Eames Lounge Chair
PHOTOGRAPH BY LANCE GERBER / REMAINING PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY MODERN HACIENDA AND THE MANUFACTURERS
Fifty-plus shades of chairs fill the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center’s new exhibition, “The Modern Chair,” which follows a fascinating evolution of important examples beginning in 1905. After a post-museum lunch, you’ll likely be in the mood to shop. Good to know authentic re-issues by a number of luminary designers in the exhibit are available locally through Modern Hacienda in Palm Desert.
Before you settle on a cushy corner reader by Eames or a willowy set of Hans Wegner dining chairs, owners and interior designers Nicholas Hertneck and Lawrence Lazzaro invite a look at just a few of the wallflowers by some of the same designers and manufacturers included in the show.
These unsung furnishings are the shy, quiet types that never quite basked in the glow of public notoriety yet possess arresting good looks and vital functionality. They may, for that reason, come out on top as stronger conversation pieces. Sit down and think on it. The most exciting decisions rarely come easy.
Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman vs. Eames Sofa
“Of course, we love this chair very, very, very much,” says Lazzaro of the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman as seen in the exhibition. “Its fame and glory are well-deserved. But we also love the lesser-known Eames Sofa,” the last piece of furniture produced by the Eames Office.
The more industrial-style sofa was, explains Lazzaro, designed to have a low profile and fit in the tightest of spaces. “And yet it has a very large personality with its solid carved-wood back, cast aluminum frame and soft pad upholstery.”
Bertoia Wire Side Chair vs. Bird Chair and Ottoman
“I love the story of how Knoll worked with Harry Bertoia,” says Lazzaro. Which Knoll explains like this: “Characteristic of the early environment at (the company), Hans and Florence never demanded that Bertoia design furniture, but instead encouraged him to explore whatever he liked. They simply asked that if he arrived at something interesting, to show them.” The exhibition-worthy Bertoia Wire Side Chair was the result.
“But Harry Bertoia didn’t stop at this singular masterpiece in 1952,” in his metal-bending frenzy, Lazzaro adds. “For Knoll, he went on to create the Diamond Chair, the Asymmetric Chaise, and, our favorite, The Bird Chair.” This deep-seated nest has a high back that serves as a place to rest one’s head. After a long day flying here and there, the ottoman allows a minimalist-modern place to put one’s feet up.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Chair vs. MR Chair
“The Barcelona Chair is such an icon; it’s hard to imagine it was designed for a temporary installation,” says Lazzaro. The German Pavilion of the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona featured just two chairs made for the event. The Pavilion was intended to host King Alphonso XIII of Spain at a ceremony on site and the chair, upon consideration, has a powerful, almost throne-like, presence. It made its way into the local exhibition more than 90 years after its debut. With the exception of one 16-year period, it has been manufactured since 1929.
Two years prior, Lazzaro notes, Mies van den Rohe designed the MR Chair (left) inspired by his fellow Bauhaus master, Marcel Breuer, and utilizing a tubular steel frame. “For the desert, we love the rattan seat version, which was reintroduced by Knoll in 2018.”
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