All Designers

Charles and Ray Eames

Eero Saarinen

Jens Risom

Le Corbusier

George Nelson

The people behind our products are some of the world’s most seminal designers and architects. Learn more about the modern masters who shaped the world in which we live, as well as today’s top designers, who have their own approach to modern living.

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  • Alvar Aalto

    Alvar Aalto

    FINLAND (1898–1976)

    An eloquent humanist, as well as one of the great architects and designers of the 20th century, Alvar Aalto breathed life and warmth into modernism, placing emphasis on organic geometry, supple, natural materials and respect for the human element. “Architecture,” he said, “must have charm; it is a factor of beauty in society. But real beauty is not a conception of form... it is the result of harmony between several intrinsic factors, not the least, the social.” Aalto’s intention was to create integrated environments to be experienced through all the senses and to design furniture that would be at once modern, human and specifically Finnish.


    Using native birch wood and plywood and his own new bentwood techniques, Aalto created his classic Lounge Chair, the curvilinear Wood Screen designed for the Finnish Pavilion and his iconic stacking stool. These pieces represent his virtuosity with form and structure and firmly established Aalto’s genius and fluency with wood, which he described as the “form-inspiring, deeply human material.” Their natural beauty also made waves among the European avant-garde, better known for high-minded austerity than for warmth.


    Aalto’s work was enthusiastically received in the U.S., and the Museum of Modern Art organized a major exhibition of his work in 1938. A year later, Aalto completed the Finnish Pavilion for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Frank Lloyd Wright, upon viewing the Pavilion, said simply, “Aalto is a genius.”


    As one of the founding fathers of modern design, Alvar Aalto had a profound influence on Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson, designers who also combined formal concerns with humanistic ideals. We can thank Aalto not only for bentwood solutions like the L-leg and the Y-leg, but also for preserving the trace of the human hand and spirit in the beautiful materials and simple forms of modernism.

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  • Angela Adams

    Angela Adams

    USA (1965)

    Great design often comes from a sense of place, and this is no exception for the work of Angela Adams, who weaves the rugged beauty and inimitable style of her native Maine into her work.


    Born and raised on a small island off the coast of Maine, Adams was educated in interior design at the Philadelphia Art Institute. Rediscovering Maine’s rug-making traditions when she moved back to the area after school, Adams began experimenting with rug-making by combining age-old techniques with modernist designs. The results are fresh, edgy rugs in dynamic patterns that are made from the finest materials and traditional construction methods.


    Bringing a fresh perspective to an old tradition is what Adams’ work is all about. “For me, I’ve been very excited about treating the rugs as paintings and bringing some very painterly qualities to the new designs,” says Adams. “Blending, shading and composing the design in a way that has more layers and keeps you entranced a bit in a very calming way – like a beautiful painting would.”


    Adams’ rugs were an overnight sensation with critics and decorators alike, and she opened her own mill in 1998 to assure quality control. Today her company produces fabrics, throw pillows and patterned glassware in addition to floor coverings. She recently ventured into fashion accessories with handbags, belts and luggage. Angela Adams proves that the combination of local traditions, passion and good design can be very good business indeed.

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  • Anni Albers

    Anni Albers

    GERMANY (1899–1994)

    With the belief that aesthetics should be a consideration in every aspect of daily life, Anni Albers (born Annelise Fleischmann) joined the Bauhaus as a student in 1922. Though she wanted to be a painter, Albers and other female students like Gunta Stölzl were encouraged to join the Weaving Workshop, which included a class taught by Paul Klee. Albers took to this medium enthusiastically, experimenting with new materials for weaving and elevating textiles from merely a craft to an art form.


    It was in her first year that Anni met fellow Bauhaus student Josef Albers, the artist and teacher who would soon become her husband and partner in the Modern movement. In 1929, she designed an innovative sound-absorbing wall covering made out of cellophane, a recently invented material. Albers received her Bauhaus diploma for this work, which was installed in the auditorium of a trade union school.


    When the Nazis forced the Bauhaus to close in 1933, the couple emigrated to the United States, both taking teaching positions at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Their many trips to Mexico and Cuba, where they marveled at the artistry of woven ponchos, earthenware and other everyday items, inspired some of Albers’ greatest weavings. In 1951, Albers began a three-decades-long collaboration with KnollTextiles, creating five designs for the company. In 1974, she designed éclat (pronounced a-clat) as a printed textile; KnollTextiles reintroduced the fabric in 2007, with the pattern woven directly into the upholstery. Anni Albers believed that art exists beyond the realm of trends and style, illustrated by her work’s enduring effect on the medium of textile design.

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  • Fernando Amat

    Fernando Amat

    SPAIN (1921)

    Fernando Amat is a Barcelona architect who owns and manages Vinçon, a visionary household goods, personal accessories and home furnishings store with two outlets, the original store in Barcelona and a newer shop in Madrid. What makes his store unique is that while the breadth of wares is great-ranging – from home furnishings to infant products and garden equipment – the items are carefully selected and inventively showcased. Vinçon has often been compared to the Terence Conran shop in New York City, which is similar in that the merchandise ranges from inexpensive to high-end goods, a shrewd business strategy that draws people into the store. Amat has fostered a casual environment where shoppers feel free to come in off the street and browse; food is welcome, as are dogs. Yet the store caters to an increasingly sophisticated clientele. Walking into Vinçon is akin to entering a showroom displaying Amat’s personal collection.


    The Barcelona store Amat and his brother acquired from their father in 1968 houses La Sala Vinçon, a nonprofit exhibition and performance space for art and design. The original sala at Paseo de Gracia 96 sold the work of Catalan painters in the 1940s. The sons resurrected the former gallery and modeled it on Gres, one of the first design-led shops in Barcelona to sell simple, functional, craft-influenced pieces and exhibit them with paintings and sculpture. With Amat as curator, La Sala Vinçon has been instrumental in establishing and reinforcing the link between Vinçon and the Spanish avant-garde design community. Javier Mariscal got his start exhibiting there; the work of Jorge Pensi and Alberto Lievore of Grupo Berenguer, and of architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca of Studio Per (co-founder of b.d Ediciones de Diseno, a furniture manufacturer specializing in Modernist masters and contemporary local designers), can also be seen at Vinçon.

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  • Michael Anastassiades

    Michael Anastassiades

    CYPRUS (1967)

    Born in Cyprus and based in London, Michael Anastassiades trained as a civil engineer at Imperial College London before going on to earn a master’s degree in industrial design at the Royal College of Art. He opened his own studio in 1994, and despite early and continued success, he resisted mass production, preferring to maintain control of his own process, with each piece hand-fabricated by small family-run shops chosen for their traditional methods. In 2007 he set up Michael Anastassiades Ltd. to produce his lighting on a larger scale. After being introduced to the CEO of Flos in 2011, a partnership developed, and in 2013 Anastassiades produced his “string lights” with Flos, the first chapter of an ongoing collaboration.


    Anastassiades’ lighting is edgy yet refined, based in stark geometric shapes such as tubes, spheres and cones. In his IC Collection, glass globes “float” precariously off polished, reflective metal arms or bases. The look is industrial meets fine art meets function. Throughout his work, Anastassiades has been inspired to create products that are strikingly individual while still remaining timeless and of permanent value. While most renowned for his lighting, he also designs mirrors, furniture and tabletop items, all with a meticulous jewelry-like aesthetic.


    Home and inspiration for Anastassiades are grounded in a renovated five-story Victorian merchant’s house in the Waterloo area of London. A former butcher shop on the street level holds his storefront retail showroom. To the rear is a studio where Anastassiades and his team work on design, manufacturing and sales. The upper floors serve as living space, with minimal white walls and few adornments, outfitted with his own lighting and furniture (along with a leather Eames Lounge Chair). A meditation space on the top floor faces the Thames and looks over the London Eye. Anastassiades likens his modern work-living space to that of the home’s earlier owner – just another “maker” working on the ground floor and living above the shop.


    Anastassiades’ work is featured in the permanent collections of MoMA and the Victoria and Albert Museum and Crafts Council in London, as well as the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France. His pieces can also be found in hotels and restaurants worldwide, including the SoHo House New York and the Grand Hôtel Stockholm.

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  • Brad Ascalon

    Brad Ascalon

    USA (1977)

    Born outside of Philadelphia, Brad Ascalon is a third-generation designer who found himself immersed in the world of art and design from an early age. His grandfather, Maurice Ascalon, was an industrial designer and sculptor who founded a metal arts manufacturing company in Israel in the late 1930s, while his father David is a sculptor and artist whose studio designs and fabricates one-of-a-kind, large-scale permanent art installations for places of worship and public spaces around North America.


    Ascalon studied music and communication as an undergraduate at Rutgers University. Upon graduation, he moved to New York and worked in the advertising and music industries for several years before returning to school to study design. In 2005, he completed his Master’s degree in industrial design from Pratt Institute and that same year was recognized by Wallpaper* magazine as one of the “Ten Most Wanted” emerging designers in the world.


    In 2006, Ascalon founded Brad Ascalon Studio NYC. His multidisciplinary design studio specializes in furniture, packaging, consumer products, environment design and development, and clients include Bernhardt Design, Design Within Reach, Ligne Roset and L’Oreal. Ascalon’s work has received international acclaim in publications such as Architectural Digest, Art Review, Dwell, Esquire, Interior Design, The New York Times, Surface and Whitewall Magazine and has been exhibited globally, from Milan’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile to IMM Cologne in Germany, Maison et Objet in Paris, London’s 100% Design Festival and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York.


    Ascalon lives and works in New York City.

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  • Carl Auböck

    Carl Auböck

    AUSTRIA (1900–1957)

    When Carl Auböck’s wife would hear quarrelling coming from the workshop near their home in Wien, Austria, she knew better than to venture inside. It wasn’t for fear she might witness an unsavory dispute; she well knew a sensational idea was about to be born. A man who spent the better part of his life in the very metal shop founded by his father, Auböck would become one of the best-known figures of Austrian modernism. Although he left to study painting at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Art and became a student of the Bauhaus (1919-1921), he preferred the comfort of home and returned in 1925 to take over his father’s workshop, Werkstatte Carl Auböck, where he apprenticed as a teen.


    In his early years heading up the workshop, Auböck would carry on production of Wiener Bronzen, the enameled miniature figures his father had created. He continued to pursue painting in his spare time, but it wasn’t until he gained commercial success with his abstracts that he began to experiment with design of a modern, more functional art object. His material of preference was brass, which he often treated with a process of patinating and polishing to achieve a contrast and character rarely seen in brass works. The result demonstrates not only his mastery of modern form but a great awareness of and respect for the metal itself. His Optimist-Pessimist and Man with Cane brass figures sum up his modernist attitude – an attitude that abstained from ornamental indulgence of any kind and embraced craftsmanship, simple form, humor and soul.


    Just as Auböck followed in his father’s footsteps, his own son would more than carry on production of his endearing designs. Carl Auböck III (1924-1993) brought to the family a commercial status recognized around the globe. An internationally celebrated designer in his own right, Carl III thought that good design could heal the world. His son, the fourth Carl, has stepped in to ensure that the healing will continue.

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  • Milo Baughman

    Milo Baughman

    USA (1923–2003)

    “Furniture that is too obviously designed,” said Milo Baughman, “is very interesting, but too often belongs only in museums.” In Baughman’s distinguished body of work, his vast creativity never interfered with functionality; instead, he struck an ideal modernist balance. Using the consummate midcentury-modern materials – chrome, stainless steel, glass and leather – he created a new visual vocabulary, built on the legacy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer, but infused with the style and ease of the American West Coast.


    Born in Kansas in 1923, Baughman was raised in Long Beach, California. At age 13 he was enlisted by his parents to contribute to the design of the family home – and, thus, his path was set. He served in the Army Air Forces in World War II, where he gained experience designing officers’ clubs. After returning from the war he studied architectural design, and in 1947, at the age of 24, he launched Milo Baughman Design, Inc. He quickly received commissions from Glenn of California – where he worked with designer Greta Magnusson Grossman – and Pacific Iron, collaborating with these Los Angeles companies to create what we now call the California Modern aesthetic.


    The defining collaboration of his career, however, began in 1953, when he started working with Thayer Coggin, the North Carolina manufacturer that still produces Milo Baughman furniture today. This partnership lasted five decades and produced enduring classics like the cantilevered 989-103 Chair and the semi-circular 825-301 LAF Sofa. In that time, Baughman never lost touch with his modernist foundation. In 1966, The New York Times said of the prolific designer: “Mr. Baughman and the companies he works for… are among the few mass producers putting out inventive, nontraditional furniture that is widely available to the public both in terms of price and retail outlet.”


    In 1965, Baughman converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and remained a passionate devotee to Mormonism until his death. He established the Department of Environmental Design at Brigham Young University in 1969 and gave lectures about design at numerous institutions. He maintained his professional design studio right up until his death at age 80.

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  • Yves Béhar

    Yves Béhar

    SWITZERLAND (1967)

    “Design brings stories to life,” said Yves Béhar in 1999. Today, that idea is no longer breaking news, but Béhar was one of the first to talk about the narrative content of form and the emotional connection between person and object. In the decade since, he has become one of the heroes of the design world by performing extraordinary feats of design that fuse poetry with technological innovation.


    Through fuseproject, the San Francisco-based design and branding firm he founded, Béhar has won international recognition for his work with Herman Miller, Toshiba, Nike, Microsoft and Mini Cooper. But the Swiss-Turkish designer views his role as something more than product development. “I believe design’s purpose is not only to show us the future,” he states, “but to bring us the future.”


    As one might expect from a designer whose creations are as compelling as the Jawbone headset for Aliph and the Leaf Light for Herman Miller, Béhar has been featured in countless articles for publications like Metropolis, Architectural Record and Business Week. In conversation, he consistently returns to design’s ethical and expressive aspects, as well as his desire to “use technology as an asset, rather than a constraint.” These themes inform Béhar’s own personal story, which includes a childhood in Switzerland and the bi-cultural influences of a “modernist” East German mother and “poetic” Turkish father, as well as immersion in the dot-com boom of the 1990s.


    Following graduation from Art Center College of Design, Béhar worked for two Bay Area design houses, Frog and Lunar, before starting fuseproject. His company was named one of the world’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Design by Fast Company in 2014, and his long list of awards includes the National Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Treehugger’s Best of Green Architecture and Design Award, and several Red Dot Design and IDEA awards.


    The designer heads up Industrial Design at California College of the Arts (CCA,) where he encourages students to become involved in all aspects of object making. He also attempts to install a global sensibility and to instill a sense of the designer’s responsibility to culture and our collective future. For Béhar, design is one of the most important tools we have for “departure” and “transformation.”

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  • Mario Bellini

    Mario Bellini

    ITALY (1935)

    Mario Bellini is an architect, industrial designer, teacher, spokesman, curator and editor. He has played each of these roles with the same commitment to promoting design as his predecessors, Marco Zanuso and Vico Magistretti. He became one of the leading exponents of Italian design in the 1970s.


    Bellini studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano and shortly thereafter ascended to the position of design director at La Rinascente, an influential chain of Italian department stores. In 1963, he founded an architectural office with Marco Romano and ten years later, established Studio Bellini in Milan. From 1963–1991, he was the chief design consultant for Olivetti.


    His designs for Olivetti include the Divisumma calculator, an appealingly rounded machine made of brightly colored plastic and covered with a thin rubber membrane. He also designed the Praxis typewriter for Olivetti. Less overtly radical than his contemporaries, Bellini is nonetheless respected for his highly original forms, wide-ranging design ideas and technical sophistication. His furniture design is stylistically eclectic but characterized by voluptuous organic forms, an inventive use of luxurious materials and a high level of finish.


    In 1972 Bellini won international attention when he presented a mobile micro-living environment entitled Kar-a-Sutra at the “New Domestic Landscape” exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A literate as well as imaginative designer, Bellini acted as editor of Domus magazine from 1986 to 1991, and he is a member of the Scientific Council for the Milan Triennale. He has also held the position of professor of design at the Istituto Superiore del Disegno Industriale, Venice and professor of industrial design at the Domus Academy, Milan. Bellini has acted as designer and consultant for Cassina, Vitra, B&B Italia, Flos, Artemide and Renault. He has received numerous design accolades, including a remarkable eight Compasso d'Oro Awards.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Niels Bendtsen

    Niels Bendtsen

    DENMARK (1943)

    “Quality is a funny concept. We tend to think of it as being associated with handcraft. But quality is also about your attitude toward design. Craftsmanship is just as much about how you run the machines that are now necessary for economic viability.”


    Born in Denmark, Niels Bendtsen immigrated to Canada with his family in 1951. In place of a formal design education, Bendtsen trained as an apprentice for his father, who designed and built Scandinavian furniture. Through working with his father, Bendtsen gained valuable skills and a respect for non-industrial, hand-built traditions, but he was also intrigued by new technologies and ways to satisfy increasing demand. Between 1963 and 1972, Bendtsen had his own retail store where he sold his father’s furniture, as well as imported Scandinavian designs. He designed small items for the store, but it wasn’t until he was in his early thirties that he truly began designing furniture. Dissatisfied with the quality and limited functionality of the furniture he received from his overseas manufacturers, Bendtsen sold his store, moved to Europe and became a full-time designer.


    In the 1980s, he moved back to Vancouver, bought back his old store and added a manufacturing component. Using the skills he learned working with European factories, Bendtsen successfully found a balance between affordability, aesthetics and quality. Customers responded, and in the mid-1990s Bendtsen began making his designs available through other retailers, such as Design Within Reach.


    An early Bendtsen design, the Ribbon Chair, is included in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his work was featured on a Canadian stamp celebrating industrial design. In 2006, Bendtsen was honored with the 2006 British Columbia Creative Achievement Award of Distinction.

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  • Boris Berlin

    Boris Berlin

    RUSSIA (1953)

    Before founding interdisciplinary design firm Komplot Design, both Poul Christiansen and Boris Berlin gained expertise across several academic fields, business environments and world cultures – all of which they would eventually channel into their deeply personal work by approaching a project from several angles simultaneously. Christiansen graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture in Copenhagen in 1973 and became a freelance designer for companies such as Kevi and Herman Miller. He also worked for Le Klint, where he transformed the company’s traditional pleated lampshades into sculptural shapes through his application of mathematical curves. Berlin graduated in 1975 from the Institute of Applied Arts and Design in Leningrad and was soon working as a freelance designer, producing industrial products and graphics for VNIITE. In 1983, he started Boris Berlin Design in Denmark and worked with Penta Design to develop a computerized workstation for the Danish Post and Telegraph.


    Christiansen and Berlin established Komplot in 1987, with the belief that “design is an intermediate body – a link that appears into existence in the tension of no-man’s-land: Tension between art and engineering, between manufacturer and consumer/user... between these polar contradictions is the condition of a design’s successful performance.” Over the course of their partnership, Christiansen and Berlin have produced critically acclaimed work for clients including Fora Form, Gubi and Hay. The Gubi Chair, one of their more notable products, has won several prestigious awards including the Innovation Award, Best of NeoCon in 2003; the Danish Design Prize in 2004; the RED DOT Design Award 2004; and the 100% Design / Blueprint Award in 2003 for Best Product.

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  • Jeffrey Bernett

    Jeffrey Bernett

    USA (1964)

    With his commitment to function and simplicity – and a singular attention to manufacturing detail – Jeffrey Bernett has won accolades in a range of disciplines, including architecture, interior design, residential and office furniture, lighting, graphic design, transportation design and fashion. His very first furniture collection, presented at the 1996 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York, received the Editor’s Award for “Best of Show.”


