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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Stellar Designers: Patricia Urquiola

Becky

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Lately it seems every light fixture or chair that catches my eye was designed by the fabulous Patricial Urquiola. Urquiola is a Spanish designer of many talents; she’s an architect, she designs exhibitions, she speaks at conferences and her furniture and lighting designs are well on their way to icon status. She’s collaborated with the most pre-eminent furniture manufacturers in the world, creating artistic, thoughtful and most importantly, highly functional products, from rugs to sofas, and side tables to outdoor furniture. Her use of the latest technologies and materials provides the function, while her imagination informs the form.

Urquiola working on new designs and showing off her fabulous ring

Her artful approach and dedication to function makes her designs stand out; one of the first ones I fell for is the wonderfully loopy Re-Trouvé chair. Available in a wide range of bright powder coated colors, the designs combine Urquiola’s contemporary sensibilities with some whimsical nostalgia.

Re-Trouvé High Back Chair

“Inspiration came from the marvelous icon chairs of the ’50′s, so full of curls and doodles. I wanted to create new models which would bring together a re-interpretation of this old fashioned design with a more humorous twist, produced with numerical control technology,” she says.

Re-Trouvé Pouf

The line, produced by Italian manufacturer Emu and distributed by Coalesse, also includes this eclectic stool/ottoman.

Last Minute Stool

Coalesse is also distributing Urquiola’s Last Minute Stool, a streamlined and ergonomic piece that comes in counter and bar height. The seat is made of flexible steel and covered in leather; the legs are sleek chrome.

I am so happy that Design Public is carrying these stellar pieces from a superstar like Urquiola. We also carry a few items she designed in partnership for Kartell, including the flirty and strong Frilly Chair:

Kartell Frilly Chair

as well as the clever Matelasse Vase:

Kartell Matelasse Vases (these are 11.8″ high; I know it’s hard to tell the scale from this photo)

I look forward to seeing what she come up with next, and I’ll keep you posted when I find out!

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Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Get To Know Vitra

Becky

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People, we’re having a sale on all things Vitra for the next week (through Oct. 18, 2012). In honor of that, let’s take a look at some of Vitra’s iconic products.

Vitra produces George Nelson’s mid-century modern clock designs. This is the Sunburst Clock, but there is a slew of diverse designs to choose from.

These are Panton Chairs, also known as “S Chairs” – designed by Vernor Panton back in the sixties. They come in lots of yummy colors. If you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on some of these, do it this week while you can save 15%.

In addition to the cutest product shot ever, we have the Eames Elephant. The prototype was designed by Charles and Ray Eames back in 1945, and was rendered in plywood. Vitra actually put it into production over 60 years later, this time in polypropylene.

This is Jasper Morrison’s Cork Stool. There are three different shapes to choose from. I like them because they are so versatile – you can tuck them underneath a console table as extra seating in a tight space, use them to hold a table lamp and cocktails as a side table, or just enjoy them as sculpture.

Sori Yanagi’s designed this Butterfly Stool in 1954. I feel calmer just looking at it.

This is a thick composition of Vitra’s Algue. These are plastic pieces that snap together to form anything from small sculptural wall hangings to thick, vine-like screens.

Finally, take a virtual visit to Vitra’s campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany. My favorite building is Vitrahaus and Lounge Chair Atelier by Herzog & de Meuron, which received a ton of buzz when it first went up back in 2010.

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Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Designer Interview: Rapson-Inc.

Becky

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Architect and furniture designer Ralph Rapson trained at Cranbook under Eliel Saarinen, designed furniture for Knoll, sketched the most charming illustrations of his designs, opened the first modern home decor store  in the Boston area with his wife in the 1940s and practiced as an architect.

Ralph Rapson

Today his son, architect Toby Rapson, and President of Rapson-Inc. Chris Reedy are carrying on the elder Rapson’s legacy, working with designers to re-release high quality Ralph Rapson designs, sometimes with a few tweaks they believe he would have approved of.

Chris, who lived in a Ralph Rapson house (above), met Ralph Rapson when Rapson knocked upon his door to check out how his design was holding up.  So, Toby, did you and your father make a habit of doing this at all the houses you designed?

Toby: I occasionally stop in at homes that my father or I designed. I’m sure that I get this penchant for dropping in unannounced from my Dad.

Chris: My son was only 1 at the time and had just strewn a crunchy layer of Cheerios all over, and the doorbell rings and it’s the great man himself come to look at what we’re doing with his house … Ralph pretended not to notice the chaos and kindly went about charming us all.

