Giants of Modern Furniture

Pierre Paulin

French chair designer extraordinaire Pierre Paulin was the 'it' designer of the 1960s. His unusual use of shape and materials sparked the imagination of the youth culture. Today his designs are highly sought after, in both the new furniture and vintage furniture markets.

After failed stints as a stone carver and ceramist, Paulin developed an interest in Japanese and Scandinavian design. He liked to use foam shapes that would cradle the body, and stretch upholstery to match the contour. Paulin was a huge influence on Olivier Mourgue, who designed the futuristic chairs seen in the film '2001 A Space Odyssey'.

Among his most popular and unique designs are the Orange Slice chair, Mushroom chair, Oyster chair, and the Ribbon chair. Paulin is also well known for his interior design projects including the Denon Wing of the Louvre, and the private residences of two French presidents.

Arne Jacobsen

Danish designer Arne Jacobsen is primarily remembered for his modern chair designs, although he considered himself an architect first and foremost. He actually disliked the term 'designer'.

Most of his furniture designs were originally created for architectural projects. Jacobsen's collaboration with furniture manufacturer Fritz Hansen began in 1934, and their production continues to this day. He was surely influenced by the work of Charles and Ray Eames, particularly their experiments with bent plywood.

The Ant Chair was created in 1951 for an extension to the Novo pharmaceutical factory, and is matched only in popularity by the Butterfly Chair. Both are light, compact, stackable and affordable. His Egg and Swan lounge chairs were absolutely futuristic and have been a staple of science fiction films for the past 50 years. They were both created for the SAS Royal Hotel, which he designed in 1956.

Charles and Ray Eames

Charles and Bernice 'Ray' Eames were husband and wife designers known for innovations in architecture, filmmaking and furniture design. The Eames Lounge Chair is considered a modern classic, a molded plywood design that has been copied by many.

The Eameses were among the first to experiment with fiberglass and plastic resin, along with wire-mesh chairs for Herman Miller. Often only Charles was credited but time has revealed Ray's deep involvement and she is now recognized as an equal partner. The Eames fabrics, resissued by Maharam, were primarily designed by Ray.

Charles had a strong interest in photography and filmmaking as an outlet for ideas. Their short film 'Powers of Ten' is an extraordinary intellectual and educational piece demonstrating the orders of magnitude by zooming from the edge of the universe to the nucleus of a carbon atom.

Current vs. Reissue vs. Vintage

Current Production
Many chairs designed in the mid-20th century never went out of production. Companies like Fritz Hansen, Vitra, and Artifort worked with the designers originally, put their chairs into production and never stopped.

Artifort is still the primary manufacturer of Pierre Paulin's designs and new production can be purchased in the US through a network of Artifort dealers.

Auction Sites

On auction sites like eBay you should be very careful. Many sellers claim to have authentic vintage pieces for sale, but they may be recent knock-offs from China. Your best bet is to stick with reputable sellers of new and vintage furniture.

TJ Perry

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