    Bernett initially entered college to pursue a degree in business, then altered his course to undertake studies in furniture design in England. Along the way, he deepened his understanding of mechanics and manufacturing processes. The combination of design, business and manufacturing expertise has contributed to Bernett’s stunning success as a multidisciplinary consultant. In 2002, he established Consultants for Design Strategy (CDS) in New York.


    In addition to Design Within Reach, Bernett has worked with top American furniture companies like Bernhardt and Knoll, as well as European manufacturers of furniture and household products such as B&B Italia, Boffi, Cappellini and Ligne Roset. He consults on custom furnishings and fixtures for projects such as the Michael Kors flagship store in New York and ergonomic passenger seating for Northwest Airlines.


    Armed with knowledge gained from his design of comfortable in-flight seating for Northwest Airlines, Bernett developed a streamlined lounge chair for Design Within Reach that reclines with a slight seated push and supports the body in comfort from head to toe. With none of the bulky assertiveness of a traditional reclining armchair, the Flight Recliner (2005) has a contemporary visual lightness suited to today’s homes. It was such a success that Bernett and DWR have continued an ongoing collaboration, introducing several collections since then.


    What inspires him? Bernett acknowledges three great passions – sports, speed and problem-solving – all of which require self-determination, focus and discipline. He also draws upon travel to broaden his experience of culture. “Whether it’s for work or private purposes, I visit one place a year where I’ve never been before. I take great pleasure in experiencing the culture of that place and absorbing it.” *


    * From Interior Design, “Thinking About Tomorrow” by Sheila Kim, December 1, 2003.

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  • Harry Bertoia

    Harry Bertoia

    ITALY (1915–1978)

    Italian artist and furniture designer Harry Bertoia was 37 years old when he designed the patented Diamond Chair for Knoll in 1952. An unusually beautiful piece of furniture, it was strong yet delicate in appearance, as well as an immediate commercial success in spite of being made almost entirely by hand. With the Diamond Chair, Bertoia created an icon of modern design and introduced a new material to the world of furniture design: industrial wire mesh.


    Bertoia’s career began in the 1930s as a student at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he re-established the metalworking studio and, as head of that department, taught from 1939 until 1943, when it was closed due to wartime restrictions on materials. During the war, Bertoia moved to Venice, California, and worked with Charles and Ray Eames at the Evans Products Company, developing new techniques for molding plywood.


    In 1946, a pivotal year for Bertoia, he became an American citizen, moved to Bally, Pennsylvania, near the Knoll factory, and established his own design and sculpting studio, where he produced numerous successful designs for Knoll. As a sculptor, Bertoia created abstract freestanding metal works, some of which resonated with sound when touched or had moving elements that chimed in the wind.


    Among his many honors, Bertoia received awards from the American Institute of Architects in 1973 and the American Academy of Letters in 1975. All of his work bears the hallmarks of a highly skilled and imaginative sculptor, as well as an inventive designer, deeply engaged with the relationship between form and space.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Luciano Bertoncini

    Luciano Bertoncini

    ITALY (1939)

    Since 1958, Luciano Bertoncini has been quietly and happily helping to create Italy’s design scene. Some say that Bertoncini, a man who eschews the spotlight, hasn’t received due credit for the influence he’s had on contemporary European modernism. But that doesn’t seem to bother him. “Bertoncini is neither envious nor bitter,” says Virginio Briatore in the introduction to Bertoncini’s 1999 retrospective. “He considers himself a lucky man, and he is always in good humor.”


    Born in Feltre in 1939, Bertoncini studied technical drawing and, in 1957, began working with architect Vittorio Rossi in Treviso. With Rossi he learned integrity in architecture and got a chance to design not only buildings but also furniture. Rossi was a partner at Mobilindex – one of the few modern manufacturers in the area. “Those who were not around at the time will find it difficult to imagine the furniture that was made then,” says Bertoncini. “Louis XIV to rustic country!” His first piece, the futuristic and minimal, sprawling and transitional Zattera Bed, was well ahead of its time. It was included in the groundbreaking 1972 MoMA exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, which also featured his collaboration with Joe Colombo.


    Bertoncini began working with Colombo after the master took a liking to Bertoncini’s Gronda Coat Hanger for Fiarm. The collaboration was cut short, however, with Colombo’s untimely death in 1971. Bertoncini was then tasked with completing Colombo’s Total Furnishing Unit for the 1972 show at MoMA. The New York Times called the exhibition “very large, costly and provocative,” and in the process helped solidify Bertoncini’s career.


    In 1975, the designer was approached by Aprilia, the famous motorcycle manufacturer. This began a new phase for Bertoncini, as he shifted his attention from static objects to those built for speed. “To design a motorbike,” says the designer, “one has to enter the world of motorcycling, which is a very special habitat, almost maniacal: Every part of the bike has its rituals, its languages, its mechanisms.”


    Capitalizing on his experience in mechanical engineering, Bertoncini creates perfectly balanced pieces that have no material or decorative excess. The people he’s worked with, however, credit his success to his personality as much as his genius. “In reality,” says Mino Bellato, “Bertoncini’s primary virtue is his sociable character: He gets on with everybody and has no fight with the world.”

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  • Ted Boerner

    Ted Boerner

    USA (1957)

    The trappings of 20th-century Americana are frequently evoked in Ted Boerner’s furniture: a Lucite table that resembles a 1940s juice tumbler, a sleek upholstered chaise with the silhouette of a folding pool lounger, a dining table with a Lincoln Log–like base. Ted Boerner’s childhood summers in rural Wisconsin were filled with midcentury modernist inspiration, much of which stemmed from his grandfather’s rustic log cabin. Outfitted with Eames chairs, a hand-built modern staircase and a tangible patina of historical vitality, it was a setting steeped in the same simplicity and well-wrought comfort that Boerner has become known for in his furniture designs.


    As a former theater and dance student at the University of West Virginia, Boerner developed an intuitive sense of the body and the space it occupies – an awareness that would later lend his furniture designs their genial angles and careful proportions. After a shift in academic focus, he earned his BFA in theater design and continued in the field as a grad student at NYU. Returning to his home turf of Wisconsin, Boerner worked as a production designer for a classical repertory theater, traveling with the group extensively and designing sets and costumes for a myriad of productions. “Propping scenes and imagining the things that the characters would surround themselves with made me think about how important furniture is to people.”


    In the mid-’80s Boerner grew weary of his theater-imposed deracination and settled in San Francisco to work as an interior designer. Yearning for the same freedom to conceive and create furniture that he had as a production designer, Boerner opened his own furniture studio in 1988. Within a year, he was creating exclusive custom furnishings for the Manhattan Hotel in Tokyo and the Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Many of these early designs have become best-sellers in Boerner’s current line, exemplifying the designer’s unwavering focus on the essential character and craftsmanship of his designs.


    In 1993, Boerner took a space at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and gained immediate national recognition with four pieces, including his dynamic Crescent Bed. Since then, Ted Boerner, Inc. has had exponential success, with over 45 pieces offered and a presence in premier designer showrooms and homes throughout the country. Boerner’s commercial clients include Nike, Northwest Airlines, Celebrity Cruise Lines, San Francisco’s Hotel Rex, New York’s Gotham Bar & Grill and Conde Nast’s corporate offices.


    With the belief that “good design should be more accessible,” Boerner has begun producing furniture in greater numbers after years of one-offs. By working closely with manufacturers and using the finest materials, he retains a level of craftsmanship in his designs not readily found in mass-produced furniture. “When you own something that is handcrafted, you’re reminded of the people and the process behind that piece,” Boerner states. “It defeats a throwaway society with a wonderful sense of history.”

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  • Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

    Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

    FRANCE (1971, 1976)

    The Bouroullec brothers, Ronan (born in 1971) and Erwan (1976), were brought up in a farming family in Brittany, France, an unlikely foundation for a career in the design world of Paris. Ronan developed an interest in design as a teenager and headed to École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, then École Nationale Supérieure des Arts in Cergy. Erwan followed a few years later, assisting Ronan with his work while still a student himself. They opened their joint Paris-based design studio in 1999. Being brothers in addition to business partners allows them to bounce ideas off each other, trusting that difference of opinion will spur creativity.


    In 1997, the Bouroullecs were approached by Cappellini and given their first industrial design projects. A 2002 meeting with Vitra began a relationship that has led to numerous products, including Algues, a distinctive design modeled after web-like plant life, which can function as a decorative element or interior architecture. Their products range from furniture, lighting and rugs to porcelain dishware, ceramic tile and jewelry, even window blinds and a TV.


    The Bouroullecs maintain a presence at the experimental workshop Galerie Kreo in Paris, considering the design lab vital to their evolution. Their own studio, however, is notably absent a “design” sensibility, beginning with a low-key exterior that does nothing to indicate two modern design influencers are at work inside. Within the space, oversized desks double as meeting tables, surrounded by mismatched chairs, many of them Bouroullec prototypes. The place has the feel of a busy schoolroom – inspiration in the air, tiny models on the shelves and walls covered with sketches.


    The duo’s pencil, pen and crayon drawings lead to playing with materials, making models and creating prototypes, with close attention paid to aesthetics, hand feel, emotional appeal, comfort and, finally, craftsmanship. Once merely a means to getting potential products down on paper, those same drawings have also become works in their own right: A collection of them was included in a Vitra Design Museum exhibit in 2012.


    The Bouroullecs’ work, including large-scale art installations, has been exhibited worldwide, from MoMA in New York to Centre Pompidou in Paris to Tel Aviv Museum of Art. In addition, a monograph published by Phaidon chronicles their work. Awards include the Finn Juhl Prize in 2008, the Danish Design Award in 2010 and the “Designer of the Year” Award from Wallpaper magazine in 2016.

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  • Marcel Breuer

    Marcel Breuer

    HUNGARY (1902–1981)

    Sparked by bicycle handlebars, Marcel Breuer’s tubular steel chairs were a daring departure from traditional wood furniture. “Mass production,” Breuer said, “made me interested in polished metal, in shiny and impeccable lines in space, as new components of our interiors. I considered such polished and curved lines not only symbolic of our modern technology but actually to be technology.”


    Drawing upon this image of “shiny and impeccable lines in space,” in 1925 Breuer designed his famous Wassily Chair, which was later named after Wassily Kandinsky, a former Bauhaus colleague. Breuer’s range of tubular metal furniture had singular advantages: affordability, simplicity and an inherent resilience. He considered his designs essential for modern living.


    Breuer’s next breakthrough was his cantilevered chair. While Mart Stam and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe had created cantilevered chairs using steel tubes, they were rigid and awkward. Breuer used unreinforced steel tubing, creating a free-swinging chair that approached his de-materialist ideal of “sitting on columns of air.” The cantilevered chair was his greatest commercial success, and its design continued to evolve, the frame becoming lighter, the seat and back more pliant and the lines softer.


    In 1928 Breuer left the Bauhaus and moved to Berlin. He relocated to England in 1935, when the Nazis made it impossible for anyone who had been a part of the Bauhaus – a “hotbed of Bolshevism” – to practice architecture. In 1937, he began to collaborate with Walter Gropius in the Boston area and joined Harvard as a professor. Breuer later moved to New York in 1946 to found his own architectural firm, with concrete becoming his medium of choice, exemplified by his 1964 design of the Whitney Museum of American Art, now known as The Met Breuer.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • John Caldwell

    John Caldwell

    USA (1937)

    John Caldwell got his first break as a furniture designer in Los Angeles in the 1950s. In the early days, he freelanced for Brown Jordan, a company that built steel army cots in Quonset huts during World War II and then went on to produce high-design modern outdoor furniture by Caldwell, Walter Lamb (who salvaged bronze tubing from sunken battleships off Hawaii for his pieces) and Van Keppel-Green (the partnership that created the majority of the patio furniture for John Entenza’s Arts & Architecture Case Study Houses). Since selling Brown Jordan his Mai Tai design in 1957 at the age of 19, Caldwell has designed outdoor furniture, office furniture and accessories, umbrellas, lighting and ceiling fans for markets in the United States, China, Indonesia and Mexico. He also taught design for 20 years at various Southern California colleges including Long Beach State, Pasadena City College and the Art Center College of Design.


    Caldwell has always been interested in using the latest lightweight, durable and easy-to-clean materials for his outdoor lines. The Mai Tai was one of the first furniture lines to incorporate extruded aluminum and vinyl lacing. Lately he has incorporated fabricated wood and all-weather wicker in his furniture, as well as die-cast and molded plastics such as polypropylene. And to complement today’s refined material technologies, Caldwell finds that the public is also more sophisticated about design. The “level of design recognition by the average person is extremely high because of their exposure to it in the media,” he said during a recent DWR interview. Because of this, he believes it is much easier to be a designer today than it was 40 years ago.


    Caldwell and his eight employees continue to produce new 21st-century designs in his busy South Pasadena studio.

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  • Don Chadwick

    Don Chadwick

    USA (1936)

    Chairs are for sitting on. It sounds obvious, but there are designers who seem to miss that point. Not Don Chadwick, however, who has developed some of the best chairs on the market – including the Aeron Chair with Bill Stumpf – by emphasizing the body and the fact that bodies move.


    Chadwick calls his hands-on studio in Santa Monica an “experimental lab,” one that contains the workman’s apparatuses of saws, grinders, lathes, drill presses and vises. It is not a place where design takes place by computer, number or hypothesis. “The only way to be sure a chair is comfortable is to actually sit in it and make changes along the way,” Chadwick says. “A computer can’t deal with the subtleties of chair design. It’s too complex.”


    Chadwick inherited his love of furniture design from his cabinetmaker grandfather, who taught him to use the tools of the trade – hand tools that required skill, precision and patience. Later, at UCLA in the mid-1950s, he focused on furniture design, and after a Charles Eames lecture there, was convinced. Furniture offered designers the chance to use materials in new ways and to make a real difference in people’s lives. After graduating from UCLA, he worked in the architectural offices of Victor Gruen & Associates and then established his own design office in 1964.


    Chadwick has long partnered with Herman Miller, designing a modular seating system in 1974 and then collaborating with former V.P. of design research at Herman Miller, Bill Stumpf. Together, they created the ergonomically based Ergon Chair, the Equa seating system and the highly innovative Aeron Chair, which was chosen as the Design of the Decade by the Industrial Design Society of America and Business Week magazine.

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  • Norman Cherner

    Norman Cherner

    USA (1920–1987)

    A pioneer both in molded plywood and prefab housing, Norman Cherner studied and taught at the Columbia University Fine Arts Department and was an instructor at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1947 to 1949. Here he also explored the Bauhaus movement, embarking on a lifetime exploration of multidisciplinary design, from furniture, shelving, glassware, lighting and even toys to his pioneering work in low-cost prefabricated housing.


    Early in his career, Cherner envisioned houses as a total design concept and designed affordable furniture specifically for these low-cost modular dwellings. He wrote about his theories in Make Your Own Modern Furniture (1953), How to Build Children’s Toys and Furniture (1954), Fabricating Houses from Component Parts (1958) and How to Build a House for Less than $6,000 (1960). One of his first prefabricated houses was designed, produced and assembled in 1957 for the U.S. Department of Housing. After being exhibited in Vienna, it was shipped back to Connecticut and uncrated to become his first home and studio.


    Yet Cherner is best known for the molded plywood seating line he created for Plycraft, a manufacturing company in Lawrence, Massachusetts. After telling Cherner that his design for what is now known as the Cherner Chair (1958) had been scrapped, Plycraft’s owner continued to produce it, claiming himself as the designer. Soon after, the chair’s popularity was heightened when it appeared in Norman Rockwell’s 1961 painting “The Artist at Work” on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Cherner sued the company, and Plycraft agreed to pay Cherner royalties, yet the whole seating line was out of production by the early 1970s.


    For almost 20 years, Cherner’s seating was rarely seen outside of galleries, museums and the living rooms of a few lucky collectors. This all changed in 1999, when Cherner’s sons Benjamin and Thomas formed the Cherner Chair Company to revive the designs and produce them as their father originally intended. The repeated success of the chairs inspired Benjamin, an architect and designer in his own right, to create a coordinating table, the Cherner Table (2004).

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  • Sandy Chilewich

    Sandy Chilewich

    USA (1951)

    According to Sandy Chilewich, one of her biggest motivators is to create “a new function from something familiar,” exactly what she did when she produced her award-winning Raybowl, introduced in 1997. The first design from her studio, Chilewich, it consisted of a simple wire steel frame covered in stretchy power mesh. Chilewich already knew a thing or two about stretchy fabric: In 1978, she and Kathy Moskal co-founded legwear company HUE – a wildly successful endeavor that they eventually sold before forging out on their own in 1994.


    Chilewich continued experimenting with natural and synthetic materials, pushing their physical and functional limits. Leveraging the success of Raybowl, she moved on to create a completely new design material. In 2000, she introduced floor mats, placemats and totes made from her proprietary woven vinyl. Soft and flexible yet extremely sturdy, the material, which she dubbed “plynyl,” was the result of an intensive research process. “The durability of this extruded yarn, the intrinsic sheen of the material, its tremendous design versatility and the fact that it is washable inspired me then and continues to inspire me today,” explains Chilewich. It won her the coveted Editor’s Award at the 2001 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) and solidified her career.


    Over the years, Chilewich has expanded her collection with new textures, colors and products, including wood-grain vinyl prints, striped patterns, asymmetrical placemats and floor mats and even iPhone cases. With her innovative textiles, she continues to redefine how people dress their tables and cover their floors around the world.

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  • Sir David Chipperfield

    Sir David Chipperfield

    ENGLAND (1953)

    A world-renowned British architect, Sir David Chipperfield applies values of intelligence, permanence and logic to his projects. He has firmly established himself in the middle ground between the other-worldly, over-the-top designs of Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid and the dull, lifeless design of so much modern development. “I don’t think architecture is radical,” he told the Guardian in 2011. “How can something that takes years and costs millions be radical?”


    After studying at the Kingston School of Art and the Architectural Association of London, the architect worked under Douglas Stephen, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster before establishing his own practice in 1984. David Chipperfield Architects gained notoriety first in Japan, then in Continental Europe, where his signature modernist austerity was revered. He was knighted in 2004, but it took his native England a long time to acknowledge his genius. Major contracts in Japan, Germany and the Unites States came long before acclaimed projects like the galleries Hepworth Wakefield and Turner Contemporary in his native country. He has continued to build his reputation with a wide assortment of notable buildings, including museums, retail spaces, hotels, office buildings and residences worldwide.


    Chipperfield received international accolades for his 2003 reconstruction of the Neues Museum in Berlin, which had been badly damaged in World War II and sat in ruins for more than half a century. Using materials like recycled bricks and adding elements that echoed the original structures without simply copying them, Chipperfield honored the past of the historic structure (part of the Museumsinsel, an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999) while infusing it with the modernist style of the new millennium. The building was controversial initially, with detractors accusing him of preserving too much of the Nazi legacy. But ultimately, Chancellor Angela Merkel deemed it “one of the most important museum buildings in European cultural history.”


    David Chipperfield has been the proud recipient of numerous awards, including the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2007 for his Museum of Modern Literature in Germany, the most respected architecture award in England. He has also applied his rational and well-researched design approach to products for Alessi, Cassina IXC, Artemide, B&B Italia and others. A thoughtful and intellectual architect, Chipperfield takes the long view when it comes to design. “The difference between good and bad architecture,” he says, “is the time you spend on it.”

