Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nelson Marshmallow Sofa


Designed in 1956 by George Nelson and Irving Harper, the Marshmallow Sofa is wholly unique. The Marshmallow Sofa is constructed of 18 urethane foam cushions floating on a brushed tubular steel frame. This design was originally intended for high traffic public areas. The cushions are easily removable to facilitate easy cleaning and allow for rotation to distribute wear evenly. You can also create new looks if you have a multiple color version. This sofa was only produced until 1965 so vintage pieces are rare. Herman Miller again started producing the Marshmallow Sofa in 1999 after a 34-year hiatus.

The 1956 Herman Miller catalogue stated, “Despite its astonishing appearance, this piece is very comfortable.”

The list price of the sofa starts at $2,899 for the crepe or vinyl version, with a leather version available for $3,699. Remember, the vintage 1956 – 1965 versions are quite rare. They were however designed for public use and therefore do survive quite well.

Nelson Ball Clock


George Nelson designed the Ball Clock in 1949. The clock was part of a series of timepieces called The Chronopak. These clocks were designed for the Howard Miller Clock Company. The shape of the clock is borrowed from science; it is reminiscent of the shape of an atom. These are indeed clocks for the atomic age.

Interestingly enough, George Nelson admits to not designing the clock. As the story goes, Nelson had been working on some clock designs. One night Nelson was hanging out with other Mid-Century heavy hitters along with Bucky Fuller, Isamu Noguchi and others. While enjoying drinks, they all “contributed” by sketching their personal variations of clocks on some drafting paper. The next day, while looking at the drafting paper, Nelson found this design. Whoever designed it, the clock succeeded in selling and in becoming an iconic piece of the 50’s.

The clocks are still produced by Herman Miller and list for $315. They are also available second hand. They were produced in significant numbers and are still fairly easy to find.

Nelson Swag Leg Desk


Nelson designed the Swag Leg Desk in 1958. The desk is part of the Herman Miller swag leg group. The sides and back of this desk are solid walnut; the writing surface is white laminate. There are five cubbies separated by four colored dividers — two orange, one blue and one chartreuse. The legs are machine tapered and curved with a process called swaging.

The desk was out of production for a number of years, but is again being produces by Herman Miller. The desk’s newfound popularity is dew in part to the popularity of laptops. The design is as current and relevant as it was in 1958.

The desk lists for $1,799. There are occasional vintages pieces available on Ebay, but I have seen them sell at prices near that of the new production.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hans Olsen Round Table


This post was carried over from the home page. Although it’s a great piece for Small Space Living it also is a prime piece of Mid-Century Modern Design.

Dining sets are one of the largest pieces of furniture, next to your bed, in most homes. Fitting a table with chairs large enough to entertain — but small enough to live with — is a delicate balance. I have seen several good space saving designs, but none as functional and stylish as Hans Olsen’s round tables.

These tables were designed in 1953. The design is as revenant now as it was then with no modern peer. These pieces are readily available on Ebay and from other Mid-century Modern furniture brokers. The asking price has been ever increasing in recent months due to the new found popularity of these sets.

The table is a simple, elegant round design with cutouts in the table skirt to accept the chair backs. The table and four chairs fit perfectly together to form one integrated piece when not in use. The chairs are three-legged triangular shaped pieces. This shape is required so the four pieces can fit together under the table like slices of pie. The design is simple and functional with an elegance that beguiles it diminutive size.

There is also a larger sized version that is essentially identical except for the chairs, which have four legs. This table was recently seen in the in the apartment of the winner of Apartment Therapy’s 2007 Smallest Coolest Apartment see the post here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Meet Designer George Nelson

Photo Credit Herman Miller Company

George Nelson is considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of American Modernism.

George Nelson was born in Hartford Connecticut in 1908. He studied architecture at Yale University where he graduated in 1928. He also received a degree in fine arts in 1931.

Nelson had a career that spanned 50 years. His big break came when he was named the first associate editor of Architectural Forum Magazine He held that position from 1935 – 1943. He continued to working for the magazine as a consulting editor from 1944 – 1949.

Nelson’s accomplishments continued to firmly place him at the front of the Modern movement. In his book, Tomorrow’s House, he introduced the concept of the “family room”.

In 1945, he became the director of design at Herman Miller. He worked for Herman miller for 25 years along with some of the most famous pioneers of the Modern movement. Some of his most famous designs were the Marshmallow Sofa, The Nelson Ball Clock and the Nelson Swag Leg Group.

Nelson died in New York in 1986.

Book Review: Modern Retro

Modern Retro

In keeping with our recent Mid-Century Modern theme I have posted a new book review. The book review for Modern Retro: Living With Mid-Century Modern Style is now up on the Book Reviews Page.

