his first lifeguard towers that featured unique but stylish plans. In 1952, he designed a wonderful chair for a school that earned wide recognition.
The comfortable three-legged chairs were designed for students with special requirements. This further brought fame for Jacobsen in the deigning industry of the world. From the year 1950, his designs and artistic works gained more recognition and awards in Denmark, Scandinavian countries and the world. In 1960, he won several awards including the first prize in the Denmark’s National bank competition. The 1970s was no exception as his work achieved praise and admiration from everyone.
The Stelling House, one of the Denmark’s most historical squares, was also designed by Jacobsen. This was criticized for many reasons, but it still stands as a magnificent design today in the country. The super talented architect Jacobsen died unexpectedly in March, 1971. There were many projects that he left uncompleted including the Royal Danish Embassy in London. His employees later completed these works earning him respect even after his death. Jacobsen is still remembered for his stunning designs ranging from great buildings to attractive chairs that earned him respect throughout his life. He is remembered for architectural functionalism that characterized his works. Jacobsen remains as a role model and an influential character in the world of architectural designs.
November 1904 – December 1988
Isamu Noguchi was a Japanese-American designer, sculptor, and architect whose amazing works are still respected to date. He was born on the 17th November, 1904 to an Irish-American teacher and editor, and a Japanese poet in Los Angeles, California in the United States. According to him, understanding the nature is only possible through sculpture and architecture.
In 1918, Noguchi’s mother, Gilmour sent him back to the United States where he studied at La Porte High School in Indiana and completed his graduation in 1922. His first encounter with Gutzon, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, was not fair. He actually discouraged Noguchi, claiming that he was not talented enough to even be a sculptor. This did not sit well with Noguchi who believed that his sculpting desires were always driven from his talent and skills he had acquired while studying.
Isamu Noguchi’s work started receiving recognition in 1932 when he returned to New York after long struggle and travels from which his experience grew. His works cover the whole range of design, from pieces of purely attractive abstract art to the fundamentally functional designs. However, the mainstream of his work goes beyond these boundaries, from the sculptural desire to coincide both with an art piece and furniture element.
The unique Freeform Sofa & Ottoman by Noguchi take their beautiful form from the shape of river pebbles. The sofa and ottoman seem almost like a greatly engorged sculpture of flat, rounded river stones; yet at the same time, their slim organic forms are graceful and vigorous. The Noguchi Coffee Table which was first introduced in 1948 has become one of the most illustrious pieces of furniture of the last century. It was designed in a modernistic style elaborately created from classic materials.
The Noguchi Cyclone table was considered in 1953 as a rocking tool made of metal wire and wood.
In 1947, Noguchi began partnership with the Herman Miller Company, when he joined with George Nelson, Paul László and Charles Eames to create a set containing what is often considered to be the most significant body of modern furniture ever created. This includes the iconic Noguchi table which remains in production today. His famously known Noguchi table was a modern design that depicted the 20th century productions with elegant materials.
Noguchi often used wood in his furniture designs, to make biomorphic sculptures related to surrealism. In1986; Noguchi ended his profession with a lively signature as the U.S. demonstrative to the Venice Biennale art exposition.
Isamu Noguchi passed away on the 30th December, 1988 in New York City leaving behind a legacy that has surely proved his contributions to the America’s arts and to the world. He is still remembered for the dedicated effort he put in making sure that the creative designs he put forward live with generations of today and several others to come.
Hans Jørgensen Wegner
April 1914 - January 2007
Hans Wegner was one of the most outstanding, creative and a productive figure to have ever taken up the field of furniture design. He is especially renowned for his simple but practical chair designs. Wegner was born in Denmark in 1914 and was the son of a cobbler. But soon he discovered his love and ardour for craftsmanship after working as a labour under carpenter Stahlberg.
Wegner soon decided that he would become an expert furniture designer and hence, he joined the “Danish School of Arts and Crafts” in 1936. From an early age, he firmly believed in simplicity yet expediency and practicality of design and his views were reflected in his preliminary designs. In his early career, Wegner was affiliated with Arne Jacobsen, a fellow Danish designer who employed him to design the furniture of the Arhus City Hall in 1938. In addition, he also worked as a furniture designer for a Danish supermarket chain. In later part of the career he designed some of the most innovative and remarkable chairs the world has ever seen.
