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Tongue Chair
Iconic Designs

Tongue Chair

About the Design

It’s true — the colorful, sinuous Tongue chair looks just like its namesake. The Tongue’s designer, Pierre Paulin (1927–2009), had a knack for envisioning quirky sculptural chairs, like his Orange Slice chair (1960) and Ribbon chair (1966). Born in Paris, Paulin grew up under the influence of his uncle, automobile designer Georges Paulin, who invented the first mechanical retractable hardtop convertible. Design, it would seem, was in his blood. 

After Paulin failed to meet the French national academic qualifications to attend school at the university level, he pursued ceramics and stone carving but ultimately enrolled in the École Camondo in Paris and then went on to work for the Gascoin Company in Le Havre. His interest in nontraditional chairs became apparent in 1954 while he was working for Thonet — there, he began to experiment with stretching swimwear over chair frames. But his creativity peaked in his collaborations with Dutch manufacturer Artifort. In 1960, he designed his first project for the brand: his signature Mushroom lounge chair, a round armchair blanketed in a single piece of fabric that Paulin stretched over its entire frame.

“I considered the manufacture of chairs to be rather primitive, and I was trying to think up new processes,” Paulin recalled in a 2008 interview. “At Artifort, I started using new foam and rubber from Italy and a light metallic frame, combined with ‘stretch’ material.”

The designer wanted to appeal to the antiestablishment, Pop Art–inspired lifestyle of young people, creating chairs with comfortable, low-slung shapes in bold colors. Crafted from a metal frame enshrouded in foam padding and elastic fabric, the 1967 Tongue chair epitomizes that goal with its evocative, legless form that keeps its occupant lounging near the ground, a vast departure from formal chairs that require good posture.

Paulin expanded his repertoire far beyond chairs, designing the Denon Wing of the Louvre and decorating French President Georges Pompidou’s apartment in the Élysée Palace, both in Paris. But his legacy with chairs remains strong. Today, Artifort still manufactures Paulin’s Tongue chair, and, in fact, it continues to produce a number of the designer’s works from the 1960s and 1970s, many of which have been incorporated into the permanent collections of art and design museums around the world.

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Plush, sculptural and low to the ground, the Mushroom chair is seating that prioritizes comfort over formality. Designed in 1960 to envelop the body, it anticipated an audacious era of exploration and rampant challenges to conventionality, and with its bright-colored fabric and bold organic form, the Mushroom chair was an immediate hit upon its release. For French designer Pierre Paulin (1927–2009), who had been in search of new methods of manufacturing chairs when he conceived of this provoc...
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Orange Slice Chair
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Number Available
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Designed in 1960, the playful Model F437, or, more commonly, the Orange Slice chair, was organic before it was trendy to be so. Its rounded, concave shells — which appear to be curling up or unfurling based on your perspective of the brightly colored piece — appropriately resemble its pulpy namesake. French designer Pierre Paulin (1927–2009) created this chair as part of his half-century-long association with Dutch manufacturer Artifort. It is emblematic of his creative roots in sculpture as ...
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Oyster Chair
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Number Available
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Materials
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The oblong, concave wood seating shell of the Oyster lounge chair, with its soft, form-fitting foam padding and bright fabric upholstery, rests ever so delicately in its minimalist metal underframe. Named for the freshly shucked mollusk its sculptural form resembles, the seductive seat is the work of Pierre Paulin (1927–2009). The revered French designer is perhaps best known for punchy foam chairs, each designed in conjunction with Dutch furniture manufacturer Artifort. Indeed, Paulin’s sens...
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