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  • Poul Christiansen

    Poul Christiansen

    DENMARK (1947)

    Before founding interdisciplinary design firm Komplot Design, both Poul Christiansen and Boris Berlin gained expertise across several academic fields, business environments and world cultures – all of which they would eventually channel into their deeply personal work by approaching a project from several angles simultaneously. Christiansen graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture in Copenhagen in 1973 and became a freelance designer for companies such as Kevi and Herman Miller. He also worked for Le Klint, where he transformed the company’s traditional pleated lampshades into sculptural shapes through his application of mathematical curves. Berlin graduated in 1975 from the Institute of Applied Arts and Design in Leningrad and was soon working as a freelance designer, producing industrial products and graphics for VNIITE. In 1983, he started Boris Berlin Design in Denmark and worked with Penta Design to develop a computerized workstation for the Danish Post and Telegraph.


    Christiansen and Berlin established Komplot in 1987, with the belief that “design is an intermediate body – a link that appears into existence in the tension of no-man’s-land: Tension between art and engineering, between manufacturer and consumer/user... between these polar contradictions is the condition of a design’s successful performance.” Over the course of their partnership, Christiansen and Berlin have produced critically acclaimed work for clients including Fora Form, Gubi and Hay. The Gubi Chair, one of their more notable products, has won several prestigious awards including the Innovation Award, Best of NeoCon in 2003; the Danish Design Prize in 2004; the RED DOT Design Award 2004; and the 100% Design / Blueprint Award in 2003 for Best Product.

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  • Aldo Ciabatti

    Aldo Ciabatti

    ITALY (1939)

    A contemporary of Mario Bellini and Gaetano Pesce, Aldo Ciabatti has a style that’s distinct from either. Pesce is one of the most radical and intellectual of Italian postwar designers; Bellini is one of the most original, if not overtly expressive. Ciabatti is one of the most thoughtful and humanistic, pursuing classical ideas like beauty, harmony and utility in new and individual ways.


    Ciabatti was born in Arezzo, a city in the beautiful Tuscan region of Italy, and received his Diploma at the Italian Art Institute in 1957. By the early 1960s, he had begun to focus on Industrial Design, collaborating with a number of different architectural offices. Ciabatti is a designer who understands the complexity of achieving simplicity. He has made it a life’s work to create objects in which there is an essential unity, an inherent harmony of material, shape and color. The diverse range of products he has produced possess what Ciabatti believes to be the four primary elements of successful design: beauty, utility, character and easy industrial realization. In other words, an object must give aesthetic or sensual pleasure, it must be practical, it must convey ideas and integrity and it must be easy to make. In Ciabatti’s design philosophy, to realize these criteria requires not only rational methods of problem solving, but the intuitive abilities of the artist.


    Almost every piazza in Italy seems to be furnished with Ciabatti’s simple chairs and benches. Notable among them is the stylish Mouse chair, with its wit, elegance and lively attitude.

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  • Antonio Citterio

    Antonio Citterio

    ITALY (1950)

    Antonio Citterio has earned a reputation for his uncompromising design and craftsmanship. Born in Meda, a small city north of Milan, Citterio graduated in architecture from the Politecnico of Milan in 1972 and established a design studio with Paolo Nava, who remained a close collaborator until 1981. Citterio also worked with architect Vittorio Gregotti on the restoration of the Brera Art Gallery in Milan. In 1973 Citterio began a long-term partnership with the furniture company B&B Italia.


    Since 1987, Citterio has worked with his wife, American architect Terry Dwan. Their studio, Citterio-Dwan has designed showrooms for both B&B Italia and Vitra and interiors for Esprit. By the end of the 1990s, his list of clients included the best design-oriented manufacturers in Europe, including Kartell, Vitra, Artemide, Flexform, Olivetti and Moroso.


    The 1990s marked Citterio’s first notable achievement in furniture design when he designed a new office-seating product for Vitra. Executed in steel, leather and fabric, its elegance and simplicity belied the strength of its functionality. Citterio went on to create a series of colorful folding tables and trolleys made from plastic, aluminum and steel, designed to provide an appealing option for office storage.


    Citterio creates visual interest and harmony by combining materials and forms in original, yet relatively thoughtful and decorous ways. For example, he may mix high-tech and natural materials or rework earlier forms with stark modernist lines, but without the “radical eclecticism” and irony of designers like Robert Venturi and other postmodernists. Citterio received Compasso d’Oro awards in 1979 and 1987 and has taught design at the prestigious Domus Academy.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Dougan Clarke

    Dougan Clarke

    USA (1968)

    Born and raised in Coral Gables, Florida, Dougan Clarke believes his upbringing by the ocean informed his approach to design. “Nature,” says Clarke, “in all its wondrous forms and raw beauty, has inspired me through the years and brought me endless joy.” Self-taught, Clarke spent 10 years in the marine manufacturing industry, where he gained an expert’s understanding of the materials and engineering needed to withstand the corrosive effects of the sea, salt and sun. He combined that with his experience in leisure furnishings to launch Tuuci (“The Ultimate Umbrella Company, Inc.”) in 1998.


    Clarke says that the goal of Tuuci is to “complement the comfort and accessibility of natural environments through shade architecture.” His aim was nothing less than to “redefine what was previously known as an umbrella.” The results, like the Tuuci Manta and Hexagon, are shade structures that use marine-grade hardware but that embody both form and function – creating what he refers to as “shade sculptures.” Also an avid musician, Clarke draws so much inspiration from playing music that he installed a dedicated recording and rehearsal studio in the Tuuci factory. But it is still the ocean that is his primary passion. Even the process of naming his innovative outdoor inventions is an act of respect to the sea: “It is a pleasurable part of our creative process and usually involves a boat, a warm sunny day on the water and enjoyable company.”

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  • Joe Colombo

    Joe Colombo

    ITALY (1930–1971)

    One of Italy’s most innovative product designers, Joe Colombo kept “the environment of the future” in mind with virtually everything he created. Consider his predictions 35 years ago, long before the Internet and telecommuting entered our culture: “Traditional families are tending to give way to small groups created on the basis of affinity. People will be able to study at home and carry on their own activities there. Distances will no longer have much importance.”


    Born in Milan to an industrious father and artistic mother, Colombo was encouraged as a child to spend hours constructing elaborate Meccano (erector set) models, which took up entire rooms of the family home. Colombo studied painting at Milan’s Accademia di Belle Arti, where he experimented with futuristic abstract. But it wasn’t long after finishing the program that he started researching product design, to which he applied the same bold, curvaceous forms characterized in his paintings.


    Colombo was always one step ahead of the growing interests of the 1950s and ’60s. When consumers were fixated on the promise of a new way of living, he was experimenting with recently introduced materials and building technologies that would make this neoteric way of living possible. When his father fell ill in 1958, Colombo attempted to take over the family’s conductor manufactory, only to transform it into a playground for dabbling with fiberglass, ABS, PVC and polyethylene.


    In 1963 he began a mission to invent what he called a “new type of habitat.” In furnishing these living habitats, Colombo applied his newfound production processes and the new plastics he had fully adopted. His three-year experimentation with these living systems culminated in the Total Furnishing Unit, where all living spaces – kitchen, storage, bed and bath – are contained in a single unit. The design debuted in 1972 at MoMA’s Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, just not in time for Colombo to enjoy the acclaim.


    Thanks to his energy and optimism, Joe Colombo’s short career resulted in an extraordinary body of work, most of which continues to be relevant today.

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  • Michele De Lucchi

    Michele De Lucchi

    ITALY (1951)

    A prolific, versatile designer, Michele De Lucchi organizes his work into clearly defined periods that take shape along the path of his personal artistic trajectory. Rather than develop his career within a single design discipline – be it industrial, furniture, interior, lighting or architectural design – he has chosen to move freely among them all, creating door pulls for Valli Colombo, laptops for Olivetti, desk lamps for Artemide and tape dispensers for Pelikan, while designing exhibitions, banks in Germany, apartment buildings in Japan and assorted chairs, vases and office furniture.


    De Lucchi reminds one of Alexander Calder, if only in spirit, for the way in which his precisely engineered objects ally themselves with the young at heart through playful tectonics and the use of color. Unlike Calder, he has no consistent style that carries through his body of work. Brightly colored objects covered in bold, geometric patterns produced for Memphis in the 1980s – including Kristall, a table that resembles a four-legged pet – appear to be made by a different hand than the sleek, pristine Macchina Minima (Minimal Machine) lamp he created with Mario Rossi for Produzione Privata, the experimental laboratory De Lucchi founded in 1990. Yet each period is characterized by an intellectual rigor derived from De Lucchi’s early experimentation with conceptual art. The fact that one creation can be so stylistically different from another may also be attributed to the designer’s ability to collaborate with and learn from other artists.


    It was through such collaboration that De Lucchi began to receive international attention. He was a key player in Memphis, the Milan-based design group organized around Ettore Sottsass of Olivetti. Sottsass, De Lucchi’s mentor, was instrumental in making radical design notions palatable to popular taste as early as the 1950s. De Lucchi exhibited with the group from 1981–1987. In 1988 he moved his studio to Milan, where he continues to work on a variety of industrial design and architectural projects. In an interview in Designer Monographs 1: Michele De Lucchi, edited by Alex Buck and Matthias Vogt (Berlin: Ernst & Sohn, 1993), De Lucchi confesses that he would like to be more at home in the world of electronics but that he believes his greatest challenge as a designer will be in the field of architecture.

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  • Lucia DeRespinis

    Lucia DeRespinis

    USA (1927)

    In the 1950s, very few industrial designers were women. Lucia DeRespinis was one of them. “I was the only industrial designer who was a woman. I was always the only industrial designer who was a woman,” DeRespinis recalls.


    In the minority from the start at Pratt Institute, she was one of just three women among 63 men in her class. She graduated in 1952 after studying under notables Rowena Reed Kostellow and Eva Zeisel, then went to work two years later at the Nelson office, where she was thrown into a wide range of work. “I did everything,” she recalls. “I designed everything from rugs to tableware to exhibits and trade shows to graphics to restaurants to interiors. Everything.”


    She soon began working on clocks with Irving Harper, George Nelson’s versatile wunderkind and design director. “I’d been at George’s about a year and a half, and I started doing the clock thing,” DeRespinis recalls. “That was really Irving’s territory. But he really felt comfortable with me doing some. Nobody else ever did clocks when I was there.”


    Vitra Design Museum credits DeRespinis with three clocks in its 2008 book George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher, but she also designed a fourth clock, the Turbine, mistakenly credited to Harper. Her most widely recognizable model is the Eye Clock, which resembles a large stylized eye, 28 inches across. She intended it to hang horizontally, but Vitra offers it with an option to hang vertically, in which case it’s sometimes called the “Lyre Clock.”


    Not the retiring type, DeRespinis continued to plunge into high-profile design challenges that would extend the reputation of Nelson Associates around the world, working with greats such as graphic artist Tomoko Miho and interior designer Delores Engle, Charles and Ray Eames, Bill Renwick, John Pile, Bill Katavolos, Don Ervin and Charles Pollock, who was a classmate at Pratt and remained a friend of DeRespinis until his death in 2013. Among the most celebrated large-scale projects during her Nelson years were the American National Exhibition in Moscow and the New York World’s Fair.


    While expecting a daughter, she worked in the Nelson office until early 1963, finally leaving when she was “too pregnant to lean over the drawing board.” Later she returned to industrial design, working mostly as a freelancer for the likes of Sandgren & Murtha, Minners & Co., Delco Tableware and others, designing lighting fixtures, glassware, ceramics, ceramic tile, restaurant interiors, cookware and tableware.


    Among her most recognizable work is the distinctive pink and orange logo of Dunkin’ Donuts, set in a typeface she calls “hot dog” lettering, in colors that were favorites of her daughter.


    DeRespinis remains active in design to this very day, continuing a 30-plus-year teaching career at Pratt. Among her former students is Brad Ascalon, designer of the Ascalon Menorah and Atlas Table for DWR.

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  • Niels Diffrient

    Niels Diffrient

    USA (1928–2013)

    One of the century’s preeminent American designers, Niels Diffrient endeavored throughout his storied career to emphasize the “human factors” of industrial design, using ingenuity and intuition to bring consumers products that met their needs. His emphasis on accommodating the human form was codified in the three-volume Humanscale, an influential sourcebook for designers that examined the movements and dimensions of the human body.


    From his early work with Eero Saarinen and Marco Zanuso onward, Diffrient was recognized for his integrity and vision with numerous accolades and citations, and he served as designer or consultant to the Fortune 500’s leading companies. His quest to create workplace environments that were fitted to the needs of their users is exemplified by the Freedom Chair, a high-performance task chair that senses the weight of the user and automatically adjusts to provide optimal support without an array of knobs and levers.


    Through his career, Diffrient designed all types of equipment, including computers, exhibits, trucks, airplane interiors and corporate identity programs. He’s also been broadly published in the field of design and human factors, most notably as co-author of the aforementioned Humanscale. Additionally, Niels spent eight years as adjunct Professor of Design at UCLA and was a visiting critic at the Yale University School of Architecture for two years.


    In the field of furniture design, most notably ergonomic seating, Diffrient won a total of 24 awards, including two Best of Show. He held more than 20 mechanical and design patents for his furniture design, both in America and abroad, and he received honors from many organizations, including The American Institute of Architects, the Industrial Designers Society of America and an honorary doctorate from ArtCenter College of Design. In 1996, Niels was named one of the Top 40 Design Innovators by ID Magazine and received the Chrysler Award for Innovation.

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  • Sean Dix

    Sean Dix

    USA (1967)

    If you search for a signature look or common feature in Sean Dix designs, you will be hard pressed to find a single one. In fact, the common element in his work is the absolute lack of common elements. “I don’t believe in adding a superficial detail so that people will see something and say, ‘That’s a Sean Dix design.’ ”


    Born in Kansas, but raised on more exotic soil in Fiji, the Philippines and Saipan, Dix now resides in Milan, where he opened his own design studio in 2000. Commissioned to design the Milan haute couture showrooms of Byblos and Moschino, Dix is no stranger to conceptualizing on the grander scale. Designing chairs is his true love, though, evident in the more than 40 he has personally collected. With so many chairs and a Milan residence the size of a “shoebox,” he has resorted to lending them out to friends to “babysit,” and sadly, some are tucked away in the attic waiting to be rediscovered.


    Before going on to earn degrees in sculpture, interior architecture and design, Dix spent two of his college years as a modern literature major. That experience still informs the way he approaches a project and probably has something to do with the fact that each of his ideas lingers in the concept stage for a very long time. “I spend a lot of time thinking about what needs to be communicated before I even begin sketching or creating the form.” At the time that Dix was getting his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the curriculum relied heavily on conceptual design. This concentrated study affirmed what he was already inclined to do, which was spend most of his time, as he calls it, “defining the concept.”


    It would not be an exaggeration to say that, although the concept is crucial, process is what really drives Dix’s work. When DWR requisitioned him to design a smart credenza with tambour doors, he set about studying tambours and was compelled to rethink and reengineer a design feature introduced more than 50 years ago. Dix was obsessed with the area where the door disappears into the case frame, which is normally covered by a narrow panel of wood. He insisted on showing off what he felt was “the most beautiful aspect of a tambour door.” To do this, Dix had to track down a special tool used to solve unrelated woodworking challenges and came up with a solution that afforded the doors of the Guilia Credenza a graceful, fluid and very visible curve.

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  • Tom Dixon

    Tom Dixon

    TUNISIA (1959)

    Born in Tunisia and raised in England, Tom Dixon’s reputation frequently precedes him. His mystique as a bad boy – Dixon dropped out of art school following a motorcycle accident and spent time in his 20s playing bass with a rock band and organizing warehouse parties – is nearly as recognized as his unmistakable gift for design and emergence as one of England’s most influential designers.


    Having taught himself welding, but lacking a retail venue to sell his work, he opened Space in the mid ’80s. Dixon first received international acclaim with his S Chair, which was introduced by Cappellini in 1989. He launched Eurolounge in 1994 as a way to manufacture his lighting designs on British soil. For his own projects, Dixon gathers inspiration from the world around him, encompassing concepts small and large – from industrial revolution-era engines to the common paper clip.


    In 1998 Dixon began working as head of design at Habitat, becoming creative director by 2007. In 2004 he began a collaboration with Artek, which was founded in 1935 by Alvar Aalto. Dedicated to bringing Artek into the new millennium, Dixon is still focused on upholding the company’s legacy.


    Though he describes himself as “a self-educated maverick whose only qualification is a one-day course in plastic bumper repair,” it’s clear that Dixon is actually a very ambitious designer who’s driven by a powerful creative energy and strong entrepreneurial instinct.

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  • Nicholas Dodziuk

    Nicholas Dodziuk

    USA (1976)

    Nicholas Dodziuk is the son of an artist and a mathematician, so it’s no wonder he is able to combine creativity and precision in his work. Dodziuk got his first taste of good design at an early age from an Alvar Aalto table among his family’s furnishings. “I was always enchanted,” he says of the table, “with its relationships of parts to the whole, and how it seemed to work differently than other pieces of furniture.” Then one day he got his hands on a Sony Walkman (“the first product that just blew me away,” he recalls), and his aspirations as a designer were set.


    Raised in New York, Dodziuk graduated in 1998 from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in industrial design. From there, a Fulbright fellowship took him to Germany, and upon his return in 2000, he worked as a freelance designer for companies such as Unilever and Sony (in the post-Walkman era).


    In 2003, Dodziuk joined forces with Jeffrey Bernett at Consultants for Design Strategy in New York, and they have since collaborated on projects for B&B Italia, Bernhardt, Boeing, Herman Miller®, Knoll®, Teknion and, of course, Design Within Reach. Their awards include the Best of Neocon Silver in 2007 for the Dividends Horizon collection from Knoll, Best of the Year award in 2010 from Interior Design for DWR’s own Raleigh Sofa and Best of Neocon Gold in 2013 for Teknion’s Fractals.


    Dodziuk names “real-life observed behavior” as an inspiration for his creative process. “Once you dig deep enough into both stated and unstated needs,” he says, “rarely are there any bad ideas to work from.” He believes good design improves quality of life. “Design has to solve problems and capture the human spirit at the same time. It has to accomplish both if it is going to contribute to the common good.”

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  • Sally Dominguez

    Sally Dominguez

    AUSTRALIA (1969)

    Sally Dominguez graduated from Sydney University with a degree in architecture, but she is best known in her native Australia, and internationally, as an inventor and entrepreneur. Dominguez creates solutions that reflect real problems she encounters in her own life.


    In 2001, she and business partner Susan Burns launched BUG Design (Beautiful. Useful. Green.), a line of kids' furniture designed to complement the aesthetics of a modern living space. Their primary product, the Nest Highchair®, combines a form reminiscent of Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair with a pedestal base and polyethylene seat. A mother of two, Dominguez designed the Nest as a response to clunky highchairs with wide footprints. In 2003, the Nest was awarded the prestigious Australian Design Mark for innovation in design.


    Moving in a different direction, in 2003, when Dominguez was unable to find a rainwater harvesting tank that could fit under her patio, she invented the Rainwater Hog. An especially smart design for the Australian market – where water use restrictions are both in vogue and the law – the Hog holds 47 gallons of water, and multiple Hogs can be put together if more storage is needed. Dedicated to conservation internationally, Dominguez introduced the Rainwater Hog in the U.S. in 2008.


    A creative and intrepid designer, Sally Dominguez has appeared as a panelist on the Australian television show The New Inventors, and her work has been covered in publications internationally.

