Mid-20th Century Brazilian Mid-Century Modern Armchairs
Mid-20th Century Brazilian Mid-Century Modern Armchairs
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Mid-20th Century Brazilian Mid-Century Modern Lounge Chairs
A Close Look at mid-century-modern Furniture
Organically shaped, clean-lined and elegantly simple are three terms that well describe vintage mid-century modern furniture. The style, which emerged primarily in the years following World War II, is characterized by pieces that were conceived and made in an energetic, optimistic spirit by creators who believed that good design was an essential part of good living.
ORIGINS OF MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE DESIGN
- Emerged during the mid-20th century
- Informed by European modernism, Bauhaus, International style, Scandinavian modernism and Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture
- A heyday of innovation in postwar America
- Experimentation with new ideas, new materials and new forms flourished in Scandinavia, Italy, the former Czechoslovakia and elsewhere in Europe
CHARACTERISTICS OF MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE DESIGN
- Simplicity, organic forms, clean lines
- A blend of neutral and bold Pop art colors
- Use of natural and man-made materials — alluring woods such as teak, rosewood and oak; steel, fiberglass and molded plywood
- Light-filled spaces with colorful upholstery
- Glass walls and an emphasis on the outdoors
- Promotion of functionality
MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE DESIGNERS TO KNOW
- Charles and Ray Eames
- Eero Saarinen
- Milo Baughman
- Florence Knoll
- Harry Bertoia
- Isamu Noguchi
- George Nelson
- Danish modernists Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen, whose emphasis on natural materials and craftsmanship influenced American designers and vice versa
ICONIC MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE DESIGNS
- Eames lounge chair
- Nelson daybed
- Florence Knoll sofa
- Egg chair
- Womb chair
- Noguchi coffee table
- Barcelona chair
VINTAGE MID-CENTURY MODERN FURNITURE ON 1STDIBS
The mid-century modern era saw leagues of postwar American architects and designers animated by new ideas and new technology. The lean, functionalist International-style architecture of Le Corbusier and Bauhaus eminences Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius had been promoted in the United States during the 1930s by Philip Johnson and others. New building techniques, such as “post-and-beam” construction, allowed the International-style schemes to be realized on a small scale in open-plan houses with long walls of glass.
Materials developed for wartime use became available for domestic goods and were incorporated into mid-century modern furniture designs. Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen, who had experimented extensively with molded plywood, eagerly embraced fiberglass for pieces such as the La Chaise and the Womb chair, respectively.
Architect, writer and designer George Nelson created with his team shades for the Bubble lamp using a new translucent polymer skin and, as design director at Herman Miller, recruited the Eameses, Alexander Girard and others for projects at the legendary Michigan furniture manufacturer.
Harry Bertoia and Isamu Noguchi devised chairs and tables built of wire mesh and wire struts. Materials were repurposed too: The Danish-born designer Jens Risom created a line of chairs using surplus parachute straps for webbed seats and backrests. The Risom lounge chair was among the first pieces of furniture commissioned and produced by legendary manufacturer Knoll, a chief influencer in the rise of modern design in the United States, thanks to the work of Florence Knoll, the pioneering architect and designer who made the firm a leader in its field. The seating that Knoll created for office spaces — as well as pieces designed by Florence initially for commercial clients — soon became desirable for the home.
As the demand for casual, uncluttered furnishings grew, more mid-century furniture designers caught the spirit.
Classically oriented creators such as Edward Wormley, house designer for Dunbar Inc., offered such pieces as the sinuous Listen to Me chaise; the British expatriate T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings switched gears, creating items such as the tiered, biomorphic Mesa table. There were Young Turks such as Paul McCobb, who designed holistic groups of sleek, blond wood furniture, and Milo Baughman, who espoused a West Coast aesthetic in minimalist teak dining tables and lushly upholstered chairs and sofas with angular steel frames.