How long did it take after that until you two were launching this business together?

Toby: Well, the story is a bit long – my parents originally established Rapson Inc. in Boston during the 1940s selling modern living equipment as well as pieces designed by Ralph.  My father continued to design custom pieces for architectural clients and it wasn’t until 50 years later while working with my dad at Rapson Architects that we started dabbling in reproducing the Rapid Rocker.

This led to collaborating with Blu Dot, producing his Dwell Lounge, and working with other interesting teams of designers on additional prototypes.  After my dad’s death I felt strongly about continuing his design legacy and perhaps producing more pieces from his extensive design library.  My wife and I put together a show of Ralph’s furniture drawings in late 2010 to gauge public interest; it was quite successful.  But, my primary business is Rapson Architects so I knew I needed help to make a stand-alone business.

Chris: As it happened, I came to this impressive show, saw some prototypes, and wondered if Toby was looking for a business partner. The timing was right, I made my pitch, we started the company a little over a year ago, and it’s been a really, really fun time.

How did you choose which designs to release first?

Toby: So far, the choices have been pretty easy. First, we wanted to continue making the bentwood Rapson Rapid Rocker that my father re-introduced late in life.  Second, we decided to produce some of my father’s best-known designs for H.G. Knoll from the 1940s, we call these the Greenbelt Line.  We are also currently working on his iconic ‘Chair of Tomorrow’ and a few others.  The hard part as we move forward will be sifting through the vast options that my dad has given us.

Chris: Those Knoll designs are very important to telling Ralph Rapson’s story in design, obviously, but they also use natural materials that are very appealing today.  It turns out ‘natural modernism’ or ‘rustic modernism’ or whatever you want to call it today has quite long roots.  And the Greenbelt Line has those sculpted, cantilevered arms that are still so daring.

Toby: Yes, those arms are a signature piece of my father’s work.  Just as we were getting started with the Greenbelt Line, I ran into Greg Benson, the CEO at Loll Designs, and we started talking about doing outdoor versions in Loll’s signature material, recycled plastic.

Chris: This was a bit of a discussion; there are definitely Modern purists who might wonder about this.

Toby: But I know my father always wanted to push the envelope and I feel he would have loved knowing the pieces he drew long ago could be for outdoor use; particularly in such a responsible, innovative and incredibly durable material. The team at Loll has been great to work with and we’ve licensed these designs to them. I’m just sorry my father isn’t around to be a part of the fun.

What was the biggest challenge in re-releasing your father’s furniture designs?

Toby: Quality is always a significant challenge. My father’s signature is on each piece we make. Even though we’re a scrappy small company, he would not have wanted any less than perfect chairs to be delivered.

Chris: We take great pride in continuing Ralph’s legacy.

Toby: Luckily, we have found good partners who are excited to make Rapson chairs and understand we’re a small company entrusted with great designs.

What kept you going when the challenges mounted?

Toby: My father’s furniture designs are second to none.  His designs are embraced as modern icons by many, Chris and I just need to do our part.

Are you ever going to re-release the slatted coffee table? Because I want one.

Chris: Stay tuned.

Toby: I thought you were supposed to be the business guy.  Get her credit card number.

photo credit: Larry Weinberg

While we’re on that topic, which designs are you hoping to release in the future?

Chris: The next chair we do will be the first piece based solely off drawings Ralph left behind.

Toby: I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said “your father drew like an angel.” But beyond that, his furniture drawings often included people sitting, lounging with a martini, reading a book, sunbathing, etc; his drawings had personality and his designs were scaled for people.  It’s astounding how faithful we can be to his imagination – that is, his renderings – and still have a chair that’s very, very comfortable.

Toby: Actually, the public had a say toward this new chair.  We had an opening with Danish Teak Classics; a local gallery that showcased our Greenbelt chairs and we asked the public to vote between three designs.  They made a wise choice.

Chris: In fact, we’re behind schedule because I took the first prototype home, put it in front of the TV, and didn’t want to give it back because it’s so comfortable. The chair actually seems like it’s trying to put you to sleep.

Toby: Becky, I know, you’re thinking “Give me a break! There are a lot of comfortable chairs!”  But my father developed his approach while working with Eliel, Eero, Hans and Florence, Harry, Charlie and others, and brought his innovation to early modern furniture design and the design of this chair that adds both character and comfort in a way that’s surprising and still unique and timely 60 or more years after he drew it.  We can’t wait to get it into production.