His first masterpiece was the “Peacock Chair” (1947). This consisted of wooden spindles slanting outwards that were laid down to form a flat surface. Combined with the curved top, the chair resembled the body of a peacock. In 1949, Wegner designed undoubtedly his greatest creation: the “Round Chair”. The design was such that the back of the chair curved with the contours of the human back and this provided both, style and comfort. The “Round Chair” was selected in 1960 in a broadcast of an election debate in the USA, highlighting its importance. Wegner’s “Wishbone Y-Chair” (1949) once again displayed his creativity. The chair had a curved back, but was never-the-less of high quality and very comfortable. In 1963, he introduced another masterpiece in the form of the “Shell Chair” which was very similar to previous designs with regard to its curved seat.
Although Wegner designed several tables as well, he is mostly renowned for his superb chair designs. These designs were endorsed and manufactured by many companies including “PP Møbler”, “Carl Hansen and Sons” and “Erik Jorgensen” and many of them still remain in production today. For his unparalleled services to the furniture industry, he received numerous accolades including the “Prince Eugen Medal” and the “Eckersberg Medal”. In 1951, he was awarded the “Lunning Prize” and was also made the honorary “Royal Designer for Industry” by the “Royal Society of Arts” in 1959 in recognition of his achievements pertaining to furniture design.
Like all furniture designers, Wegner had his critics, albeit fewer than other Scandinavian designers. Several compared his designs to “a bear hug” while others could not help, but compliment his skills. Wegner passed away on the 26th of January, 2007 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He left behind a legacy of more than 500 brilliant and pragmatic chair designs. He will always be remembered as a highly skilled artisan and designer, as well as the Founding Father of “Organic Functionalism” and one of the major leaders of “Danish Modernism.”
Poul Kjærholm (AKA DePoul Kjærholm)
January 1929 – April 1980
Poul Kjærholm was one of the most celebrated Danish designers of all time. He was mostly acclaimed for his notable furniture designs. Poul was born on January 8, 1929 at ØsterVrå in Denmark. His early life was characterized by a strong interest in designing which defined his career from childhood. Poul’s designs were mostly developed from natural materials that blended well with his unique styles to create exclusive furniture. He married Hanne Kjærholm in 1953.
Poul Kjærholm started his designing career as an apprentice of Gronbech in 1948. Later, he joined the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen where he was trained as a furniture designer till 1952. During his stay at the School of Arts and Crafts, he demonstrated his designing skills. In 1952, Poul started his career as an educator at the same school. He was selected for that position due to his vast knowledge of design. But still he was hungry for gaining knowledge of the state of the art designing. After a few years, he was promoted to the post of an Assistant Professor in the Furniture and Interior Design department. He was very successful in the teaching career and became the head of “Institute for Design” in 1973. In 1976 he was further promoted and achieved the title Professor. Throughout this period, his designing work was never left unattended.
Poul’s designs were characterized by the use of traditional materials like steel frames. The famously known “PK” chairs based on natural materials like wood and woven cane was one of his wonderful creations and it was also a great example of his artistic work. In 1952, he designed his first PKO chair which had an artistic view. The idea of this chair was borrowed from the LCW design that was done earlier by Charles Eames. Following the great success of PKO, Poul was highly inspired which pushed him designing the PK22. The extraordinary feature that made the chair distinct from others was its special type of seat. It was made of leather and woven cane which became one of the most appreciated works of Poul Kjærholm. He gained recognition and won several awards for this design.
The PK22 chair won the Lunning Award in 1952 and the Grand Prize at the Milan Trennali in 1957. This was a simple but an elegant chair that drew attention of trendy people. The design won another prize titled ID award in 1967.
He died on April 18 in the year 1980, but is still appreciated for his classical modern designs which blended with the typical Scandinavian natural materials like leather, woven cane, and wood. Poul still holds a prominent position in the designing industry in Denmark and will always be remembered for his modern approaches. He encouraged the design industry and forced to think differently. His interest in different designs earned him recognition and respect all over the world.
May 1908 - March 1986
In the year 1908, the world saw the birth of one of the most influential and creative designers. He was George Nelson who was born in Hartford, Connecticut.Nelson completed his primary education in 1924 and was soon admitted into Yale University, but he didn’t think that he would ever become an architect. It was only a chance and destiny that led him to the Yale architecture school, which influenced him so much that he eventually joined it. He completed his undergraduate level by 1928 and was employed a few times between 1929 and 1931, but his true worth and skill in architectural design were established only after he completed a degree in Fine Arts (1931) and secured award in the architecture based “Rome Prize” competition.