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  • Joseph D'Urso

    Joseph D'Urso

    USA (1943)

    “If one isn’t careful,” says Joseph D’Urso, “one ends up living in a storeroom.” This innovative designer has been called a “master of minimalist design,” credited for being among the first to use industrial materials in his residential interiors. As a pioneer of the “high-tech” design movement that emerged out of the 1970s, he expanded the design vocabulary with new materials and graphic, streamlined forms.


    Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1943, D’Urso began his design education at the Pratt Institute, graduating in 1965. D’Urso got his start in New York working as an assistant to Ward Bennett, whom he credited with inspiring his own “total design” approach. He went on to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Art in London and began his own practice, D’Urso Design, in New York in 1967. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, D’Urso became well-known for his spare, minimal interiors, for which he was hired by scores of private clients, as well as design-centered companies like Calvin Klein and Esprit. His embrace of industrial materials was a critical step in the evolution of modernism. “There are other sources for a faucet or a chair or light fixture,” he says. “Often these sources were much more useful, because they were not trying to appeal to someone’s sentimentality…. They were engineered products; they were good design."


    D’Urso designed his first furniture collection for Knoll®, Inc. in 1980, leading his generation in collaborating with the legendary manufacturer. That collection, which D’Urso described as “casual and physical,” included a sofa, as well as high and low tables. D’Urso takes the same clean-lined approach to furniture that he took with his interiors. “You have to be constantly in touch with your environment,” he says. “You have to be constantly questioning yourself: Why am I putting this here?” He reconnected with Knoll in 2008 to introduce the D’Urso Collection.


    The quotes here are taken from a 1981 video with Joseph D’Urso that can be viewed here.

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  • Christopher Farr

    Christopher Farr

    ENGLAND (1953)

    Educated at the Slade School of Fine Art in London and trained in textiles in villages in Peru and Turkey, Christopher Farr has made his mark as one of today’s preeminent rug designers. As a young abstract painter in 1975, he won a Boise Travel Scholarship to Peru. It was this trip that soon sealed the direction of his artistic life, because there Farr encountered pre-Columbian textiles for the first time and was seized by the magnetism and utility of the 3,000-year-old work. He began to search for ways to marry his love of abstraction to the ancient craft of textile art and spent months designing and making rugs in a village in Western Turkey. With time, his work fused the venerable techniques of hand-dyeing and hand-looming with a modernist concern for color and form. The result is abstract wool canvases for the floor.


    In 1988 he established a company under his own name, Christopher Farr, with antique rug dealer and restorer Matthew Bourne. For the first few years of the company’s existence, a collection of carpets designed by Farr was sold alongside high-quality antiques. Then, in 1991, the company collaborated with the Royal College of Art in London on Brave New Rugs, an exhibition of rugs designed by the college’s textile students. The instant success of this show convinced Farr and Bourne that the future lay in new production, and they went on to devote all their energy and resources to enhancing the profile and status of the contemporary rug. The company now has two showrooms, in London and Los Angeles, which feature Farr’s work, as well as rugs designed by Gillian Ayres, Kate Blee, Allegra Hicks, Rifat Ozbek, Gunta Stölzl and Georgina von Etzdorf, among others.


    Farr’s work has also been shown and sold in the United States at Ralph Pucci International, and in 2000 he launched Christopher Farr Cloth, a line of woven fabrics and prints. Farr co-wrote (along with Bourne and Fiona Leslie of the Victoria and Albert Museum) Contemporary Rugs: Art and Design, an encyclopedic reference tome on modern rug design around the world, published in 2002.

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  • Anna Castelli Ferrieri

    Anna Castelli Ferrieri

    ITALY (1918–2006)

    “It is not true that what is useful is beautiful. It is what is beautiful that is useful. Beauty can improve people’s way of life and thinking.” – Anna Castelli Ferrieri


    Anna Castelli Ferrieri is the embodiment of the Italian creative philosophy that advocates designing “from the teaspoon to the city.” Castelli Ferrieri has contributed designs to both.


    Trained at the famed Milan Polytechnic Institute as an architect, Castelli Ferrieri worked in the office of the postwar rationalist Franco Albini, who became a role model for her. Castelli Ferrieri started designing for Kartell in 1966, after being chosen as the architect for their headquarters. Famous for its critical role in the introduction to the consumer market of plastic as an acceptable material, Kartell was founded by Anna’s husband-to-be, Giulio Castelli. Castelli Ferrieri became intrinsically linked to the company, both as a designer and as its Design Director, instrumental in bringing such innovative designers to Kartell as Joe Colombo, Marco Zanuso with Richard Sapper, and Achille Castiglioni.


    In her own designs for Kartell, Castelli Ferrieri exploited new materials through innovative forms. For her “4970/84” container elements, Castelli Ferrieri treated the design as a mini architectural exercise, with units that are stackable and interchangeable based on the needs of the new lifestyle of the 1960s. For her beautiful and useful designs, Castelli Ferrieri has won numerous design awards, including the prestigious Compasso d’Oro, but the fact that most of her pieces are still in production bespeaks the highest praise.

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  • Jean-Michel Frank

    Jean-Michel Frank

    FRANCE (1895–1941)

    Jean-Michel Frank was perhaps the most influential designer and decorator of the Parisian haute monde of the 1930s and ’40s. Various contemporary French designers such as Andree Putman and Bonetti and Garouste have cited Frank as a spiritual teacher and inspiration.


    Born into the wealthy European Frank clan (Anne Frank was a distant cousin), Jean-Michel came to interior design after being inspired by the artistic circles of Paris and Venice. Frank immediately established his reputation and his signature look with the design of the Paris apartment of the Vicomte Charles de Noailles and his wife, Marie-Laure. The Noailles were leading progressives of their day and patrons of the major painters of Paris; Frank’s style of understated luxury – vellum-sheathed walls, bleached leather, lacquer and shagreen – perfectly complemented the Picassos and Braques on their walls. Frank’s spare, rectilinear details were inspired by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, while the subtle use of rich, unexpected materials was purely Jean-Michel Frank. His blocky, rectangular club chairs and sofas have been endlessly copied and produced by many admirers, and he is credited for the design of the modern Parsons table, a stark form that Frank would embellish with the most luxurious finish.


    The look that Frank created, admiringly called by the French as “le style Frank,” continues to exert its influence through the powerful combination of the simplest forms and the most exquisite materials to produce objects that are noble and utterly modern.

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  • Enrico Franzolini

    Enrico Franzolini

    ITALY (1952)

    Modern industrial design was born in the great cities of Europe – Paris, Berlin and, of course, Milan. Following World War II, Milan became preeminent, leading the way with a stunning display of products from Achille Castiglioni, Vico Magistretti and Antonio Citterio. The vitality of post-war design that flourished in the studios of Milan undoubtedly influenced Enrico Franzolini, one of the city’s young but most prolific furniture designers. On his way to becoming an international household name, Franzolini designed for the most prominent furniture companies in Europe and the United States, including Moroso, Cappellini, Crassevig, Accademia and Knoll International.


    Franzolini began his career as an artist – his work expresses sculptural elegance and aesthetic refinement. He exhibited work at the Venice Biennale, as well as other exhibitions and galleries in the 1970s, and then turned to design and received a degree in architecture in 1979. Like Magistretti and many other designers in Italy, Franzolini has been active across the spectrum of creative fields, from fine art to architecture to the various arts of the craftsman. He uses a variety of materials – wood, metal and all the varieties of plastic – with confidence on both a large and small scale. Franzolini’s work epitomizes the integrity, the technical innovation and the ingenious forms for which Italian design has long been admired.


    Franzolini’s Compasso D’Oro side chair and armchair received Italy’s top design award, the Compasso D’Oro, at the 1998 Venice Triennale. This award is one of the highest achievements that can be attained as a designer in Europe and is a tribute to Franzolini’s extraordinary talent. Franzolini also designed the Tapis chair and the Elan chair, elegant seating found in hotels and restaurants throughout Europe.

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  • Jon Gasca

    Jon Gasca

    SPAIN (1967)

    “We try to make simple products that people will love for a long time,” says Jon Gasca, designer and art director for Stua, his family’s furniture business in San Sebastian, Spain. By “simple” he means neither “ordinary” nor “plain,” but quite the opposite – Gasca ensures that Stua designs combine precision and balance to provide extraordinary function and beautiful form. “We really like people to buy our furniture, not for us to sell it,” he explains. “So our main aim is to make it attractive enough for people to come to us.”


    Born in San Sebastian in 1967, Gasca earned his degree in industrial engineering from Universidad de Navarra. Afterward, he went to work at Stua for his father, Jésus, who founded the company in 1984. Together they’ve maintained an unpretentious and approachable aesthetic, evoking classic midcentury modernism. “We try to give people a sense of well-being, not opulence,” says Gasca. “We transmit freshness and a sense of belonging.” Under these guiding principles, Stua has received numerous accolades, including Spain’s National Design Award in 2009.


    Gasca’s enduring designs for the company include the Malena Chair and Sofa, Eclipse Tables and Nube Armchair, the last of which he co-designed with his father. Like all Stua products, these pieces intentionally walk the line between residential and commercial furnishings. “Home and office: These are two different worlds,” notes Gasca, “but we try to take a middle-ground approach.” Put even more simply, when pressed on whether Stua makes furniture for offices or homes, he responds, “We just make furniture.”


    In addition to being an exemplary designer, Gasca is also a photographer, art collector and prolific blogger, applying his keen eye and exquisite taste to highlight the best of contemporary art and design.

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  • Frank Gehry

    Frank Gehry

    CANADA (1929)

    Frank Gehry is one of the most sought-after, internationally recognized and prolific architects and designers in the world today. His work defies categorization but has made him an icon of current architecture with such projects as the Vitra Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis; and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Gehry’s newest architectural projects include a cottage-like hospital annex in Dundee, Scotland, and an extension to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Gehry’s birthplace of Toronto. In addition to designing over 30 existing buildings, Gehry has distinguished himself with a handful of furniture designs, created throughout his career.


    After studying architecture at the University of Southern California and spending a year at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Gehry established his own architecture office in 1962, in Los Angeles. Ten years into his career, Gehry launched the value-based Easy Edge chair series, constructed from laminated cardboard. However, he soon withdrew the Easy Edge chairs from production, fearing that his popularity as a furniture designer would detract from his reputation as an architect.


    In the 1980s, Gehry returned to furniture design and created his Experimental Edges furniture, again out of corrugated and laminated cardboard. The Experimental Edges series was “art furniture,” in many ways similar to the work of Ron Arad and Tom Dixon, who used materials such as corrugated iron, plaster, industrial girders and wicker. The concept was an indication of Gehry’s affinity for exploring structural strength and form in uncommon materials through mastery of engineering.


    The early 1990s brought the development of Gehry’s sculptural and gallery-ready Cross Check series for Knoll International. This collection of bentwood tables and chairs was a radically inventive use of materials: The chairs were made of “woven” strips of maple –taking inspiration from wooden apple crates – and required no additional structural support. Gehry also designed a series of Fish Lamps using ColorCore Formica, which are now in private and museum collections.


    In early 2004, Gehry completed his year-long collaboration with Emeco to create the Superlight™ Chair, a dynamic new aluminum design that debuted at Milan’s 2004 Salone Internazionale del Mobile. Weighing in at just 6.5 pounds, the Superlight blends strength with fluidity and comfort by gently moving with the sitter. Inspired by Gio Ponti’s Superleggera Chair, the Superlight illustrates Gehry’s architectural fascination with aluminum as both structure and skin and his proficiency in meshing components of engineering and design to create innovative, user-friendly furniture.


    Gehry has received numerous prestigious prizes and awards, including the Pritzker Prize in 1989.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Alexander Girard

    Alexander Girard

    USA (1907–1993)

    “Art is only art when it is synonymous with living.”


    There are two certitudes commonly assigned to midcentury designer Alexander Girard: He was the least well-known of the great designers at Herman Miller in the 1950s and 1960s, and he was the greatest colorist and textile designer of modern time. Although seemingly contradictory, both statements are accurate and are a reflection of Girard and the time period in which he worked. During his career, Girard energized the furniture designs of his Herman Miller colleagues with a new, vibrant color palette and an oeuvre of folk-inspired textiles. He was the first modern designer to define textiles as being more than just functional and to further emphasize form through the application of color and pattern.


    Born in 1907 in New York City to an American mother and an Italian father, Girard moved back to Italy with his family shortly after his birth. Raised in Florence, Girard was educated as an architect at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. In 1932, Girard returned to the United States and opened his first design office in New York City. Five years later, he moved again, to Detroit, where he opened a second studio. His career breakthrough came in 1949, when he was chosen to design the Detroit Institute of Arts “For Modern Living” exhibition, which focused on the design of common items and included the first public display of Charles and Ray Eames’ molded plywood chairs. In 1952, Charles Eames recruited Girard to become Herman Miller’s director of design for the company’s textile division. Girard’s tenure at Herman Miller continued into the 1970s and resulted in more than 300 vibrantly hued fabric and wallpaper designs.


    While working at Herman Miller, Girard received another career boost in 1959 when he was asked to design the interior for La Fonda del Sol restaurant in New York City’s Time-Life Building. The restaurant’s sunny interior, which included Girard’s first venture into furniture design with the Eameses, won a silver medal in 1962 from the Architectural League of New York. One year prior to winning this award, Girard, with Herman Miller’s blessing, had opened the Textiles & Objects store in New York City. The financially unsuccessful store sold objects that Girard had brought back from his international travels, as well as his own textiles and select furniture by other Herman Miller designers. Also in the early 1960s, Girard and his wife Susan relocated to New Mexico, where they began one of the largest collections of folk art to date – more than 100,000 pieces. Today, the Girards’ collection can be found in the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.


    In 1965, Girard was chosen to redesign Braniff Airlines’ visual persona, a project that, when finished, consisted of 17,543 modifications, including changes to plane interiors, logos, stationery, condiment packages, dishes, blankets and playing cards, among numerous other aspects.


    In 1967, Herman Miller introduced a line of seating by Girard, based on his work for Braniff. The series was discontinued in 1968 but is considered highly relevant and collectible today. Girard’s final design for Herman Miller was a series called Environmental Enrichment Panels, comprising decorative fabric panels that helped ward off the office doldrums.

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  • Milton Glaser

    Milton Glaser

    USA (1929)

    Working pro bono on a marketing campaign for the state of New York in 1977, Milton Glaser designed the now ubiquitous “I Love New York” logo – perhaps the most instantly recognizable logo on earth. Though he was arguably the most famous graphic designer in America, he didn’t expect the logo to take the world by storm. But he knows why it did. “To understand the design, you have to translate it,” he told The Telegraph. “First of all, you have to figure out that the ‘I’ is a complete word, then you have to figure out that the heart is a symbol for an experience, then you have to figure out that ‘NY’ are the initials for a place. We know that the issue in all communication is moving the brain, and puzzles move the brain. This one makes everyone feel good because they solved the problem.”


    Glaser started solving visual problems early in life. Born in the Bronx in 1929, he drew and illustrated his way through art school at Cooper Union, graduating in 1951, and then spent two years studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna on a Fulbright scholarship. On returning to New York in 1954, he joined up with fellow Cooper Union grads Seymour Chwast, Reynold Ruffins and Edward Sorel to found Push Pin Studios. Together they created 86 issues of the Push Pin Graphic, which integrated Italian Renaissance influences with art nouveau and art deco styles to define a new kind of midcentury-modern visual language.


    In 1968, Glaser joined forces with editor Clay Felker to create the groundbreaking New York magazine, where he was president and design director until 1977. He left Push Pin in 1974 to create Milton Glaser, Inc., where he expanded his milieu to include interior and environmental design, corporate identity, restaurants, playgrounds, a museum and even a rug for Nani Marquina. He told AIGA that his print background wasn’t a barrier to this multidisciplinary approach. “I have been opportunistic and through the years have sort of blurred the distinction a little between professional practice in architecture, product design, interior design, graphic design and magazine design.”


    Brilliant, famous and prolific as he is, Glaser retains an endearing level of humility. “Fear of embarrassment drives me as much as any ambition,” he said at a 1998 TED Conference. His work can be seen throughout the world and in permanent collections at MoMA and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. He’s been honored with shows at Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Lincoln Center Gallery in New York, in addition to many other accolades – including the Cooper Hewitt Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

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  • Michael Goldin

    Michael Goldin

    USA (1964)

    Michael Goldin, who received a graduate degree in architecture from the University of California at Berkeley (his undergraduate degree was in biology), combines architecture, development and furniture design in his Berkeley-based studio and workshop. When he set out on his own in 1992, his first priority was to establish a wood- and metalworking shop. It has since blossomed into a state-of-the-art enterprise replete with a CNC (computer numerical control) machine and 3-D modeling and manufacturing software that he uses to create prototypes and handle larger-scale furniture production.


    Goldin Design, Incorporated has produced numerous Bay Area commercial interiors for start-up companies, including office space and workstations for Ask Jeeves, NightFire and The Roda Group. They also completed offices for Yellow Giant Corporation and the former Design Within Reach headquarters in Oakland. Swerve, Goldin’s furniture company, produces a variety of colorful, sturdy tables made of Plasticolor-coated Trupan; powder-coated steel legs with casters make them mobile. His designs have playful names – Parallel Play, Guitar Pick and Boardroom – coined by his wife, painter Deborah Oropallo. The original Parallel Play child’s worktable was made for their son Leo when he was a toddler. The tabletops are composed of two concentric arcs; a group of seven forms a circle, but they can also be arranged in a linear serpentine form.


    Goldin likes to build a piece out of a love for a particular object or a functional idea. From there, everything filters into his work. His hands-on approach to furniture design dictates that an idea is not real until it is fleshed out in the shop, which is essentially a laboratory for new materials. Goldin has recently begun experimenting with linen phenolic resin – a hard, durable and beautiful material in which you can actually see the weave of the laminated fabric. Look for new materials such as phenolic resin and powder-coated wood in his next generation of furniture.

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  • Bernard-Albin Gras

    Bernard-Albin Gras

    FRANCE (1886–1943)

    Bernard-Albin Gras was the son of a draftsman and a homemaker in the small town of Saint-Raphaël, France. By the 1920s, he had become a tireless engineer and inventor with a passion for improving working conditions for ordinary laborers.


    Prolific in his work, Gras registered dozens of patents, including one for Lampe Gras in 1921. Few mobile lighting solutions existed then, and those that did were likely to shock anyone who attempted to move them. Gras sought a lamp that would shed light precisely where needed, with reflectors and supports for each task.


    Desiring one solution, he ended up developing three: a clamp lamp that could be moved from workbench to machine, a sliding lamp that could follow the user and a pivoting lamp that could be precisely positioned over a table. All are marked by his innovative Bakelite ball system and spring-balanced arm construction for flexible positioning – both well ahead of their time.


    His lamps soon found their way into machine shops, research laboratories, design studios and operating rooms. Architect Le Corbusier even seized upon the design for his own projects because it met his idea of the perfect object/tool: a form reduced to its pure function, free of superfluous ornament. Gras would lead a wave of other early adopters that included Eileen Gray, Robert Mallet-Stevens and Man Ray, among others.


    Lampe Gras stands as its maker’s defining work, with a screw- and weld-free articulated design that is just as functional and appealing today as it was in its early years.

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  • Eileen Gray

    Eileen Gray

    IRELAND (1878–1976)

    Elegant, intelligent and independent. Eileen Gray’s nonconformist and brilliant mind led her to a uniquely creative life in turn-of-the-century Paris. Born to an aristocratic family in Ireland, she first studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, settling in Paris in 1907, where she began a career that spanned seven decades. In Paris, she studied drawing, painting and, drawn to the austerity of the material, the techniques of lacquer. She also began to design furniture and interiors.