As the collection of vintage mid-century modern chairs, dressers, coffee tables and other furniture for the living room, dining room, bedroom and elsewhere on 1stDibs demonstrates, this period saw one of the most delightful and dramatic flowerings of creativity in design history.
On the Origins of brazilian
More often than not, vintage mid-century Brazilian furniture designs, with their gleaming wood, soft leathers and inviting shapes, share a sensuous, unique quality that distinguishes them from the more rectilinear output of American and Scandinavian makers of the same era.
Commencing in the 1940s and '50s, a group of architects and designers transformed the local cultural landscape in Brazil, merging the modernist vernacular popular in Europe and the United States with the South American country's traditional techniques and indigenous materials.
Key mid-century influencers on Brazilian furniture design include natives Oscar Niemeyer, Sergio Rodrigues and José Zanine Caldas as well as such European immigrants as Joaquim Tenreiro, Jean Gillon and Jorge Zalszupin. These creators frequently collaborated; for instance, Niemeyer, an internationally acclaimed architect, commissioned many of them to furnish his residential and institutional buildings.
The popularity of Brazilian modern furniture has made household names of these designers and other greats. Their particular brand of modernism is characterized by an émigré point of view (some were Lithuanian, German, Polish, Ukrainian, Portuguese, and Italian), a preference for highly figured indigenous Brazilian woods, a reverence for nature as an inspiration and an atelier or small-production mentality.
Hallmarks of Brazilian mid-century design include smooth, sculptural forms and the use of native woods like rosewood, jacaranda and pequi. The work of designers today exhibits many of the same qualities, though with a marked interest in exploring new materials (witness the Campana Brothers' stuffed-animal chairs) and an emphasis on looking inward rather than to other countries for inspiration.
Finding the Right armchairs for You
Armchairs have run the gamut from prestige to ease and everything in between, and everyone has an antique, new or vintage armchair that they love.
Long before industrial mass production democratized seating, armchairs conveyed status and power. In ancient Egypt, the commoners took stools, while in early Greece, ceremonial chairs of carved marble were designated for nobility. But the high-backed early thrones of yore, elevated and ornate, were merely grandiose iterations of today’s armchairs.
Modern-day armchairs, built with functionality and comfort in mind, are now central to tasks throughout your home. Formal dining armchairs support your guests at a table for a cheery feast, a good drafting chair with a deep seat is parked in front of an easel where you create art and, elsewhere, an ergonomic wonder of sorts positions you at the desk for your 9 to 5.
When placed under just the right lamp where you can lounge comfortably, both elbows resting on the padded supports on each side of you, an upholstered armchair — or a rattan armchair for your light-suffused sunroom — can be the sanctuary where you’ll read for hours.
If you’re in the mood for company, your velvet chesterfield armchair is a place to relax and be part of the conversation that swirls around you. Maybe the dialogue is about the beloved Papa Bear chair, a mid-century modern masterpiece from Danish carpenter and furniture maker Hans Wegner, and the wingback’s strong association with the concept of cozying up by the fireplace, which we can trace back to its origins in 1600s-era England, when the seat’s distinctive arm protrusions protected the sitter from the heat of the period’s large fireplaces.
If the fireside armchair chat involves spirited comparisons, your companions will likely probe the merits of antique and vintage armchairs such as Queen Anne armchairs, Victorian armchairs or even Louis XVI armchairs, as well as the pros and cons of restoration versus conservation.
Everyone seems to have a favorite armchair and most people will be all too willing to talk about their beloved design. Whether that’s the unique Favela chair by Brazilian sibling furniture designers Fernando and Humberto Campana, who repurpose everyday objects to provocative effect; or Marcel Breuer’s futuristic tubular metal Wassily lounge chair; the functionality-first LC series from Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret; or the Eames lounge chair of the mid-1950s created by Charles and Ray Eames, there is an iconic armchair for everyone and every purpose. Find yours on 1stDibs right now.
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