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Classic is the thing now, with the current state of the economy, right? People are “shopping in their closets” and investing in fashion staples like plain white shirts, trench coats and little black dresses. Have you seen all of the rugged Filson bags on shoulders and Barbour jackets on backs? Not exactly exciting fashion, but it’s tried and true. Inoffensive enough in appearance to last a while and hearty enough to take a beating.
The same attitude towards spending can be applied to interior design. Recently, the king of “classic”, Thonet, paired up with Japanese lifestyle designers, Muji for a collection of furniture. The pieces aren’t inexpensive, but with the mindset that you are making an investment in classic design and quality materials, the price tag might be right.
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Michael Thonet is the originator of the ubiquitous “vienna cafe chair”. You are familiar with the chair whether or not you know it’s origins. Made of bentwood (usually beech), it’s sinewy curves and graceful proportions yearn to be sat in and yes, photographed. You are reading the Getty Images blog, which makes me think you are interested in photography. Right now, Thonet is hosting a photo contest through the end of 2009 featuring their no. 14 chair. Go here for details.
The chair has many imitators but they are all based, more or less on Thonet’s No. 14 chair from 1855. It has been called the most influential furniture design in history. It takes very little wood to create, is very light and therefore inexpensive to ship. You see them on stages, in restaurants, bars, in set design, and homes of all kinds. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec depicts the chairs in his paintings of Parisian cafe life, Picasso used one in his studio and they are in the MoMa permanent collection. Can you imagine Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly upstaged by a piece of furniture? They are above (top right) Even Ikea manufactured their own plasti-wood version called OGLA.
See how Thonet’s designs invade our subconscious here.
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