    Gray’s first commission for interior design came in 1919, a project for which she developed her famous lacquered “block screens.” In 1922, she opened her own shop, the Galerie Jean Desert, and that same year she exhibited work in Amsterdam, where it drew the attention of Dutch architect Jan Wils. The rational geometric forms of the De Stijl group in Holland impressed Gray deeply, and her work began to convey a stronger sense of modernity and unconventional use of materials and forms.


    Gray now began to create unique furniture, “suited to our existence, in proportion to our rooms and in accordance with our aspirations and feelings.” A brilliant formal play on the concept of asymmetry, Gray’s Non-conformist Chair displays her sense of irony, while her famous side table, the Adjustable Table E1027 – also asymmetrical – demonstrates the rational principles of modernism that increasingly defined her work.


    After 1927, Gray worked primarily as an architect, designing a modernist house for herself for which she also created appropriately minimalist furniture. She also exhibited several architectural projects at Le Corbusier’s “Pavillon des Temps Nouveaux” in 1937. Following that exhibition, Gray’s name faded quietly away until 1970, when collector Robert Walker began buying up her designs. After 30 years of obscurity, Gray’s work and its importance were again acknowledged. Today, she is recognized as one of the finest designers and architects of her day, and pieces like the Adjustable Table have become icons of modern design.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Greta Magnusson Grossman

    Greta Magnusson Grossman

    SWEDEN (1906–1999)

    Born and raised in Sweden, Greta Magnusson Grossman represents a literal link between European design and California modernism. In 1940, after already establishing herself as a designer in Sweden, she and her husband, jazz bandleader Billy Grossman, immigrated to Los Angeles. Although Grossman’s work was well known and in demand through the 1950s and ’60s – her pieces were photographed by Julius Shulman, she appeared frequently in John Entenza’s Art & Architecture magazine and she received two prestigious Good Design Awards from MoMA – she later faded into relative obscurity. Recently, renewed interest in this pioneering modernist has resulted in some of her pieces being brought back into production.


    Grossman opened her first store/workshop, called Studio, in Stockholm in 1933 with classmate Erik Ullrich. Here she took numerous commissions, including a crib for Sweden’s Princess Birgitta, and she became the first woman to receive a prize for furniture design from the Swedish Society of Industrial Design. This early success followed her to California, where in 1940 she opened her second shop, Magnusson-Grossman Studio on Rodeo Drive, which was popular with clients including Greta Garbo, Joan Fontaine and Gracie Allen. Grossman’s compact, functional and visually lightweight modern aesthetic appealed to a previously ignored but ever-growing demographic: single, savvy, career-minded women. Some of her pieces, like the Cobra Lamp, designed in 1950 for Ralph O. Smith (and recently brought back into production by Gubi), and her 1952 Desk with Storage for Glenn of California, have become icons of California modern.


    Grossman’s creativity and brilliance were also evident in the houses she designed between 1949 and 1959. The homes – often built on spec, with Grossman living in them until she found a buyer – were defined by their diminutive scale and lightness of form and were frequently balanced perfectly on the edge of a hillside. Crafted of classic modern materials like steel and stone, they also incorporated rich woods and natural light to create warmth. Unfortunately, many of these residences have since been demolished, though several do remain.


    Grossman was quoted in 1951 as saying that California design “is not a superimposed style, but an answer to present conditions. It has developed out of our own preference for living in a modern way.” Her own preferences and groundbreaking work as a female designer have become recognizable parts of the visual vocabulary of American modernism.

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  • Irving Harper

    Irving Harper

    USA (1916–2015)

    “Chances are you haven’t heard of Irving Harper,” wrote Paul Makovsky in a 2001 issue of Metropolis magazine, “but you have seen his work.” In his 60-year career, Irving Harper designed everything from the Herman Miller logo to innovative melamine dinnerware to the now-iconic Sunburst Clock and even the venerable Marshmallow Sofa – all under the name George Nelson Associates.


    “I’m grateful to George for what he did for me,” Harper told Makovsky. “While he was alive I made no demands whatsoever. But now that he’s gone, whenever the Marshmallow Sofa is referred to as a ‘George Nelson design,’ it sort of gets to me. I don’t go out of my way to set things right, but if anybody asks me who designed it, I’m perfectly happy to tell them.”


    After studying architecture at Brooklyn College and Cooper Union, Harper got his start in the 1930s with Morris B. Sanders, where he designed interior exhibits for the 1939–1940 New York World’s Fair. Realizing a greater affinity for design than architecture, Harper then went to work in the early ’40s as a draftsman with Gilbert Rohde and a designer in the department-store division of Raymond Loewy Associates.


    Beginning in 1947, he embarked on one of the more prolific periods of his career after accepting a job offer from George Nelson, with whom he stayed on as design director for the next 16 years. One of his early projects for Nelson was Herman Miller’s first-ever ad. There was not yet any photography of the furniture, so Harper instead rendered a large “M” – for “Miller” – which is essentially the same logo design the company uses today. “There was no project to do a logo,” he says. “It was probably the cheapest logo campaign in advertising history.” In 1953, Harper designed a groundbreaking line of melamine dinnerware, Florence Ware, for Prolon (a consumer line by the Pro-phy-lac-tic Brush Company of Florence, Massachusetts), which is now included in MoMA’s permanent collection.


    After Harper parted ways with Nelson, he and Philip George teamed up to form their own studio, Harper+George. They joined the ranks of Alexander Calder, Alexander Girard and Emilio Pucci as contributors to Braniff Airlines’ legendary brand – in the late 1960s, the duo was hired by the fashion-forward airline to design ticket counters and VIP lounges. Harper also collaborated with George on projects for Hallmark and Jack Lenor Larsen, among others. The partnership ended in 1983, but Harper continued to create, filling his house and barn in Rye, New York, with elaborate and innovative paper sculptures that serve as reminders of his skill at blurring the thin line between art and design.

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  • Edith Heath

    Edith Heath

    USA (1911–2005)

    Edith Heath founded her own business in the 1940s, and for 60 years she was the driving force at Heath Ceramics. Her dinnerware combines a craft-based heritage with modern lines in a way that has been prized by many.


    The second of seven children in the Kiertzner family, Edith grew up on an Iowa farm. In 1931 she enrolled at the Chicago Normal School (later renamed Chicago Teachers College), where students were required to study art education. Heath excelled in this area, and after graduating she enrolled part-time at the Art Institute of Chicago, taking classes in the morning and teaching in the afternoon. An invitation to work at a Federal Art Project (FAP) training school led to Heath’s acquaintance with the ideas of leading artists, including Bauhaus designer László Moholy-Nagy. It was also during this program that she met her husband, Brian Heath.


    In 1941, Brian Heath became regional director for the American Red Cross, and the couple moved to San Francisco. On the drive to the West Coast, they stopped in New Mexico, where Edith Heath would make an important discovery. The work of one of the most influential Native American potters – Maria Martinez – captivated Heath, and she knew at that moment that ceramics was the work she wanted to pursue.


    In San Francisco, Heath taught art at Presidio Hill School while auditing classes at the California School of Fine Arts (later renamed San Francisco Art Institute). Access to pottery wheels was limited, so she and Brian converted a treadle-powered sewing machine into a wheel. Soon after, Heath successfully petitioned University of California, Berkeley to host a class on ceramic chemistry, which began her lifelong experimentation with clay and glaze. Working with a kiln in her basement, Heath became an expert in how different clay types affected aesthetic qualities of her wares. Her mastery of this science, combined with her modern sensibilities for proportion and form, made Heath a master ceramist.


    In 1944, The California Palace of the Legion of Honor hosted a one-woman show of Heath’s work. This exhibit led to a meeting with a buyer for Gump’s, and Heath was soon making dinnerware sets for the San Francisco retailer. Two years later, Heath was one of 10 artists invited to exhibit her work at the San Francisco Gift Show, where she met Nelson Gustin, who offered to represent her work nationwide and guaranteed to purchase a year’s output. With that, Heath Ceramics was born.


    In 1947, Edith and Brian purchased the space in Sausalito, California, where Heath Ceramics is still located today. Operated by new owners Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey since 2003, Heath Ceramics is one of the few midcentury American potteries still in existence.

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  • Poul Henningsen

    Poul Henningsen

    DENMARK (1894–1967)

    Trained as an architect, Poul Henningsen is best known for a series of lighting fixtures that resulted from his fascination with the then-new technology of the electric light bulb. In 1925, one of these fixtures won first prize for modern lighting at the International Exposition of Decorative Arts in Paris. The next year it was put into production by Louis Poulsen & Co. in Copenhagen, and it has been in continuous international demand ever since.


    Having grown up at the turn of the century in a small Danish town without electricity, Henningsen wanted to recreate the soft gas lighting of his youth with his electric fixtures. Composed of concentric tiers of reflective painted metal bands, his now-iconic PH Lamp design was carefully based on scientific analysis of a lamp shade’s function. The goal of even distribution of light and reduction of glare determined the size, shape and position of the shades. Variations of the PH Lamp design were made to accommodate various functions and spaces, and within a few years of its introduction the PH Lamp was being used in world-class institutions and homes across Scandinavia.


    Henningsen continued to design for Louis Poulsen well after these early successes, and in 1958 he produced yet another classic – the majestic Artichoke Lamp. Based on the same principle as the multilayered shade, the Artichoke employs leaf-like elements to compose the form. With its grand size, the Artichoke creates dramatic atmospheric lighting appropriate for elegant commercial settings and larger domestic spaces.


    It is a testament to the Nordic aesthetic – and Henningsen’s genius – that a group of lighting fixtures derived from scientific principles can exude such warmth, elegance and soul.

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  • Josh Herman

    Josh Herman

    USA (1968)

    Born in New York City, ceramicist Josh Herman found his aesthetic in West Coast midcentury form while at school at Pitzer College, outside Los Angeles. Studying under artist Paul Soldner – who is credited with inventing American-style raku, a traditional form of Japanese pottery that is used to create vessels for tea ceremonies – Herman learned to integrate Eastern philosophy with Western design elements.


    Herman continued to allow a deep Eastern influence to infuse his work. After graduating, he took a break from ceramics for six years while he embarked on a path of personal growth that included work in Hakomi. A present-centered psychotherapeutic modality, Hakomi integrates Eastern practices of spiritual mindfulness with Western concepts of psychic health. This practice, a cultivation of moment-to-moment awareness, empowered Herman’s work to take off in previously undreamed-of directions.


    Herman took this process-oriented approach and returned to ceramics with renewed vitality. His career exploded in 2007 after his pieces were selected for the museum store of the Orange County Museum of Art, alongside the renowned “Birth of the Cool” exhibit. Using improvisational jazz, volcanoes and fractals as just a few of his inspirations, Herman created pieces that are either wheel thrown or built using a coiling method. It took him many years to develop his proprietary “volcanic” glazing process, which requires sometimes more than 100 iterations of a single color before he’s satisfied. Color, texture, shine and crater size are just a few parts of the formula to create a unique Josh Herman piece.


    Herman’s psycho-spiritual therapeutic process has deeply informed his creative process: “As soon as I start making something, anything, I can look at what I’ve done and that clay that sits before me can inform where I’m going to go next,” he told the San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles in December 2008. “So the final piece ends up being something that was not anything I could have imagined ahead of time. And to me, that’s exciting…. You get this piece of art or sculpture, and it’s sort of bigger than you.”

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  • Matthew Hilton

    Matthew Hilton

    ENGLAND (1957)

    Matthew Hilton has learned from every piece he’s designed – because it allowed him to work in a new material, to work with a new manufacturer or for stylistic reasons. “All of my pieces are loaded with meaning and memory and are very personal to me,” says the British designer. Hilton, however, is quick to add that he doesn’t believe in design movements and instead prefers to think of the design process as part of the evolution of any object through history.


    From an early age, Hilton was interested in painting, sculpture and architecture, and yet the notion of being a “designer” didn’t occur to him until it was suggested by a tutor at Portsmouth College of Art. The idea suited Hilton, who enrolled in the renowned Furniture and Design course at England’s Kingston Polytechnic. After graduation he worked as an industrial designer and model maker until 1984, when he set up his own design studio/workshop. Two years later he launched a series of shelves at the Milan Furniture Fair, and in 1991 he designed the Balzac Armchair, which was first received with circumspect curiosity but then quickly embraced as a modern classic.


    Since the Balzac, however, Hilton’s work has taken on a less stylistic, more functional approach. He believes in creating furniture that people live with, and his inspiration often comes from long-established furniture forms. Updating and reinventing these forms, while keeping an eye on the future, is what shapes Hilton’s designs today. In 2006, Hilton’s Cross Extension Table won the annual Elle Decoration Design Award for Best in Furniture. The table showcases Hilton’s advanced wood-manufacturing techniques, as well as his sense of proportion, scale and functionality. Hilton designs with the end user in mind, and whether that means a household of 10 or one, he takes pleasure in finding the fluid, easily adaptable solution to fit today’s domestic spaces.

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  • Josef Hoffmann

    Josef Hoffmann

    AUSTRIA (1870–1956)

    By the year 1900, Vienna was becoming a center of activity for architects and designers like Josef Hoffmann. Hoffmann was a founding member of the Vienna Secession, a radical anti-historicist movement, and together with Koloman Moser created the Wiener Werkstatte cooperative workshop.


    Although Hoffmann’s designs for the decorative arts were influenced by the British Arts & Crafts movement, he embraced the advent of the industrial age and concentrated on abstract and geometric shapes in his work. While he did not reject traditional decoration out of hand, he succeeded in making it serve structural principles, which he believed should determine the form of buildings, interiors and objects. Hoffmann studied architecture at the Vienna Academy, where he was taught by Otto Wagner. Between 1901 and 1905, he designed four villas in Vienna and a sanatorium, for which he developed a “cubistic” language of form, with an emphasis on straight, unadorned lines.


    In 1905, he established the Kunstschau with painter Gustav Klimt and, two years later, founded the Deutscher Werkbund. Like Otto Wagner’s, his early projects were conceived as Gesamtkunstwerk (total works of art), and he produced both free-standing and built-in furniture for his interiors, pared-down rectilinear pieces, elongated to emphasize their structural role. Hoffmann is well-known for the simple, restrained, yet visually interesting dining chairs, several intended for cafés, that he designed early in the 20th century. His “birdhouse” chair, for example, reveals his way of using a decorative feature to emphasize structure. Hoffmann worked well into his 80s, continuing to use the geometric motifs that influenced the art deco style of the 1920s.


    In 1928 his work appeared in the “Art in Industry” exhibition held at Macy’s in New York City, where it exerted a strong influence on American designer Donald Deskey. Hoffmann is one of the seminal figures in the modern decorative arts movement of the first half of the 20th century.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Arne Jacobsen

    Arne Jacobsen

    DENMARK (1902–1971)

    Arne Jacobsen bought a plywood chair designed by Charles Eames and installed it in his own studio, where it inspired one of the most commercially successful chair models in design history. The three-legged Ant Chair (1951) sold in the millions and is considered a classic today. It consists of two simple elements: tubular steel legs and a springy seat and back formed out of a continuous piece of plywood in a range of vivid colors.


    Jacobsen began training as a mason before studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where he won a silver medal for a chair that was then exhibited at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Influenced by Le Corbusier, Gunnar Asplund and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jacobsen embraced a functionalist approach from the outset. He was among the first to introduce modernist ideas to Denmark and create industrial furniture that built on the country’s craft-based design heritage.


    First among Jacobsen’s important architectural commissions was the Bellavista housing project in Copenhagen (1930-1934). His best-known and most fully integrated works are the SAS Air Terminal and the Royal Hotel Copenhagen, for which Jacobsen designed every detail, from sculptural furnishings such as his elegant Swan and Egg Chairs (1957-1958) to textiles, lighting, ashtrays and cutlery.


    During the 1960s, Jacobsen’s most important work was a unified architectural and interior design scheme for St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, which, like his earlier work for the Royal Hotel, involved the design of site-specific furniture. Jacobsen’s work remains appealing and fresh today, combining free-form sculptural shapes with the traditional attributes of Scandinavian design, material and structural integrity.

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  • Pierre Jeanneret

    Pierre Jeanneret

    SWITZERLAND (1896–1967)

    It is the fate of history that architect and furniture designer Pierre Jeanneret will be best remembered for his collaborations with his famous cousin, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris (aka, Le Corbusier). The two began their partnership in 1922 with the Villa Besnus outside Paris. This famous familial duo went on to create some of the most esteemed icons of midcentury modernism, including the Villa Savoye in Poissy, France, and the Grand Modele seating collection.


    During his partnership with Corbusier, Jeanneret also worked extensively with Charlotte Perriand, and they joined forces with Jean Prouvé in 1940 to research the potential of prefabricated housing. Then came World War II, creating a shortage of materials – and a rift between Jeanneret and Corbusier that would last 10 years. Jeanneret, sympathizing with the Communists, joined the French resistance, while Corbusier’s authoritarian leanings led him to elicit work from the Vichy Government and Italian Fascists.


    After the war, in 1950, Corbusier again approached his cousin, this time for a project on a much larger scale: designing the city of Chandigarh, India, the capital of Punjab. Jeanneret accepted, and Chandigarh – the first planned city in India – became his home for 15 years. Corbusier worked out the high-level aspects of the design, but it was Jeanneret who executed the plans. Gandhi Bhawan, his famous building on the campus of Punjab University, evokes a lotus flower floating on the water.


    Jeanneret went on to become a revered figure in Indian architecture. He left his adopted home in ill health in 1965 to return to France, where he died in 1967.

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  • Patty Johnson

    Patty Johnson

    CANADA

    Toronto-based designer Patty Johnson had already made a name for herself designing furniture for Sephora, Keilhauer, Nienkämper, Pure Design and other high-end companies when she began imagining the potentially positive effects of globalization and sustainable manufacturing beyond the Northern Hemisphere. The roots of what would become her award-winning North South Project – “a new model of design and craft collaborations in the developing world” – began in 2001 during a trip to Guyana, South America, where she was working as a furniture design consultant for the Canadian International Development Agency.


    There Johnson met Jocelyn Dow of the Liana Cane furniture factory and learned of the limited access to the global market that Dow and other companies in developing countries have. Johnson came onboard, designing a cane lounge chair, ottoman and rocker, and a line of patio furniture, all crafted from local, sustainable rainforest products.


    Around this time, Peter Mabeo of Gaborone, Botswana, contacted Johnson. He wanted to expand his custom furniture and millwork company output with an export line. Their collaboration resulted in Johnson’s design for the Maun Windsor Chair (2004), a new interpretation of a classic Shaker-inspired chair, produced by hand. Mabeo’s website describes the manufacturing of the chair as “ecologically, aesthetically and culturally sustainable,” while bringing long-term benefits to the local craftspeople and community.


    Johnson’s work has won many honors, including the Editors Award at New York’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and has been included in ID Magazine’s Annual Design Review Awards, the International Design Yearbook and Newsweek’s Design Dozen 2006. Recently, the North South Project, in partnership with Disenos + Artesanias Guanajuato, created a new ceramics collection, and they are currently working on projects in the Caribbean and Rajasthan, India.


    Johnson is an adjunct faculty member at the Ontario College of Art and Design and has lectured around the world. She holds an MA Design from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

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  • Hella Jongerius

    Hella Jongerius

    THE NETHERLANDS (1963)

    “My main focus when I design an object is the relationship between the object and the user,” says Berlin-based Dutch designer Hella Jongerius. “I want people to use that design and continue to use it.” Her practical approach begins with following a thread: “I always tell my designers to ‘start by designing 
the yarn.’ You have to start with the basics, because the human scale is key. It helps you to realize the importance of attention to detail.”