Nelson soon began to emphasize modernisation in designing furniture and published his ideas in a magazine, “Architectural Forum”. He also successfully discussed them with many pioneers of modern furniture and design, including Charles Eames and Eliot Noyes. He expressed his creative, yet simple and excellent ideas in a book titled “Tomorrow’s House” which was published in 1940. In this work, he included his immortal idea of the “family living room”. By 1947, Nelson was appointed “Director of Design” of “Herman Miller”, a furniture company, and this proved to be a massive breakthrough in his career. Not surprisingly, he was at first sceptical about his new job, as he had little experience in furniture designing, but only time would prove his true potential and genius. In 1955, he laid the foundation of a series of unusual, yet modern and comfortable furniture by designing the “Coconut chair”.
The legendary “Marshmallow sofa” was released in the following year. It consists of several circle-shaped cushions arranged on a sturdy frame, and too, is very comfortable. In 1958 a practical, yet liberal design was incorporated by the name of “Swag Leg Group” that is available even today. Similarly, Nelson is credited with having designed the “Sling Sofa” (1964) that consists of a long but proportional bench covered with soft and comfortable cushion. He was also responsible for designing several wall and desk clocks.
Nelson’s modernisation ideas were welcomed with criticism and opposition because of the conservative furniture industry at that time but he continued to create and implement his modern designs that would be highly valued later on. In fact, he himself was a critic of furniture. The world lost a great man on the 5th of March, 1986 when George Nelson passed away in New York City. Nelson is remembered to this day, and will always be remembered as being a leader and pioneer of American modernism. His simple, yet effective and innovative furniture designs are valued even today, and indeed will remain alive forever.
Kathleen Eileen Moray Gray
August, 1878 – October, 1976
Eileen Gray was one of the renowned Irish-born furniture designers and architects of early 20th century and one of the pioneers of the modern furniture. Gray stood is one of the prominent and influential women designers the world has ever known. Her designs of various furniture including tables and chairs are still remembered for the modern arts she created with them. She was born on the 9th August, 1878 to a rich Irish family in South-eastern Ireland where she grew under care of her father, James McLaren Smith, also an artist. Gray grew up with an interest in designing which was greatly influenced by the closeness she maintained with the father. Her father took her on several trips where she saw beautiful designs and paintings that influenced her future furniture designs.
Gray’s schooling life was imposingly set from childhood. She attended the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art in London in 1898, where she studied painting. She however transferred to the Académie Julian in Paris after his father’s death in 1900. She later joined the Académie Colarossi until 1905 when her mother felt sick and she returned back to London to see her. By 1907, Gray moved back to Paris where she met with a Japanese lacquer worker who was in Paris to repair the Exposition Universelle there. Here she learnt lacquer work and became interested in the uniqueness of designs presented by this model and it was not until 1913 that she brazenly did a first touch on her own design.
Gray went back to London in 1914 when World War I broke out and returned to Paris when it ended. In 1919, Gray was commissioned to design the interior of an apartment at Rue de Lota. Her influential design on this apartment made her noticeable in Paris.
Her Bibendum chair among other furniture, which she designed during this time, impressed many people who admired and appreciated her designs. The chair was a stylish design which formed part of her change from the traditional to modern designs. She spent some good time decorating everything including the lacquered wall panels that brought out a distinct design of the apartment. This design greatly contributed to her success and many people who noticed her work started seeking her services.
Gray left painting for architecture later in her career after being encouraged by Jean Badovici who became influential in her designs from then. He influenced her to take up modern designs and in 1924, they designed a house, E-1027, in Southern France near Monaco. She also designed modern furniture for their new house, remarkably the glass E-1027 table which was a circular and classically designed table to infuse the modern designs she acquired.
Eileen Gray’s life depicted struggle and enthusiasm to prove to the world her skills in furniture designs. At first she had many critics who never wrote anything positive about her career. In 1968, however, one of her critics, Joseph Rykwert, praised her designs and published an article in a magazine which many people read. Gray died on 31 October, 1976 in France.
