Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Design Icons: Hans Wegner

I have always loved anything done by Hans Wegner ( 2 apr. 1914 - 26 jan. 2007 ). His ch24 Y chair, better known as the "Wishbone Chair", is hands down one of my favorite chairs of all time. Along with many, many others I consider Mr.Wegner a sort of "Godfather" of Danish Design. His prolific portfolio of work is recognisable all over the world. Even if one does not know the name of the piece or even that Hans Wegner created it most will know that they are looking at an important piece of furniture.

Mr.Wegner was born in Tønder, in southern Denmark in 1914. His career started as an apprentice to a master cabinetmaker, which he completed at 17. After his apprenticeship, and a brief time in the military, he went  to technical college and then to the Danish School of Arts and Crafts ( what is now The Danish Design School) and the Architectural Academy in Copenhagen. It was here that he decided to become a designer and where his signature style began to surface. Even his earliest objects, like an armchair with sloping armrests like relaxed wrists (a 1937 design for an exhibit at the Museum of Decorative Arts), exhibited Wegner's approach of "stripping the old chairs of their outer style and letting them appear in their pure construction."

From 1940-43 Mr.Wegner worked for Arne Jacobsen (who will most likely be the topic of a later "Design Icons:" post) and Erik Moller, where he was in charge of the furniture for the Aarhus Municipal Hall in Aarhus, Denmark. In 1943 Mr.Wegner started his own design office in Gentofte, Denmark. A year later he designed for Johannes Hansen the first of a long series of 'chinese' chairs. A series of at least nine chairs inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Ming chairs. Although most of them were designed for Fritz Hansen Eftf. the one designed in 1950 and produced by Carl Hansen & Søn in Odense became the most successful of all Wegner chairs. The most well known is the one used by Kennedy and Nixon in their famous CBS TV debate of 1960.

In his later years Wegner became more attached to PP Møbler (which produces most of his designs today) for whom many of his later designs were made. He remained active throughout his life. An example of his later work is the "Hoop Chair", originally designed in 1965 with a steel tube base and finally put into production made entirely in wood in 1985 (for PP Møbler). Wegner has designed furniture for PP Møbler, Johannes Hansen, Carl Hansen & Son, Fritz Hansen, Getama, Fredericia Stolefabrik and others. He designed over 500 chairs and retired from public life only in the last decade of his life.

Wegner's chair designs were manufactured primarily by PP Møbler and Carl Hansen & Søn, and were largely free-standing. The "Peacock" chair from 1947, with a slatted back rest fanning out to evoke the bird's plume, was inspired by the traditional "Windsor" chair. His 1949 folding chair was made to be hung on the wall, and his "Shell" chair from the same year experimented with curving the wood in three dimensions to form the seat. The multi-purpose "Valet" chair, designed in 1953, had elements for hanging up or storing each piece of a man's suit. The backrest is carved to be used as a coat hanger, pants can be hung on a rail at the edge of the seat and everything else can be stowed in a storage space underneath the seat. In 1960 he came out with several variations on the "Ox" chair which came with or without horns, and showed the less serious side of Wegner's designs. "We must take care," he once said, "that everything doesn't get so dreadfully serious. We must play--but we must play seriously." Wegner has stated that, "the chair does not exist. The good chair is a task one is never completely done with."

Chinese Chair (1944)

Peacock Chair (1947)

Wishbone Chair (1949)
Flag Halyard Chair (1950)

VAlet Chair (1953)

Shell Chair (1963)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Antlers, that's right...antlers.

I am a huge fan of using antlers in my designs. Not just for rustic hunting cabins or to hang above the doors of old barns, antlers can fit quite nicely into almost every design style. Clusters look great if you have the room for it, just make sure not to pack them too close together...or on a wall that you may have to walk past in the dark (trust me on this one). Alternately, a single piece can be a wonderful accent, or focal point, to any room.

Antlers are one of those design elements that are amazingly versatile. When used correctly they can be formal, whimsical, traditional, modern, etc., etc, etc. Much of this versatility comes in how the antlers are displayed. Mounting them on a plaque opens up numerous possibilities since you get to choose the shape of the plaque, the color and the size. Hanging them without a plaque can look amazing too, when going this route pay extra attention to proportions (of the wall, surrounding objects, etc.).

Remember that you do not have to put antlers on a wall. They can be placed on an open shelf against other objects, attached to a bookcase or to the frame of a bigger painting or mirror (again, please mind the proportions) or even hung on door...however, this can be quite tricky to pull off. If attempting to hang on a door pay extreme attention to the dimensions, small sets will work best here...a grand twelve point set...might get you, or others, a trip to the emergency room.

As with anything in interior design the best advice I can give with this element is this, one of my personal philosophies, "Plan it before you place it." Take a little time to really get a feel for how this item works for your space, your style, for the item itself.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

An ode to purples..

I have always loved purple as a neutral. If done correctly the effect the color brings can be quite wonderful. It is a perfect color for spring/summer. If you are not ready for a purple wall or piece of furniture a small touch of the color, be it a floral arrangement, a piece of art or even a small accessory can be a delightful addition to any space.

The color psychology of Purple:
  • Purple is the symbol of royalty and wealth.
  • Purple does not often occur in nature, it can sometimes appear exotic or artificial.
  • Uplifting, Calming to mind and nerves
  • Offers a sense of spirituality
  • Encourages creativity
Purple embodies the balance of red simulation and blue calm. This dichotomy can cause unrest or uneasiness unless the undertone is clearly defined at which point the purple takes on the characteristics of its undertone. A sense of mystic and royal qualities, purple is a color often well liked by very creative or eccentric types.

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