    Jongerius has been combining her incredible attention to detail with an innovative approach to color to create textiles, rugs, housewares and furniture since she graduated with a degree in industrial design from the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands in 1993. She immediately began working with the influential design company Droog and later created her own company in the Netherlands, Jongeriuslab. She moved to Berlin in 2009.


    Though Jongerius designs everything from housewares to chairs, she began a long and fruitful partnership with design-focused textile company Maharam early in her career. “After speaking at a conference in Aspen in 1998,” she says, “I was approached by Maharam design director Mary Murphy. She asked if I wanted to work on a project to celebrate their 100th birthday, and my reply was, ‘I’m not interested in simply doing a fabric.’ She still reminds me of that response.” More than “simply doing a fabric,” Jongerius ended up challenging the mill in Switzerland with a new kind of weaving. “Traditionally a pattern repeats every 35 to 70 centimeters,” she explains, “but I wanted a three-meter repeat, previously never attempted on an industrial scale. It adds individuality to the textile – the pattern is bigger, but trickier to manufacture.” After some convincing, the mill was able to accommodate her – and the result, 2002’s Repeat fabric, was a huge success, both from a design perspective and commercially.


    Bringing creative craft to industrial production is Jongerius’ enduring legacy – and what lands her squarely in the modernist camp. “Within the materials hides the potential quality of a design,” is one of her mottos. She’s applied this mantra to her work with KLM, Vitra, Royal Tichelaar Makkum and now as design director at rug company Danskina. Her work has been shown at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, MoMA in New York and galleries around the world.


    For Hella Jongerius, hands-on, high-quality design tells a story – she takes a humanist stance in her work, even on a commercial scale. “Good design doesn’t always mean polished perfection,” she says. “Sometimes it’s the apparent flaws, the quirks and individualities that we most appreciate in a product. These are the marks that make something stand apart, that tell stories of a life, of creation. Often they are the marks of the makers – signs of manufacture by careful, skilled, human hands.”

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  • Finn Juhl

    Finn Juhl

    DENMARK (1912–1989)

    When you look at the graceful shapes and sensual curves of Finn Juhl’s work, you may be shocked to realize that he designed these pieces 60 to 70 years ago. A pioneering force in his own country, Finn Juhl is also credited, along with fellow Danes Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Borge Mogensen and Poul Kjaerholm, with introducing Danish modern to midcentury America.


    Although he initially wanted to become an art historian, his father persuaded him to attend the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture. By 1934, he had a prestigious position with architect Vilhelm Lauritzen and was exploring the functionalism movement by creating clean, geometrical buildings like the broadcasting house Radiohuset, a pinnacle of Danish architecture that now houses the Royal Danish Academy of Music.


    Juhl considered himself an architect of the interior as well as the exterior. He began designing furniture like the Poet Sofa (1941) for use in his own home, located north of Copenhagen. Juhl felt that furniture, handicraft and art should create a completeness of the house, which in his case was decorated with works by the Danish painters of the time. Today, the Finn Juhl House – an early example of open-plan design with views to its garden from every room – is part of the Ordrupgaard Museum.


    In 1937, Juhl began collaborating with master cabinetmaker Niels Vodder, and the pair was the buzz of the 1945 Cabinetmakers’ Guild exhibition with their expressive, sculptural pieces. One such item was the Model 45 Armchair (1945), which broke from tradition by freeing the upholstered areas from the wood frame.


    At age 39, Juhl made his U.S. debut in 1951 at the “Good Design” exhibit in Chicago and at MoMA in New York, and he represented Denmark in creating the interior of a meeting hall at the United Nations headquarters. A few years later, SAS asked Juhl to redesign the interior of its air terminals in Europe and Asia.


    Finn Juhl is still winning awards decades after his death: The Wallpaper Design Award 2010 was awarded to the Baker Sofa (1951) in the category of Best Reissue.

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  • Poul Kjærholm

    Poul Kjærholm

    DENMARK (1929–1980)

    Poul Kjærholm’s pieces are sculptures in themselves, but with an understated, subtle quality that makes them ideally suited for accompanying art. In 2004, New York’s Museum of Modern Art installed Kjærholm daybeds, tables and chairs in its galleries and restaurant. In his furniture, Kjærholm emphasized use and wear, with a focus on materials that were durable and improved with age. He viewed each piece as an element to support an architectural space and was equally interested in how a chair or lounge positioned the sitter in relation to the surrounding floors and walls.


    Apprenticed as a cabinetmaker but drawn to the potential of steel, Poul Kjærholm brought craftsmanship and industrial materials together in the design of his PK series of furniture. His career was launched in 1952 when his graduation project from Copenhagen’s School of Arts and Crafts caught the attention of the Denmark design community. The project included a lounge chair crafted of a single piece of steel that demonstrated the type of material expressiveness that would soon become the signature of this designer. “Steel’s constructive potentials are not the only things that interest me,” said the designer. “The refraction of light on its surface is an important part of my artistic work. I consider steel a material with the same artistic merit as wood and leather.”


    Kjærholm experimented at length with materials and production techniques, which served him well when he was hired in 1955 to design desks for the architecture school at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Comprising a pine work surface atop a ready-made steel base, the desk showcased the designer’s ability to bring out the best characteristics of both materials. The contradiction made the cold materials feel inviting and warm, while the natural materials took on an element of control. For the rest of his career, Kjærholm’s furniture would combine industrial materials with natural ones, such as leather, cane and stone.


    As for how Kjærholm named his work, the numbers following his initials can appear random; sometimes a higher number has an earlier design date than a lower number, and sometimes it’s the other way around. The disciplined Kjærholm, however, left nothing to chance, so naturally there’s an explanation: The numbers refer to a type of item – for example, 10 through 19 for small chairs with armrests.

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  • Florence Knoll Bassett

    Florence Knoll Bassett

    USA (1917)

    Architect and designer Florence Knoll Bassett (formerly Schust) has had a profound influence on more than 50 years of building interiors. An early protégée of Eero Saarinen, whom she met while studying at the Kingswood School on the campus of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, “Shu” (the nickname by which she’s popularly known) went on to study architecture at Cranbrook. From there, she earned degrees at the Architectural Association in London and the Armour Institute (Illinois Institute of Technology) in Chicago. While in Chicago, Shu studied with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, for what she calls “a very valuable year.” She worked briefly in Boston for Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, and while working in New York for Wallace K. Harrison, Shu met Hans Knoll, who asked her to design an office for former Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. Additional jobs with Hans Knoll followed, and in 1946, Shu and Hans married and formed Knoll Associates, Inc.


    Shu is famous for her philosophy of “total design,” and as the director of the Knoll Planning Unit she revolutionized interior space planning. Her approach of embracing everything about a space – architecture, interior design, graphics, textiles and manufacturing – was not the standard midcentury practice in space planning, but it caught on and continues to be the standard today. Shu was also a furniture designer, as well as a great eye for talent. It was under her leadership that many of the modern masters created collections for Knoll. These legacies include Eero Saarinen’s Tulip™ chairs and pedestal tables, Isamu Noguchi’s coffee table and Harry Bertoia’s wire furniture.


    In 2002, Florence Knoll Bassett was accorded the National Endowment for the Arts’ prestigious National Medal of Arts.

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  • John Kostick

    John Kostick

    USA (1942)

    Inspiration struck for John Kostick when he attended a lecture by Buckminster Fuller in 1962. Kostick, a physics student at Brandeis University at the time, realized he could illustrate and explore sophisticated mathematical concepts in a straightforward way by building models. He was particularly interested in tensegrity, or tensional integrity, the principle of combined compression and tension giving a structure 3-D form. The exploration of “mathematically interesting forms and innovative and effective ways to build them” has motivated him ever since.


    After college, Kostick worked out of a storefront studio in Roxbury, Massachusetts, making furniture and developing his original designs, including the mathematical “models” that would become his Foldable Stars. Kostick began making Foldable Stars in 1965 and was granted a patent for them in 1970. The appeal of the stars continues to lie not only in their aesthetics but also in their tactile and interactive qualities. He found it “rewarding to make and sell novel objects with math and science content, expressed through handiwork and artisan skills.” And fortunately for Kostick, “the development of handmade, original design products intended to be affordable was very much in and of the spirit of the times.” By 1968 the process for making Foldable Stars was in place and has remained virtually the same since.


    Over the years, Kostick has put his accumulated skills and design talents to work on custom residential building and remodeling, and in the mid-’70s he became interested in sustainable agriculture and environmental activism, complements to his creative credo of “do more with less.” In the early ’90s, Kostick developed a program called STARS (Structural Transformations: Art Relating to Science) and presented it for the Philomorphs, a lecture series at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.


    It was at a geometry lecture at Harvard in 1993 that Kostick met his wife, Jane, a woodworking artist and furniture maker herself. Together they continued home remodeling, with Jane focusing on custom cabinetry. After starting their own business, KO Sticks, they made the shift to working for themselves full-time as designers with a shared passion for what Kostick calls “mathematical truths that you can hold in your hand.” They continue to produce some of his early designs from the mid-’60s, as well as a range of magnetic puzzles and fine woodwork pieces based on the geometry that has inspired Kostick since his student days. KO Sticks is based out of the Kosticks home studio in Medford, Massachusetts.

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  • Morris Lapidus

    Morris Lapidus

    UKRAINE (1902–2001)

    There are few ideas in the world that exist without opposition or rebound, and 20th-century modernism was not one of them. Contrary to the International Style’s glass and steel walls were the vivid, fantasy landscapes of Morris Lapidus, an unlikely contemporary of Mies van der Rohe. Considered a visionary of American dream architecture, Lapidus originated 20th-century luxury architecture with a number of Miami Beach hotels built during the 1950s. His work was everything the International Style was not: curvy, dramatic, showy, ornamented, accessible and whimsical, bringing him both critical backlash and commercial success over the next 30 years.


    The son of Russian emigrants, Lapidus began his journey to the fully realized American dream on New York City’s Lower East Side. His interest in architecture began with a trip to Coney Island where, awestruck by the festive carnival atmosphere, he decided to pursue architecture as a means of creating buildings and interiors of dizzying detail and device. He received training at Columbia University and started off designing innovative retail environments that changed the way people shopped. It was with these retail spaces that he honed his lifelong goal: to attract people and invite them inside with brilliant lights, compelling forms and opulent materials. Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau hotel, Lapidus’s first architectural commission, in 1954, served as a grandly scaled people-magnet by making Hollywood glamour more widely accessible. While the critics bashed his style of contemporary baroque, it quickly caught on in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York City, spurring the building of Miami Beach’s Eden Roc hotel and Lincoln Road Mall.


    It wasn’t until the 1980s, when the borrowed excess of postmodernism came on the scene, that Lapidus’ architecture was ushered in as a viable example of 20th-century modernism. He was coaxed out of retirement to work with the likes of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, which led to a resurrection and acceptance of his vision. During this second phase of his career, Lapidus received such well-deserved honors as his own monograph and Cooper Hewitt’s American Original award. His work can be found dotting Southern Florida and throughout resort towns across the United States.

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  • Giulio Lazzotti

    Giulio Lazzotti

    ITALY (1942)

    The name of the town where Giulio Lazzotti lives and works, Pietrasanta, can be alternately translated as Saint Peter or “holy stone,” the latter being wholly appropriate for a designer and architect whose work in marble, metal and wood takes on a serene, sculptural presence. Lazzotti was educated at the prestigious University of Florence, where he later returned to teach architecture. Since 1975, Lazzotti has maintained a diverse practice encompassing architecture, interior design and furniture design, winning such awards as first prize for Design at the Moving Fair of Paris, the Torre Guinigi prize in Lucca for Urban Design for the historical center of Pietrasanta, a top ten in the International Chair Fair at Udine and, most recently, the Good Design prize from the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization.


    Following in the tradition of classic Italian sculptors and craftsman, Lazzotti’s furniture is produced with an artisan’s eye for material nuance and imbued with modernist simplicity. Internationally recognized for his work with stone, Lazzotti has organized symposia on the material and taught courses like “Design in Marble” at the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, Italy (home to the famous white carrara marble quarries). Lazzotti has worked with many international companies, including Iveco, The Conran Shop, Mageia, Up e Up, Bernini and Smith & Hawken. His work is included in the permanent collections of MoMA in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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  • Piero Lissoni

    Piero Lissoni

    ITALY (1956)

    Since the mid-1980s, Italian designer Piero Lissoni has been quietly and diligently building his reputation as an internationally renowned architect and product designer. Though not quiet in demeanor – gregarious and charming, he exudes Italian charm – he strives to create buildings and interior furnishings “that are clean and more or less silent.” Lissoni describes his approach as “humanistic,” meaning that his projects combine all aspects of the human experience to create something holistic. Like a classic modernist, he strives to combine the history and legacy of the chair or building, along with the technology, art and culture of the current day.


    Born in Italy, Lissoni graduated from the Politecnico di Milano in 1985 with a degree in architecture and hit the ground running as a designer, working for Boffi and Living Divani. In 1986, along with his collaborator Nicoletta Canesi, he founded Studio Lissoni, which initially focused on product design. In 2002 his studio – by then renamed Lissoni Associati – began to focus on architecture. Lissoni sees architecture as high stakes: “I put the architects downstairs because they are the most dangerous people in the world,” he told the German online magazine BauNetz in 2008. “If I design something ugly, nobody buys it and I don’t destroy anything. If I design something wrong in a building… I destroy the life for everybody.”


    He’s applied his measured and careful approach to design to building projects all over the world, including hotels in Milan, Jerusalem, Tokyo, Miami, Turks and Caicos and Istanbul; retail showrooms for Benetton, Cassina and Elie Tahari; and corporate headquarters for Glas, Matteograssi and Living Divani (for whom he also served as art director). Lissoni’s turn toward architecture hasn’t been at the expense of product design, however. His prolific studio, which employs around 70 people, has also created products for Alessi, Cassina, Flos, Fritz Hansen, Kartell, Knoll®, Olivari and Thonet, among many others. “We work in complete projects,” he told BauNetz. “We design the building, and we design the flowers inside.”


    “For me personally, architecture is a means of contemplation and a way to add calm accents, not exaggerate,” the designer told Deutsche Welle in 2010. “I do the same thing in design. When I can, I’m as muted as possible.” His gifts for muted, human-centered design, along with a passion and exuberance he attributes to his Italian upbringing, have made Piero Lissoni one of modernism’s most sought-after international designers.

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  • Ross Lovegrove

    Ross Lovegrove

    WALES (1958)

    While Ross Lovegrove may not yet be as widely known and revered as Charles Eames or Philippe Starck, his elegant product and furniture designs are rapidly earning him international recognition.


    Born in Cardiff, Wales, Lovegrove studied design at Manchester Polytechnic and subsequently trained at the Royal College of Art, London. He then worked for the well-known design consultancy frogdesign, on projects that included the design of the Sony Walkman and computers for Apple. As an in-house designer for Knoll International in Paris, Lovegrove designed the successful Alessandri Office System, and as a co-member of the Atelier de Nimes, along with Philippe Starck and Jean Nouvel, he acted as design consultant to Louis Vuitton, Cacharel, Dupont and Hermes.


    In 1990, he set up his own design office in London, Studio X. Since that time, his clients have included Sony, British Airways, Kartell, Cappellini, Phillips, Moroso, Apple, Luceplan, Tag Heuer and Herman Miller. Lovegrove has a unique ability to seduce the consumer with appealing fluid shapes, persuasive technology, rich color and beautiful materials. He is inspired by forms of the natural world, the possibilities of new manufacturing techniques and the ability to evoke an emotional response in users, with many of his designs addressing ecological issues.


    Whether creating a luxury leather bag collection or a plastic thermos flask, Lovegrove’s humanistic approach and organic sensibility have set a direction for design in the next century.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh

    Charles Rennie Mackintosh

    SCOTLAND (1868–1928)

    Charles Rennie Mackintosh was the most important exponent of early British design. While his own style was very individual, if not unmistakable, he joined with Herbert MacNair, Francis Macdonald and Margaret Macdonald to form “The Four,” later dubbed the “Spook School” of Glasgow. The Four exhibited together for the first time in Glasgow in 1894, in London in 1896 and in Vienna in 1900. That same year, Mackintosh married Margaret Macdonald, with whom he collaborated on many of his decorative schemes.


    Mackintosh designed several public buildings and private residences in Glasgow at the turn of the century, including his masterwork, the Glasgow School of Art (1896-1909). Hill House, Miss Cranston’s tearooms and his own house in Glasgow are examples of a unique genius that did not mimic the predominant art nouveau style but created its own world of color, pattern and form. Mackintosh’s elliptical high-backed chairs adorned the Argyle Street tearooms, and his later tearooms in Ingram Street and Willow Street are integrated works of art where he designed everything, including the cutlery.


    Mackintosh often designed rooms down to the last detail. His holistic approach to design included the use of symbols and stylized Celtic elements as well as the balancing of opposites – modernity with tradition, light with dark, masculine with feminine. In 1914, he left Glasgow and moved to London, where his work included designs for rhythmically patterned textiles and furniture with strong graphic lines.


    Unable to secure architectural commissions in London, he moved to Port-Vendres in the South of France, where he devoted himself to painting watercolors. Although clients seemed to desert him in later life, Mackintosh was the leading designer of the Glasgow School, and his influence was considerable. The high-backed chair, with its dramatically elongated backrest, is among the most famous of his pieces, its unusual proportions never failing to arrest the eye.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Vico Magistretti

    Vico Magistretti

    ITALY (1920–2006)

    For over 50 years, Vico Magistretti represented the rational face of post-war design, seeking timeless solutions to technical and formal problems. Based his whole life in Milan, he consistently produced designs that are as startling, spontaneous and original as they are logical and elegant. After studying at Polytechnic University of Milan, Magistretti worked as an architect in his father’s company and began his career as a designer by creating low-cost furniture for the inexpensive apartments built to house the homeless during World War II.


    Magistretti designs were simple, portable and practical – qualities that were to appear again and again in his work during the 1950s. In 1959, he was commissioned to design furnishings for the Golf Club Carimate clubhouse. The chair designed for Cassina as part of this project changed the course of his career. The Carimate chair was soon a familiar sight in restaurants and cafés throughout Italy and the rest of Europe.


    From the early 1960s on, Magistretti devoted his talents to furniture and lighting design for companies including Cassina, Artemide and Oluce. His furniture was comfortable and informal, colorful and playful. As with the work of Marco Zanuso and Joe Colombo, Magistretti’s experiments with plastic changed consumers’ perception of the material. Once dismissed as cheap and flimsy, it became thought of as stylish and sophisticated. The Selene chair (1969) was a simple design in sturdy ABS plastic with an S-shaped curve in the leg that strengthened its structure. It was produced by Artemide in bold, bright colors and rapidly enjoyed international success.


    Magistretti was, above all, a designer of great integrity and humanity. His elegant design solutions were always realized in the light of technological, economic and other practical concerns. Throughout his career, he was an ambassador for design that does not perpetuate the “throwaway” consumer culture.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Erik Magnussen

    Erik Magnussen

    DENMARK (1940)

    Erik Magnussen studied ceramics at The School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen. As a designer, he has developed a reputation for finding elegant, inevitable solutions to complex problems. He received the prestigious Danish ID Prize on several occasions, was recognized in 1983 as Designer of the Year in Denmark and was given the British design distinction Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) in December 2001.


