The Art of the Chaise

My Herman Miller molded fibreglass chair, snagged a few years ago, at my artist friend Mike’s yearly off-beat yard sale.

After we hunted or gathered, or in my case, scavenged, and finished our lovely cave paintings, we looked for something to sit ourselves on. Naturally, we wanted it to suit our bodies and also add to the appeal to the cave. As I believe that acquiring art is fundamental as discussed in Heart for Art, this extends to furniture, too. Chairs, in particular, hold a fascination for me. They are sculpture, the piece of furniture that is closest to embracing the human curve. The mere chair can capture and symbolize a design movement. While serving a most basic function, it is also the most varied in shape and form. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, famous for his  “skin and bones” architecture style (e.g. Seagram Building in Manhattan) and his oft-quoted aphorism “less is more,” a personal mantra I try to live by. van der Robe, however, felt that the chair was the most challenging in concept and design, “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous.” (no, not the shirtless all-male revue, but rather Thomas Chippendale and his famous 18th century mahogany chair designed in the Rococo taste with a ribbon-back feature.)

Shoe designer Roger Vivier’s (famous for inventing the stiletto) sitting room where Louis XV chairs in red leather reside along the gorgeous Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair, centre.

For me this makes my chair acquisitions all the more thrilling. My favourites are well-seated  in the 1960s. That new age of free love, flower power and psychedelia, for me, was the most creative decade for interior design. Midcentury design, which was known as Scandinavian Modern and later Danish Modern, was already in full swing. World War II had created a shortage of materials, so a sleeker, more refined style had emerged, developed by Alvar Aalto and based on the thrifty use of oak, walnut, teak and plywood. The 1960s was also the first time young people became the driving (and consumer) force behind fashion, style and culture. Their spirited rebellion embraced colourful alternatives to the dreary styles of the past. This generated a new wave of inspired and liberated designers who were free to experiment with new materials to create furniture in vivid colours and fluid form. As Danish designer Verner Panton said, “You sit better on a colour that you like.”

Danish designer, Verner Panton, funky ‘Panton’ chair, was devised in a variety of materials, especially plastics and fibreglass, and in vibrant and exotic colors.

The new substances — such as fiberglass, cast aluminum and acrylics — ushered in a style that featured clean, uncluttered, simple lines and organic shapes. With this new market, new attitude and new possibilities, the design masters of the decade produced furniture that, for me, is remarkably innovative and aesthetically crisp.

This beloved find I purchased, a few years ago, at the estate sale of a woman who had been an executive at Avon Headquarters in Manhattan in the halcyon days of the 1960s.  The thought that my furniture has had a past life appeals to me greatly, as I like to imagine her lounging on this vinyl yellow-gold couch, drinking a ‘pink squirrel,’ smoking a Virginia Slim whilst chatting on her rotary dial phone. I should point out that this acquisition and everything else featured here was bought on a budget so tight even a shoestring wasn’t present. (Kisses to Kitsch Bitsch for pointing out it would be a ‘Pink Squirrel.’)

At another estate sale, a year later, of a 90-year-old woman, whose taste was so off-the-hook groovy it would have had Lenny Kravitz swoon with “Superlove,” I became the proud of owner of this unique (disco) club chair for practically a song.

Like everything else shown here, this was also found for a steal. It’s a vintage Drexel Heritage chair from the Goodwill charity shop (in a nearby well-to-do area that I scour frequently) in the bravest chartreuse I ever saw. I love it, even though I can’t seem to pin down its year.

My only acquisition over $150 from an estate sale, last year, that was presided over by a professional who knew its worth, and so did I. Once you’re in this vintage Danish leather recliner, you don’t want to get out of it.

My design-savvy Aunt Ingrid pointed out to me that a dining room table was a gathering of different people, so why should the chairs be the same? These characters I have added slowly, year-by-year, and they are all well-used and loved.

MadKat’s bedroom chair is this 1960s US Thonet chair (pronounced “Tone-eT”) after the Austrian designer famous for the Bentwood Chair. I found this on the street. When retrieving it, an elderly gentleman came onto the wrap-around porch of the large Victorian house, and beckoned, “Missy, we have plenty more the back.” At that time, my Dumpster Diva ways still embarrassed me.

Luckily, I have decided to embrace my ways, and this very sturdy, old schoolroom chair I pulled, resolutely, out of a neighbourhood rubbish pile. Scrubbed and varnished, it has a new life as the communal seat for removal of shoes before entering the house. It has names carved under the seat.

More current, and of this age, is Philippe Starck, a well-known French designer, whom I love for always cheekily messing with classic styles, as seen in his famous Louis XVI Ghost Chair.

I discovered when I moved into this house, behind this chair, is a very old wood drum stick lodged between the floor and the wall. I love it, I feel it belongs to the house.

My friend, Arthur, and I stopped at the Paramount Hotel in the NYC theatre district and I happened upon this bite-your-butt wit and bravado that is Starck. He breathes new life into a chair that could be otherwise considered stodgy and antiquated.

I love this quote of Monsieur Starck, “The best everyday example of relativity, the finest symptom of human intelligence, is humour. (…) Design without humour is not human.” Which reminds me of Charles Eames’ quote, “I like to consider myself to be very very funny, the funny thing is, I don’t know what a joke actually is.”

I adore Starck’s Paramount Hotel lobby just for the mere fact that he demonstrates it is OK to mash-up different decades of design.

This chair, below, I bought when I was broke and driving up Route 1 in California when I spied it amongst some really bad 1980s household goods. I couldn’t pass it, and 20 bucks later it was mine, and when I got home I realized it was 100% Italian leather. Whatever modern style it is, I feel like Barbarella when reclining on this wide swivel scoop.

The pillow is from a very talented and original South African designer, Skinny Laminx

So, if you like my mission: Mixerella, pull up a seat, and make yourself comfortable. Earth girl is seated over here.


6 thoughts on “The Art of the Chaise

  1. Damn I love your house. Your stuff photographs so well. Bravo, this. My favorite since you first two entries! I will stare at th pictures over and over.

  2. Pingback: Earth Beings: Curtis & Albert | mix|arella

  3. Pingback: Earth Beings: Emma | mix|arella

  4. Pingback: Earth Being: Emma | mix|arella

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