The Eames Molded Plastic Rocker

1 roundup

Charles and Ray Eames designed the Eames Molded Plastic Rocker in 1948. Also known as the RAR (rocking armchair rod). The RAR was initially manufactured by Herman Miller and was the first ever mass-produced plastic chair. It was out of production for 30 years, but Herman Miller is again manufacturing an updated version of the RAR. The original was produced in fiberglass-reinforced plastic. The current, officially-licensed version is made of more environmentally friendly molded polypropylene. The rockers are made of maple and topped by the iconic Eames wire base. The current version is visually identical to the 1948 original.

This chair is a landmark design. It has an organic shape that is sculpted to fit the body and is made to be extremely durable for years of use. It was presented to The Museum of Modern Art in 1948 as part of an international low cost furniture design competition.

The Chair has a current list price of $449. Like many Mid-Century classics, it is occasionally possible to pick these chairs up at thrift stores and used furniture shops. It is also not uncommon for a vintage Herman Miller Molded Plastic Rocker to sell for well above the current new production list.

Egg Chair

2 roundup

Arne Jacobsen designed the Egg Chair in 1958. Jacobsen also designed the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. This chair was designed for the hotels busy lobby. The shape of the chair allowed sitters to swivel toward each other and have private conversations in bustling lobby. The Egg Chair is believed to be the first swiveling upholstered chair. This chair is still produced by its original manufacturer Republic of Fritz Hansen in Denmark.

The Egg Chair is very reminiscent of the traditional wing back chair with that iconic Mid-Century twist. The chair’s unique shape appears to float above the floor.

The chair currently lists for $5,398 and is also available in Leather for $10,697 — yes that’s not a typo. There are some pretty decent knock-offs; some selling as low as $800. There are also a number of very low quality knock-offs to be avoided. The best way to tell if a particular chair is the real deal is to sit in it. There is no chance you could mistake the handcrafted fell of the original Republic of Fritz Hansen version for a cheap copy.

Womb Chair

3 roundup

Eero Saarinen designed the Womb Chair after being challenged by Florence Knoll to design a chair she could curl up in. The aptly named Womb Chair envelops the sitter in comfort; it is the perfect shape and form for relaxed sitting. The chair is manufactured by applying foam molded over a fiberglass shell. The chair is still produced by Knoll to the original specifications right here in the U.S.A.

The Womb Chair is the single most iconic piece of Scandinavian modern design. It is also one of the most coveted pieces of Mid-Century Modern furniture.

The current list price of the original Womb Chair in classic boucle is $2,645. It is also available in mohair for $3,648 or with leather ranging from $4,199 to $5,898.

Eames Lounge & Ottoman

4 roundup

Designed by Charles and Ray Eames, the Eames Lounge & Ottoman is the second Eames designed piece in our roundup of chairs. The Eames lounge was designed in 1956 and has been in continual construction since it’s introduction. This chair is made of molded plywood covered with soft luxurious leather. It is still produced today by Herman Miller.

This chair has the distinction of being one of the most significant designs of the 20th century. The design is timeless, a true enduring classic.

The list price of the original Eames Lounge & Ottoman is $3,599 — not cheap but a bargain considering the quality and pedigree. There are used originals that often come up and are often significantly less expensive than current production. Small blemishes on an original should not be a concern as Herman Miller produces replacement parts. There are also a vast number of knock-offs that run the gambit of quality. The differences between the originals and copies are sometimes difficult to discern, so be careful if you are not certain.

La Chaise

5 roundup

The third Eames piece in the chair roundup is the La Chaise, designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1948. I know it’s a chaise, not a chair, but it helps to fill out our collection with a uniquely organic design. As a very recognizable piece, it is unique in its sculpture like design. Vitra currently manufactures the La Chaise in Germany.

Although it was designed in 1948 it was deemed to expensive for production until 1990. It has been produced in small numbers ever since.

The list price of the La Chaise is $8,855. It is unlikely that an original La Chaise would be available at a budget price, but if you see one jump on it.

Eames Molded Plywood Chair

6 roundup

The Eames family rounds out our chair roundup with four of the six entries. Designed in 1946, the Eames Molded Plywood Chair has been called “The Most Famous Chair of The Century.” This chair’s natural contours are designed to fit the body comfortably. Herman Miller still produces this chair.

What else can be said about the most famous chair of the century? This chair showcases all the talent of Charles and Ray Eames the classic lines of this chair are without peer.

An original Eames Molded Plywood Chair has a list price of $649. If you look you will find better deals and they are often available used. There is no knock-off that matches the quality of the original.