    As a young ceramicist, Magnussen set up shop in his parents’ basement. He worked for the Danish porcelain manufacturer Bing & Grondahl, designing a popular porcelain set, Form 679, comprised of just 11 items rather than the usual 50. In addition to creating innovative ceramic tableware collections, Magnussen has since branched out to design tables, chairs, a vacuum jug, high-tech products and lamps. Often his tables and chairs employ tube steel frameworks, such as the Chairik series, which couples bent steel legs with birch or colorful melamine. While the materials have changed, Magnussen still handles them like a sculptor, molding the seat of the simple, armless Chairik Chair to provide comfort and back support.


    For his Click series of tables for Fritz Hansen (1994), Magnussen drew inspiration from fellow Scandinavian Bruno Mathsson’s self-clamping leg, developed for the Superellipse Table. Magnussen has taken the idea one step further. Not only can you simply click the table legs into place without using tools, but a groove along the underside of the table allows the legs to be located anywhere around the perimeter. Like Mathsson, Magnussen is also an architect. He recently completed the renovation of his mid-19th-century country house near Riberac, France.

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  • Javier Mariscal

    Javier Mariscal

    SPAIN (1950)

    It is difficult to categorize Javier Mariscal’s work: His creative endeavors cover the gamut of material and conceptual media. Working solo, in collaboration and since 1989 as principal of Estudio Mariscal, he has had a hand in the creation of the corporate image for the Barcelona Zoo; textiles for Nani Marquina; furniture for the Memphis Group; comic characters such as El Señor del Caballito and Twipsy; illustrations and stories such as Metrópolis; Cobi, the mascot for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, along with the corporate identity for the Games; and the Acuarinto playground at Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki. Some of his most provocative projects have been multidisciplinary, with art and humor – mingled through words, images and acting – conspiring to send subversive, witty and occasionally controversial or personal messages.


    While the artist has been dubbed the Peter Pan of Spanish design for his work’s simple, dreamy, childlike qualities, that label can be misleading because it disregards the presence of an underlying social commentary. However, to extend the metaphor, Mariscal, like Peter Pan, is at home in the alternate realities he creates. In Barcelona since 1971, he has drawn inspiration from city life for small projects, such as his postage stamp–sized pen-and-ink illustrations for Barcelona Un Dia, an anthology of stories about the city, as well as larger, more environmental installations like “El Gran Hotel” (1977), an exhibition of his own work set against the backdrop of an imaginary hotel from the 1950s that included a reception desk, bar, lounge, bedroom, bathroom, radios, televisions and furniture from the era. In 2000, in celebration of his own 50th birthday, Mariscal produced Colors, an ambitious multimedia play about the history of color and visualization.

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  • Nani Marquina

    Nani Marquina

    SPAIN (1952)

    “My job is chasing beauty,” Nani Marquina told DWR in 2007. “The fullest place where you can find beauty is in nature. I love to stare at spectacular landscapes.” A common thread that runs through her innovative and conceptual floor coverings, the natural world – its shapes, colors and textures – has informed Marquina’s work since she launched her company in 1987.


    Nani Marquina studied industrial design at the Escola Massana in Barcelona and began her career in interior design. When she couldn’t find rugs that were in tune with a client’s space, she filled the gap with her own creations, which led to a new career as an independent textile designer.


    A superb colorist (“I think all colors are nice,” she says. “The point is to mix them properly”), Marquina finds inspiration not only in nature but also in the challenge of creating something that hasn’t been done before. The designer is also a firm believer that a rug must surprise and captivate but never be too aggressive. The result is her striking depth in materials, ranging from low pile to long strands of felted wool to die-cut rose petals. In addition to her own work, Marquina’s collection includes the work of a select group of esteemed contributors, including Tord Boontje, Eduardo Chillida, Javier Mariscal and Joaquim Ruiz Millet. Nani Marquina is known internationally for her textiles and rugs, which have been exhibited in New York, Paris, Milan, Berlin, Osaka and Tokyo.

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  • Bruno Mathsson

    Bruno Mathsson

    SWEDEN (1907–1988)

    Bruno Mathsson descended from four generations of cabinetmakers in Värnamo, Sweden. A perfectionist to the core, he did not consider a piece of furniture complete unless it could pass inspection turned upside down. The designer experimented with carving, bending, laminating and finishing different types of wooden frameworks and fashioning them with innovative webbings made of hemp, linen or other fabric. Mathsson would make a chair or chaise lounge, then continue to create variations and refine the piece until he was satisfied it was pleasing to both the eye and the rest of the body. Each work of art was custom-made in his family’s shop in Värnamo and signed by Mathsson, who associated his own modern furniture with the traditional handicraft of his ancestors.


    Mathsson was an architect as well. He designed the Småland Art Archive in Värnamo and from 1947–1957 experimented with incorporating large areas of glass into local residential architecture. Although his experiments were not well received in the cold, conservative northern province where he worked, he completed over 100 architectural projects. But it was in the arena of furniture design that he had the most far-reaching impact. While his specialty was seating, he also created influential table designs.


    In 1959 poet and mathematician Piet Hein developed the superellipse (expressed mathematically as xn/an + yn/bn = 1) to address an urban design problem in Stockholm. Mathsson seized upon the superellipse as an elegant formal solution applicable to a smaller-scale problem: the tabletop. He also designed the self-clamping leg for a superellipse table made in collaboration with Hein. The V-shaped metal leg can be inserted without tools and anchored to the floor. The self-clamping leg has a direct descendant in contemporary Danish designer Erik Magnussen’s Click series.

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  • Alberto Meda

    Alberto Meda

    ITALY (1945)

    Alberto Meda represents the fusion of art and science, reason and imagination, technical innovation and formal virtuosity that characterizes the best of Italian design. He is among a group of designers whose individual talents became visible in the 1970s and continued to grow through the end of the century, making design a force that affects every aspect of modern life. Meda’s contemporaries include Matteo Thun, Ron Arad and Philippe Starck, none of whom can be contained within a single movement or aesthetic. At the same time, all have blurred the boundaries between technology and art.


    Meda first studied mechanical engineering at the Politecnico di Milano, graduating in 1969. Only a few years later, he was appointed Technical Director for the design-oriented manufacturer Kartell. In 1979, Meda made the decision to pursue independent work as a designer and engineer, becoming a consultant to Alfa Romeo and Italtel Telematica. In 1983, he began teaching industrial technology at the Domus Academy in Milan, one of the most prestigious schools of design in Europe.


    Meda is acknowledged for his ability to use state-of-the-art materials in ways that are visually arresting as well as structurally sound. For example, he created the sculptural LightLight chair using a Nomex Honeycomb core and a matrix of carbon fiber to achieve remarkable strength and lightness. The LightLight chair also exemplifies Meda’s interest in using industrial materials in a nonindustrial context. The wonderfully functional and comfortable Meda task chair, designed in the ’90s, combines ergonomic sophistication with a visual coherence that testifies to his engineering background.


    Meda’s portfolio is comprised of a wide range of products – everything from cars to high-tech lighting to cast-aluminum seating – some of which have earned him design accolades, including a Compasso d’Oro and Design Plus award.

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  • Paulo Mendes da Rocha

    Paulo Mendes da Rocha

    BRAZIL (1928)

    Born in Brazil in 1928, Paulo Mendes da Rocha began his career in Sao Paulo in the 1950s as a member of the “Paulist brutalist” avant-garde. He received a degree in architecture in 1954, opened his office in 1955 and soon after created an early masterpiece, the Athletic Club of Sao Paulo (1957). Civic landmarks, museums, schools, hotels, private houses and apartment buildings followed, and Mendes da Rocha took his place in the pantheon of Brazilian architects, second only perhaps to Oscar Niemeyer, designer of the capital city of Brasilia.


    Mendes da Rocha has maintained a private practice, taught at the University of Sao Paulo and acted as President of the Brazilian Institute for Architects. He has received many awards, including the Mies van der Rohe prize for Latin American Architecture (2000), his first international recognition. The award paid tribute to the architect’s respectful renovation of the Pinacoteca do Estado, Sao Paulo’s oldest fine arts museum.


    One of the most consistently daring of 20th-century architects, Mendes da Rocha has worked notably in the public realm, creating concrete and steel forms of immense power and grace. For the Brazilian pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, he balanced a building on a single point of terrain with audacious elegance. The next year, he placed as a finalist in competition for the design of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Among his widely known built works is the Museum of Contemporary Art (1975) at the University of Sao Paulo, the Forma Furniture showroom (1987) in Sao Paulo and the Brazilian Sculpture Museum (1987–1992). Other projects include plans for the University of Vigo in Galicia, Spain, and the Boulevard des Sports complex in Paris for the 2008 Olympic Games.


    In the imaginative modernist spirit that marks his buildings, Mendes da Rocha designed the sculptural Paulistano Armchair (1957) for the living rooms of the Athletic Club of Sao Paulo. Made by bending a single steel bar and attaching a leather seat and back, the elegant sling chair pushes the limits of structural form, yet remains supremely comfortable and functional.


    In 2006, Mendes da Rocha received architecture’s highest honor as the Pritzker jury applauded his “deep understanding of the poetics of space” and “architecture of profound social engagement.” Jury Chairman Lord Peter Palumbo added, “Mendes da Rocha brings the joyful lilt of Brazil to his work... never afraid of innovation or taking risks... indeed, a worthy choice.”

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  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

    Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

    GERMANY (1886–1969)

    The modern city, with its towers of glass and steel, can be at least in part attributed to the influence of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Equally significant, if smaller in scale, is Mies’ daring design of furniture, pieces that exhibit an unerring sense of proportion as well as minimalist forms and exquisitely refined details. In fact, his chairs have been called architecture in miniature – exercises in structure and materials that achieve an extraordinary visual harmony as autonomous pieces and in relation to the interiors for which they were designed.


    Mies van der Rohe began his career in architecture in Berlin, working first in the studio of Bruno Paul and then, like Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, for Peter Behrens. In 1927, a housing project called Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart, Germany, would bring these names together again. Widely believed to be one of the most notable projects in the history of modern architecture, it includes buildings by Gropius, Corbu, Behrens, Mies and others.


    In 1928, Mies and his companion and colleague, designer and Bauhaus alumna Lilly Reich, were asked to design the German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona. The purpose of the Pavilion was to provide a location that could be visited by the king and queen of Spain during the opening of the Exposition. With that in mind, Mies designed a modern throne – known today as the Barcelona® Chair – for their majesties. In the following year, Mies designed another notable chair, the Brno, with a gravity-defying cantilevered base.


    In 1930, Mies succeeded Walter Gropius as the director of the Bauhaus, where he stayed until the school closed in 1933. In 1937, Mies emigrated from Europe to the United States, and a year later became the director of architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The rest of his career was devoted to promoting the modernist style of architecture in the United States, resulting in rigorously modern buildings such as the Farnsworth House and the Seagram Building, designed with Philip Johnson.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Jason Miller

    Jason Miller

    USA (1971)

    Jason Miller opened his Brooklyn-based design studio, Roll & Hill, in 2010 to satisfy his desire “to make products that appeal to the American market.” Nestled somewhere between mass production and custom design, Roll & Hill creates lighting fixtures that assume a classic form and style while appealing to a contemporary American sensibility. As Miller sees it, Americans prefer more warmth and visual weight than their European modernist counterparts, who are stylistically rooted in minimalism.


    Miller came onto the design scene in a big way in 2003, not long after opening Jason Miller Studio, with the introduction of his Superordinate Antler Collection, a presage to the rustic chic aesthetic that emerged in the next few years. That sculptural collection exemplifies Miller’s approach, which blurs the boundary between art and design. This is unsurprising, because his background includes an MFA in painting from the New York Academy of Art, work in the studios of sculptor Jeff Koons and designer Karim Rashid and a stint as art director at the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather – diverse experiences that led to a dedicated career in product design. Since opening, Roll & Hill has evolved to produce not only Miller’s designs but also those by Lindsey Adelman, Jonas Damon, Paul Loebach, Rich Brilliant Willing and Jonah Takagi. With Roll & Hill, Miller aims to create luxury lighting designs that are “unique, responsible, innovative and add beauty to whatever space they occupy.”

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  • Rosita Missoni

    Rosita Missoni

    ITALY (1932)

    From tracksuit designer to international fashion house doyenne, Rosita Missoni is proprietor of one of the most widely recognized couture brands of this and the 20th century. It all started in a tiny Milan workshop with her design and newlywed partner Ottavio Missoni. When the young Italians met at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, he as 400-meter gold medalist of (and tracksuit designer to) Team Italia and she as a spectator, it wasn’t only a match of affections. The couple formed a mutual partnership in Ottavio’s newly launched tracksuit business, and it wasn’t long before they lapped beyond tracksuits into knitwear.


    Rosita Missoni was born in 1932 in a small Italian village in Varese, daughter and granddaughter to owners of an embroidered fabric manufactory. Preferring to be called an artisan over a fashion designer, Missoni draws her influence from the rich colors and patterns of folk art. Her approach to design has been to dream up colorful striped patterns and to blend multiple fabric types into one garment. The company Missoni, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2013, has expanded into home and wearable accessories and now employs a staff of 200 that includes the couple’s three children. She has chosen to keep operations close to home in Sumirago, Varese, where her creative spark first ignited at her family’s embroidery workshop.


    In 2005, Missoni collaborated with Paulo Mendes da Rocha, designer of the Paulistano Armchair, to create a limited-edition cover. The Missoni Cover is a reversible floral and striped pattern available only at DWR.

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  • David Mocarski

    David Mocarski

    USA (1951)

    David Mocarski admits to “an unrelenting passion for all things art and design,” and the accomplished designer works very much as an artist. He pursues creativity and investigates materials and technology. He is inspired by “the idea, the expression, the process, the journey.” Whether creating furniture for Fiam Italia or designing his own loft studio, Mocarski seeks to bring art into life, to fuse aesthetics with practicality and simplicity.


    Mocarski earned an MFA from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Since 1971 he has exhibited internationally in the fine arts, as well as limited edition and commissioned furniture. In 1978, he joined the faculty of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where he is Chairman of Environmental Design. Mocarski is principal of Arkkit Forms Design, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1982 as a multidisciplinary design studio.


    Free from the constraints of a single discipline, Mocarski works with an eclectic and international group of clients that includes Sony-Columbia-Tristar, Marvel Comics, Baron Philippe Rothschild, Taylor of Old Bond Street and the Vichon Winery. He has designed furniture for Artedi, ADR, Creative Elegance and DWR. Widely published, his work has appeared in Praxis, Domus and Marie Claire. A recent interiors project, “Seatrain House,” appeared on the cover of Dwell and was featured in the New York Times “House & Home” section, as well as in the book Prefab Modern.


    Mocarski has often turned to reinventing the language of furniture. The Libre Modular Sofa Collection, a sleek sectional that can be variously configured to fit any corner or face in any direction, exemplifies his approach to use, flexibility and comfort. In tune with the rigorous aesthetics of early modernism, David Mocarski is yet very much a part of the 21st century and the demands of day-to-day life.

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  • Niels Otto Møller

    Niels Otto Møller

    DENMARK (1922–1988)

    In 1944, Niels Otto Møller founded J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik in Denmark, a company that has received many awards, including the Danish Furniture Prize in 1974 and 1981. “My father never compromised on anything,” says Niels’ son Jørgen Henrik Møller. “When he designed a chair, he would find the materials and then design the furniture. Each design took him five years to complete.” This work ethic is why the Møller collection is relatively small for a company that’s been around for more than 70 years, but that’s what makes Møller so special.


    “Clean, simple designs and the quality of materials and workmanship are why Nordic design is timeless,” says Jørgen. “It’s because of these materials and skills that Møller chairs are passed down from one generation to the next.”


    In the 1960s, Niels’ sons Jørgen and Jens Ole Møller completed their cabinetmaking training and joined the company. Ten years later, they began exporting to Japan, which remains one of the company’s biggest markets due to the simplicity and quality of the design and craftsmanship.


    When J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik received the Dansk MøbelIndustri’s Furniture Prize in 1981, the judging jury explained that it was for the company’s ability to “combine the best craft traditions with modern furniture manufacture. The company has always obstinately held firm to its high quality level.”


    Today, J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik continues to be a family-run company, with Jørgen Henrik Møller at the helm.

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  • Jasper Morrison

    Jasper Morrison

    ENGLAND (1959)

    Jasper Morrison considers himself to be, first and foremost, a conceptual designer. Unconcerned with the novelty of new or unexpected forms, Morrison takes familiar shapes, often banal, and reworks them until a heretofore-unseen work emerges.


    Born in England, Morrison was raised in both Germany and the United States before his family settled in London, where he attended Kingston College of Art & Design and the Royal College of Art. During school, Morrison was influenced by the work of the Memphis Group out of Milan for their conceptual approach to design. His early work caught the attention of critics, and when Morrison was asked to speak at a design conference in Milan, he instead staged a slide show of juxtaposed images. This became the basis of the book “A World Without Words” and piqued the interest of Rolf Fehlbaum, the chairman of Vitra.


    Since then, what has happened to Morrison’s career seems as inevitable as his designs. He has designed a series of plywood chairs and tables for Vitra, a chaise lounge and daybed for Cappellini and a tram for the city of Hanover, and he’s collaborated with the controversial English artist Damien Hirst on the London restaurant Pharmacy. Morrison’s austerely elegant designs have been elevated to cult status in Germany, where the work of Donald Judd, which also blurs the line between art and industry, is equally venerated. Although the main themes of Morrison’s work – practicality, comfort and timeless forms – have not made him a rock star of design like his contemporaries Marc Newson or Tom Dixon, by early in his career Morrison was already a mature designer with a style of his own.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Serge Mouille

    Serge Mouille

    FRANCE (1922–1988)

    Serge Mouille’s parents, a policeman and a seamstress, were disappointed by his decision, at the age of 13, to enroll in the School of Applied Arts’ silver workshop. The youngest student there, he embraced metallurgy and silversmithing – and was so gifted at the trade, he started teaching at 25. After getting his degree, he worked for a few different companies and apprenticed under Gabriel Lacroix before starting his own workshop.


    In 1953, Parisian native Mouille introduced his first lighting design, the Three-Arm Floor Lamp. Drawing on his intimate knowledge of metals, as well as his interest in musculature and skeletons, the Three-Arm Lamp was both minimal and organic in form. The shape of the shades was inspired by one of his favorite things – the female form. “Lamps are there to be touched,” said the designer. Though his logic might be somewhat suspect, the design was anything but. The Three-Arm Lamp has gone on to become an icon of modern design, with originals fetching as much as six figures at auction.


    In 1956, gallery owner Steph Simon began showing Mouille’s work – all of which he handcrafted himself – alongside pieces by Charlotte Perriand, Isamu Noguchi and Jean Prouvé. It was around this time that Hollywood icon Henry Fonda literally showed up on Mouille’s doorstep. The Frenchman had no idea who this Mr. Fonda was, but when the actor refused to leave until Mouille made him a lamp, the designer relented. Fonda then received the first Mouille lamp to hit U.S. shores.


    In 1962, Mouille introduced his Colonnes Collection, a distinct break from the functional lighting he had become famous for. Using the newest in lighting technology – the fluorescent tube – his “columns” of light were more artistically motivated and were not as well received. When a potential partnership with Knoll fell through due to Florence Knoll’s opposition, Mouille retreated from lighting design and returned to his first love, silversmithing. By 1964 he had ceased production of his lights and spent his remaining years teaching at the School of Applied Arts and designing jewelry.

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  • George Nakashima

    George Nakashima

    USA (1905–1990)

    It is not uncommon to hear of designers who are inspired by the classics and the master designers responsible for them, but George Nakashima was actually inspired by what he considered “bad” architecture and the builders who tried to incorporate too much into their designs.


