put your money where your keaster is

Sometimes I find that the new and exciting thing I am looking at I have seen before. Much is the case with some of my favorite chairs. A chair? Yes, I have a certain love for design that has developed through the study of furniture and common objects. And it seems the litmus test for a designer is how well they can design a chair. Of course that leaves me, and many like me, with a large list of favorites to choose from. Here are a few of mine. 

My top chair/designer combo is Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His work isn’t that widely known but his style and volume of drawings gives insight into a man who was able to create his own path and was not commercially driven. His chairs are unique in that they are the simplest compositions of angles and lines and lend themselves to instant identification and bold color. While his furniture would not sit well in a contemporary house of today, they would fit well in a more eclectic environment and cross various eras and styles.


The most interesting chair/designer combo would have to be Michael Thonet (said Toe-neT). Although he is not a designer by trade, what he was, was an innovator. He developed a method of furniture construction with bent plys of wood that would shape all furniture to be made industrially. Just wonder where IKEA would be if not for his advancements where production meets design. His Chair no.14 is probably as recognizable to the average individual as any other chair would be to an art student. The style of manufacture and sheer volume produced has left some 50 million Thonet chairs since1859. My old college, Hunting College, has several hundred Thonets in the cafeteria alone. (I do remember sitting on one, getting up and flipping it over to quite a few stares.) The other great benefit of the pure volume is the low cost associated today for an original, which is around $50. If you ever feel like appreciating some form of industrial driven design, get a Thonet.


And last but not least…a chair/designer combo destined to be a cult classic. While you may have never heard of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or Lilly Reich every budding Architect or designer has. I’ll start with the picture first.

Mies van der Rohe

What that is, is the Barcelona Chair. This chair is the most famous chair in the world. It stands amongst the design community as a form of understanding, the guiding light if you will. It is also a secret handshake amongst those in the fraternity of design. It is in every movie, every commercial, every Ad. We play “there is the chair” in my house. If there is space for just one chair and your art director is worth their weight they will put the Barcelona Chair there every time. Personally I like it, it is a chair. It is simple and comfortable. But this is more than a chair, it is an object that has become greater than the sum of its parts. Mies didn’t make this chair famous, the Bauhaus movement didn’t make this chair famous, this chair made itself famous.

Sometimes knowing a little more about that object your using can increase your pleasure in using it. A little history and understanding can speak volumes for what that piece is trying to achieve and its place in the world. While a chair can be as simple as a log on the ground or as complex as the ergonomic composite office chairs of today, there is one thing that remains – how you interact with it determines its success or failure. So take the time, sit back, and relax in something vintage and cool.