No break necessary; I can’t wait to check it out. I also like that you’re on a first-name basis with the greats (Readers, that’s Saarinen, Saarinen, Wegner, Knoll, Bertoia and Eames, I think)! Where can we see more of Ralph Rapson’s amazing drawings?

Toby: We have literally hundreds of drawings, but a nice selection is included in his biography, Ralph Rapson: 60 Years of Modern Design.

Is there anything else you’d like people to remember about Rapson-Inc.?

Toby: Most importantly, I want people to learn more about Ralph Rapson and his role in the development of modern design.  One goal of the company is to ensure the legacy of my father’s designs; I hope people will view what we’re doing at Rapson-Inc as a thoughtful extension of his design process and philosophy.  Moving ahead, we are embracing collaborators and innovative materials with the spirit of my father as we expand the catalog of Rapson designs in production.

Thanks so much to Toby and Chris for taking the time to speak with us today. Readers, All Rapson-Inc. products are 15% off through October 31, so get shopping!

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Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

In Celebration of Bertoia Chairs

Becky

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Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know I have a serious chair fetish. While I’d never pick one favorite, Harry Bertoia’s wire chairs are right up there at the tippy top of the list. Thus, I am super-excited that we are now carrying these licensed chairs, made by Knoll. So excited in fact, I thought I’d share the coolest shots of this chair I coud find.

First, let’s get a look at the naked chair:

“If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes through them” -Harry Bertoia

This is very fitting, as Bertoia was trained as a sculptor.

Here’s the sexiest Bertoia wire shot ever taken:

This is Jocelyn Lane circa 1960, enjoying a Diamond chair poolside. Be warned: If you sit in one with shorts this short on, you will get a waffle pattern on the back of your thighs. You can avoid this by buying a seat cushion, a full cover or wearing pants.

Here is the coolest person who ever sat in a Bertoia Chair:

Laurence Fishburne turning three side chairs into a lounging spot, in Paley Park, which is the coolest pocket park use of Bertoia Chairs.

By the way, all of the Knoll products we carry are 15% off through September 30, 2012. Just use coupon code CLASSIC

*Found a few of these photos on Pinterest and have no idea how to track down the propert credits,  if you know any of them, PLEASE leave it in the comments section so I can add them!

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Thursday, September 13th, 2012

A Brief History of Emeco’s 1006 Chair

Becky

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When I received my Design Public newsletter titled “Get the Look: Industrial Chic” this a.m., it got me thinking about one my very favorite chairs. If you know me at all, you know I have a major chair fetish, so giving a certain chair my attention is a major compliment. Anyway, the chair of which I speak is the Emeco 1006  Chair (a.k.a. Navy Chair). Here’s a little more information on its rise to popularity.I am cribbing this verbatim from emeco.com:

In 1944, Wilton Carlyle Dinges founded the Electrical Machine and Equipment Company (Emeco) in Hanover Pennsylvania utilizing the skills of local craftsman. During WWII the U.S government gave him a big assignment, make chairs that could withstand water, salt air and sailors. Make chairs lightweight and make them strong, build them for a lifetime. Aluminum was the obvious choice, engineered for practical purposes, designed by real people. Emeco named the chair with a number: 1006, some people call it the Navy chair. We still call it the Ten-o-six. Forming, welding, grinding, heat-treating, finishing, anodizing- just a few of the 77 step it takes to build an Emeco chair. No one else makes chairs this way. No one can. It takes a human eye to know when the process is done right, and it takes human hands to get it that way. Our goal. Make recycling obsolete and keep making things that last.

They have this super cool set of drawings for the original chair posted on their site too:

What I didn’t realize was that until Ian Schrager hired Philippe Starck to re-design the Paramount Hotel in 1990, you could only find the chair at police stations, hospitals, prisons and other government sties. Because the chairs last for several lifetimes, sales were in a real slump; no one ever needed a replacement chair! However, while Schrager was making hotels cool, Starck was making the 1006 Chair cool:

When the CEO of Emeco and Starck met in the hub-bub of ICFF, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship; Starck designed the Hudson Chair for Emeco:

as well as the Kong Chair:

Emeco has added using recycled material to their list of sustainable moves, the original move being that you never have to throw the 1006 Navy chair away, as its function and form never falter. Be on the lookout for the latest chair, the Broom Chair, designed by Starck, which is made of waste plastic and comes in an array of bodacious colors:

I will be adding the Broom Chair to my Wish List!

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