Florence Knoll - Born in Michigan, USA, 1917
Florence Knoll was an American architect and Furniture designer who was born on May 24, 1917. She studied with other top names in the architectural design world. Born in Michigan, she is known by her family and friends as “Shu”. She studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and graduated from the Kingsway School both schools located in Michigan State. Apart from working briefly, the design professional Florence Knoll started working with well known names of Bauhaus Movement such as Wallace, K Harrison, Marcel Breuer as well as Walter Gropius. He also received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology then known as the Armour Institute.
In 1938 her soon to be husband, Hans Knoll founded a furniture company in New York that he named after himself and in 1943, Florence convinced Hans that she could be able to help with the profitability of his business even if it was during the war and people were not buying luxury items such as designer furniture by incorporating her architectural background and design to the pieces that he was already making. Florence and Hans were married in 1946 and she became his full business partner. Not long after wards, they founded Knoll associates and established a furniture factory in Pennsylvania and as the popularity of their designs grew, so did the number of dealers that exclusively sold Knoll furniture.
Her husband Hans died tragically in 1955 after which Florence took over the company’s day to day running while at the same time managing to design all their popular furniture such as chairs, tables, sofas and many others throughout the 1950s. Many of her designs are still being produced as part of the Knoll line even today. In 1958, Florence married Harry Hood Bassett.
She also created some notable design as an architect with the most famous one being the Connecticut General Life Insurance Building in Bloomfield, Connecticut and also the interior design work of the CBS building in New York. She had some of her work displayed at the Museum Of Modern Art’s “good designs” exhibit in the 1950s and her work would mostly be used in corporate spaces more than in homes although she was equally accomplished to design for both. He exquisite design for modern office spaces helped shape the corporate accelerated industrial growth of the 1960s which also gave her the platform to showcase her work and to help change the layout and design of most offices back then.
She retired as president of Knoll in 1960 but however stayed on as the head of design in the company until 1965 when she retired completely from active corporate life. In 2002, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts an award that recognizes for her great work in design and architecture. Knoll remains a powerhouse in interior design including the design and manufacture of great pieces of furniture with some of Florence’s own designs still being produced today as part of the Knoll reproduction style.
December 1870 – May 1956
Hoffman was born in a town that is now a part of the Czech Republic and he studied arts at the Stage Crafts School in Brno in early 1887 and even worked for the local military while studying. He would later study at Fine Arts Academy in Vienna from where he graduated in 1895. Other well known architectural designers at the Academy were, Karl Freherr von Hasenauer and Otto Wagner. While working with Wagner he and Joseph Maria Olbrich founded the Vienna Secession in 1897 in conjunction with other artists in architectural design. With the secession, Hoffman and his colleagues formed strong relationships with other artists. He together with his colleagues later designed installation spaces for the Secession’s exhibits and Moser’s house that was built between 1901 and 1903.
He at one time held a teaching position at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Also with banker, Fritz Warndorfer and his friend and colleague Koloman Moser, Hoffman established the Weiner Werkstate which lasted until 1932 a period in which he was responsible for designing a lot of products for some of which are the most notable, Sitzmaschine chair and lamp, a set of glasses that would much later find their way into art exhibit at the Modern Art Museum and a design for a tea service set that would become a part of the collection at another renowned Museum.
His style would eventually change and for quite some time and he became more limited to nontraditional and Exquisite design and designing functional and products for the home which he would design up until 1906 when he would build, the Sanatorium Purkersdorf which would mark the ultimate in his change of tact to design more abstract pieces. Unlike the Moser home that Hoffman had designed earlier, this latest design moved had a lot more nontraditional style of artistry and historicism and also became an inspiration for modern architects in the in the years to follow such as Le Corbusier. Its beauty comprised of a simplicity that employed clarity and logic in a perfect combination.
Hoffman got a job to build the Palais Stoclet in Brussels during the years between 1905 to 1911 a job that he got thanks to contracts that he got from Adolphe Stoclet, a wealthy man who was in the banking and transport industry and who also sat on the Board of the Austro-Belgieschen Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft. The masterpiece he created would have Beautiful murals in the dining room and four figures on the topmost tower made by the artist Franz Metzner. His other achievements include the fact that he cofounded the Duestcher Werkbound in 107 and was also a founding member if the Osterreichischer Werkbund in 1912. After the end of World War 2 he became the Austrian general commissioner at the Venice Biennale and also served as a member of the art senate in Austria.
A number of his most intricate works of art are still in reproduction today.