    Although Nakashima held several degrees in architecture (including one from MIT) and employed himself as an architect for a period, he still took time to apprentice in Japanese carpentry during an extended stay overseas. When WWII broke out, Nakashima returned to his U.S. roots and set about reestablishing himself. He took an architectural tour along the Pacific Coast and was dismayed by the construction of many celebrated buildings. “They were badly, ignorantly built. The architects were overspecialized and knew nothing about building, like cooks who draw pictures of cakes but cannot make the batter themselves.” The extent of his frustration prompted him to take on a design and construction process more in the realm of his control, thus he turned to furniture.


    At each turn of his life – some positive, some altogether tragic – carpentry was presented as a valued craft and livelihood. From his birthplace deep in the forests of the Olympic Peninsula to the Japanese internment camp where he was mentored by an elder Japanese woodworker, Nakashima’s aesthetic is a direct result of his exposure to the wood and people who regarded carpentry as a noble art form.


    The tree as an artist’s resource was of utmost importance to Nakashima, who described felling as akin to cutting diamonds. From the appearance of Nakashima’s finished pieces, one can almost imagine him wielding his bare hands to shape the wood. He preferred, and was highly sensitive to, the distinctive nature of walnut, ash and cherry. And he would intentionally choose wood that might have been rejected by other woodworkers for its imperfections. Those imperfections were to become his beauty marks.

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  • Richard Neutra

    Richard Neutra

    AUSTRIA (1892–1970)

    Born in Vienna, Austria, Richard Neutra immigrated to the United States in 1923, where he became an undisputed master of midcentury-modern architecture. Intimately attuned to the environment, he created his unique indoor-outdoor living spaces as a corrective to the chaotic reality of modern urban life. His intention was to “place man in relationship with nature; that’s where he developed and where he feels most at home.”


    After fighting in World War I, Neutra and his wife Dione relocated from Austria to Germany, where he worked with architect Erich Mendelsohn. The couple then moved to the Midwestern U.S., where Neutra briefly worked under Frank Lloyd Wright before his friend and colleague Rudolph Schindler lured him to Los Angeles in 1925. Southern California’s dramatic coastal, desert and mountain landscape, combined with the urban sophistication of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, was an ideal canvas for Neutra’s brand of modernism. His buildings offered a bright and minimal respite from the demands of urban living. “Our environment is often chaotic, irritating, inhibitive and disorienting,” he said. “It is not generally designed at all, but amounts to a cacophonous, visually discordant accretion of accidental events, sometimes euphemized as ‘urban development’ and ‘economic progress.’ ”


    Neutra designed scores of residences and office buildings throughout his career, mostly in the United States, cementing his reputation as one of the pioneers of California modernism. The Lovell House (also known as the Health House), built in 1929 for naturopathic doctor Philip Lovell, was among his first masterpieces and brought him much acclaim. Other notable buildings include the 1959 Singleton House in Bel Air, Calif., later purchased and restored by Vidal Sassoon. The Chuey House, in Los Angeles, was built in 1956 for poet Josephine Ain and her husband, painter Robert Chuey. Ain wrote to Neutra: “You are an alchemist who has transmuted earth, house and sky into a single enchantment. I can only hope that I can in some measure grow up to the wholeness and balance embodied here.”


    Unfortunately, not all these historic buildings remain. The von Sternberg house in the San Fernando Valley was built in 1935 for movie director Josef von Sternberg and included a decorative moat – allegedly a favorite feature of photographer Julius Shulman – as well as a double-height living area and a high curvilinear wall around the front patio. The architectural marvel, later owned by novelist Ayn Rand, was demolished in 1971 to make way for condominiums. Neutra began collaborating with his son, Dion Neutra, in the 1960s, and Dion has continued to dedicate himself to the preservation of his father’s legacy. The Kaufmann House, built in 1946 in Palm Springs, Calif., enjoyed a restoration in the 1990s by Marmol Radziner. Through neutra.org, Dion continues to work toward the preservation and stewardship of Neutra-designed buildings.

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  • Marc Newson

    Marc Newson

    AUSTRALIA (1963)

    Marc Newson is a former silversmith and self-taught architect and designer from Australia, known as a maverick in contemporary design. A book dedicated to his work, Marc Newson (Booth-Clibborn, 1999), details his design process; he has also appeared in numerous European and American magazines such as Blueprint, Domus and Time. His honors include a 1999 George Nelson Design Award for innovative design and pieces at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Paris’ Musée Des Arts Décoratifs, London’s Design Museum and Berlin’s Vitra Museum. His designs are widespread – one may relax in a Newson-designed Embryo Chair (Cappellini, 1999) while drinking from a Newson glass (Iittala, 1999). Other projects include an automobile, restaurants, a private jet interior, a bicycle, a drain stopper, a toilet-roll holder, a bottle opener, coat hangers and watches. No job is too large or too mundane for Newson, whose interest in designing stems from a desire to learn how things work.


    Newson’s immense popularity may be attributed to the fact that he has kept in touch with contemporary culture through traveling and working in cities around the world. After working in Australia, Tokyo and Paris, he opened an office in London in 1997, where he works for clients including Alessi, Apple, Swatch, Vitra, Flos and B&B Italia. He designed all elements in the tangerine-and-white Ford 021C concept car, from upholstery to pivoting driver’s seat to single headlight. Newson paid attention to the details and tried to build it the way he would a watch. The result was a uniquely coherent, streamlined vehicle.


    Since designing Lockheed Lounge (1986-88) – a chaise made of riveted aluminum that owes its shape to a sculpted foam prototype – his palette of materials has softened a bit to include felt, wicker, Neoprene, polyurethane and wood. A form to which Newson returns again and again is a loosely defined hourglass shape – notably his Orgone Chair. It is no wonder his work has been characterized as sensuous with a tendency toward the obscene. Some critics who witnessed his rapid ascent in the trendy world of design questioned whether his work is truly avant-garde or merely fashionable. Lucy Bullivant, who interviewed Newson for Domus, set the record straight when she wrote: “Marc Newson’s romantic media image is of an ageless surfer, a designer bracketed in with the audacity of the space age, but it’s prone to be a typecasting identity that overlooks the sheer incisiveness of his grasp of the human, material and technological possibilities of design.... Everything that comes his way... gets thoroughly scrutinized and reconstituted, a deep process achieving perceptually light and unhindered results.”

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  • Isamu Noguchi

    Isamu Noguchi

    USA (1904–1988)

    Perhaps more than any other midcentury master, Isamu Noguchi blurred the lines between public and personal, between art and design. His career was defined by experimenting, learning and creating. “You can find out how to do something and then do it,” he said, “or do something and then find out what you did.”


    Born in Los Angeles to an American mother and Japanese father, Noguchi lived in Japan until the age of 13. While later studying pre-med at Columbia University, he took night classes in sculpture and found his true calling. “Everything is sculpture,” he asserted. “Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space, I consider sculpture.” In 1927, he left for Paris to study with sculptor Constantin Brâncuși, which led him to embrace modernism and abstraction.


    In and out of New York in the ’30s, Noguchi began to make a name for himself, partially through the diversity of his endeavors. “To limit yourself to a particular style may make you an expert of that particular viewpoint or school,” he said, “but I do not wish to belong to any school; I am always learning, always discovering.” In 1935, Noguchi began a lifelong collaboration with choreographer Martha Graham. He designed sets for her, for choreographers Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins and George Balanchine and for composer John Cage. After working with muralist Diego Rivera in Mexico City, he also became inspired by and known for large public sculptures, the first of which was commissioned by the Associated Press in 1938.


    All along, Noguchi was careful not to limit himself to one discipline. With a deep and abiding connection to Japan and its culture and to friends and collaborators in addition to Graham – including Buckminster Fuller, Louis Kahn and George Nelson – Noguchi kept his work and inspiration diverse and eclectic. In 1947, he began working for Herman Miller. His trademark glass-topped Noguchi Table, introduced the following year, remains in production today.


    A few years before his death in 1988, Noguchi opened the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in Long Island City, New York. Now known as the Noguchi Museum, it continues to be devoted to the preservation and interpretation of its founder’s work.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Verner Panton

    Verner Panton

    DENMARK (1926–1998)

    Even if Verner Panton’s creative output were reduced to only the eponymous Panton Chair, he would still be considered a master of modern design. With that chair, the first single-formed injection-molded plastic seat, he created one of the most daring designs of the 20th century.


    Born on the island of Funen in Denmark, Panton studied architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. After graduating in 1951, he began an apprenticeship with Arne Jacobsen, assigned to assist the master on the iconic Ant™ Chair. Although influenced by Jacobsen’s organic modern approach, Panton first established himself at the forefront of the avant-garde with furniture based on extravagant geometric forms and use of strong colors, as seen in his Cone Chair (1958). Along with the Panton Chair – which was designed in 1960 but not produced until 1967 due to its technical challenges – Panton’s early work cemented his reputation as an original and uncompromising designer.


    Working with manufacturers such as Fritz Hansen, Louis Poulsen and Vitra, Panton fearlessly pushed technology to its limits and produced design icons including the Flowerpot Lamp and the Pantower. It was not the design of singular objects, however, that interested Panton. Rather, it was the development of complementary groups of furnishings, the design of entire spaces, that set Panton apart. Drawing on his architectural background, Panton designed groundbreaking domestic living spaces, fusing floors, walls, furniture, lighting and textiles into wholly original and integrated interiors. Marked by Panton’s characteristic geometric shapes and intense colors, which were on the cutting edge of emerging psychedelic sensibilities, these spaces both typified his approach and sealed his legacy.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Pablo Pardo

    Pablo Pardo

    VENEZUELA (1962)

    In the mid-1990s, a lamp by Pablo Pardo began appearing in hip restaurants in San Francisco and New York. Composed of a teardrop-shaped, cast aluminum body and a sandblasted shade, the Sophie Lamp turned an ordinary tabletop into a dreamscape for intimate conversations. Venezuelan-born Pardo comes from a family of designers, and his work is deceptively simple, often made from no more than a couple of materials, beautifully crafted and devoid of superfluous details. Once in use, however, his lamps take on a new character that is more experiential than simply visual. It is the experience rather than the look of an object that Pardo seeks in his designs.


    Trained as an industrial designer, Pardo cut his design teeth at DaimlerChrysler and Toylab (a San Diego–based toy consultancy) before opening his own studio in 1993. Since his first acclaimed designs, such as the Sophie Lamp and the Piccola Lamp, a witty leather beanbag of a table lamp that leans and sways like a drunken boxer (and the winner of ID Magazine Annual Review), Pardo’s designs have increased in technical sophistication without losing their pure form and poetic effects. His IO Task Lamp, for instance, is on par with the best Italian lighting yet retains the wit and personality often lacking in contemporary design. “My goal is not to design another beautiful object,” Pardo states. “It’s about challenging how we see things.” Pardo’s designs shed new light on how we view our world.

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  • Xavier Pauchard

    Xavier Pauchard

    FRANCE (1880–1948)

    Xavier Pauchard was born in the thickly wooded Morvan region of Burgundy, France, and began his career as a roofer and zinc worker, like his father and grandfather before him. It’s ironic that a young man who grew up surrounded by innumerable pine forests in an area with a thriving timber industry would go on to become the first manufacturer of galvanized steel domestic goods in France. Or, perhaps his upbringing is what inspired his interest in other materials. Either way, what cannot be debated is the enduring mark Pauchard made on French seating.


    The galvanization process that Pauchard brought to France involves taking iron or steel and dipping it in molten zinc to create an incredibly durable outer layer that is almost entirely impervious to degradation. In 1927, Pauchard trademarked the name Tolix and expanded his product line of small household items to include chairs, stools and tables. “One cannot describe Pauchard as an architect, designer or artist,” says French art historian Serge Lemoine, “for he was none of these; he was simply a manufacturer, one who made practical items that would sell. And it is therein that lies the talent of these pioneers: They were able to listen to the market, and to respond to it.”


    Still the most enduring of Pauchard’s designs is the A Chair (now the Marais A Chair), which, along with his Fauteuil C (Armchair C), embarked on the SS Normandie in 1935, ultimately crossing the Atlantic 132 times on the ill-fated liner. Though the ship was not a commercial success – it was taken over by the U.S. to be converted into a naval vessel and later burned in New York Harbor in an alleged mob boss sabotage – the Normandie was considered the vanguard of technology, style and sophistication when first built.


    After Pauchard’s death in 1948, his sons took over Tolix and continued to create the same hand-built quality seating to their father’s specifications. The company stayed in the family until 2004, when Chantal Andriot took over, reviving and expanding the brand.

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  • Jorge Pensi

    Jorge Pensi

    ARGENTINA (1946)

    Until the 1970s Spain did not play a large role in the narrative of 20th-century design. However, a renewed sense of vitality and freedom blossomed following the death of Franco, and in the city of Barcelona a new Spanish design movement emerged that would soon be recognized internationally. Many of Barcelona’s regional designers made reference to the style of Antoni Gaudi, as well as to the avant-garde heritage of painter Joan Miro. Others developed a more individual, modern and universally appealing style. Two of the most prominent of these architects and designers were Javier Mariscal and Jorge Pensi.


    Jorge Pensi studied architecture in Buenos Aires. In 1977, he joined Alberto Lievore, Oriol Pibernat and Norberto Chaves in founding the design consultancy Grupo Berenguer. That same year, Pensi acquired Spanish citizenship and established a second design office with Lievore in Barcelona. The Barcelona studio designed exhibition stands for Perobell and the SIDI group in 1984.


    During the 1980s Pensi was prolific in producing new designs for lighting and furniture and became widely known for his fluid, elegant chair designs. His cast-aluminum Toledo Chair won numerous prizes in Europe, including the First Award Selection from SIDI, Silver Delta Awards from the Associazione del Disegno Industriale and a Design-Auswal 90 Award from the Stuttgart Design Center. Pensi’s Orfilia chair, designed for Thonet, and his Olympia lamp for B. Lux came to exemplify Spanish design during this decade.


    In 1994, Pensi designed the exhibition Salon Internacionale de Diseno para el Habitat. One of Spain’s leading designers today, Pensi has worked internationally as a design consultant and created furniture for a wide range of manufacturers. His work for Kron, one of the finest furniture manufacturers in the United States, includes the dramatic Pensi Lounge Chair and Couch.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Charlotte Perriand

    Charlotte Perriand

    FRANCE (1903–1999)

    In 1927, at the age of 24, Charlotte Perriand designed a rooftop bar for the Salon d’Automne that drew the attention of Le Corbusier. Upon seeing the anodized aluminum and chromed steel furniture that Perriand had designed for the bar, the famed Corbusier invited Perriand to join the Le Corbusier studio.


    For the next 10 years, Perriand participated in the designs issued from the Le Corbusier studio, including the first tubular steel designs for systematized furnishings known as “Equipement intérieur de l’habitation” (1928–1929). Hard-edged and severely functional, the collection reflected strict ideas about moral and physical fitness. The best known of this group is the LC4 Chaise Longue. Perriand also collaborated with Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret in the design of the LC2 and LC3 Collections (1928), which epitomize the International Style.


    Perriand and Jeanneret again collaborated in founding the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM), where she began to exhibit under her own name in 1931. In 1940, together with Jeanneret, Jean Prouvé and Georges Blanchon, Perriand established an architectural office for the design of prefabricated aluminum buildings. Over the next three decades, Perriand continued to design buildings, interiors and furniture, notably a prototype kitchen for Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, the London office for Air France and conference rooms for the United Nations in Geneva.


    Perriand also produced craft-based designs, such as the diminutive Synthese des Arts Chair (1955), and collaborated with artist Fernand Léger. She is one of the most remarkable figures in the development of modernist design.

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  • Gaetano Pesce

    Gaetano Pesce

    ITALY (1939)

    “I strive to seek new materials that fit into the logic of construction, while performing services appropriate to real needs.” –Gaetano Pesce


    Gaetano Pesce is principal of the New York City-based international architecture and design firm Pesce Ltd., which undertakes diverse commissions in architecture, urban planning, interior and exhibition design, industrial design and publishing. In more than 30 years of practice, Pesce has conceived public and private projects in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Asia, from residences to gardens and corporate offices. Pesce’s extensive body of work, recognized for its emotive and tactile qualities, unrestrained use of color and insistence upon innovative building materials developed through new technologies, was described by prominent architecture critic Herbert Muschamp as “the architectural equivalent of a brainstorm.”


    Born in La Spezia, Italy, in 1939, Pesce was trained at the University of Venice Faculty of Architecture. He has lived and worked in New York since 1980; previously, he resided in Paris for 15 years, which directly influenced the internationalism of his approach. Pesce has served as a visiting lecturer and professor at many prestigious institutions in America and abroad, including the Cooper Union in New York. He is currently a faculty member at the Institut d’Architecture et d’Etudes Urbaines in Strasbourg. His work has been the subject of numerous publications and exhibitions, and in 1996 he was honored with both a comprehensive career retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the publication of the seminal volume Gaetano Pesce: Le temps des questions. Pesce was the recipient of the influential Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design in 1993.


    On the subject of his work, Pesce has said: “For the past 30 years, I have been trying to give architecture back its capacity to be ‘useful,’ by quoting recognizable, figurative images commonly associated with street life and popular culture, and by generating new typologies. I strive to seek new materials that fit into the logic of construction, while performing services appropriate to real needs. Architecture of the recent past has mostly produced cold, anonymous, monolithic, antiseptic, standardized results that are uninspiring. I have tried to communicate feelings of surprise, discovery, optimism, stimulation and originality.”


    Pesce is closely linked with innovative clients such as B&B Italia, Cassina and Vitra International, and he has created a home design collection called Open Sky. His architectural work, which can be seen across the globe, includes the Organic Building in Osaka; the Gallery Mourmans in Knokke-le-Zoute in Belgium; and the Ruth Shuman residence in New York City.

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  • Warren Platner

    Warren Platner

    USA (1919–2006)

    Of the furniture and interior designers who began to make their talents visible in the 1960s, Warren Platner was among the less flamboyant. Nevertheless, he earned for himself an international reputation for elegant understatement, and the steel wire furniture he designed for Knoll has become an icon of ’60s modernism.


    Born in Baltimore in 1919, Platner studied architecture at Cornell University and, following graduation in 1941, worked in the offices of legendary designers Eero Saarinen and I.M. Pei. He opened his own New Haven office in 1967, which quickly became a significant design studio, creating furniture, lighting and textiles, as well as residential and commercial interiors.


    Modernism became more expressive during the 1960s, reflecting a dramatic shift in cultural values. In Platner’s words, “I felt there was room for the kind of decorative, gentle, graceful design that appeared in a period style like Louis XV.” To pursue that concept, he focused on the design possibilities of steel wire and ultimately arrived at a collection of chairs, ottomans and tables that rest on a sculptural base of nickel-plated steel rods. Introduced by Knoll in 1966, the Platner Collection has been in continuous production ever since.


    Platner’s architectural background enabled him to experiment in a number of design areas. Working in the office of architect Kevin Roche, Platner won acclaim for the interior design of the Ford Foundation headquarters (1967), using a muted color scheme to create warmth within the soaring steel, granite and glass building. Also notable was his design of the Georg Jensen Design Center (1968), a showroom for high-end Scandinavian furniture and lighting. Platner’s interior design for the glamorous Windows on the World restaurant in New York (1976) captured the public’s notice perhaps more than any other project. Paul Goldberger, then architecture critic of The New York Times, described the lush interior, with its subdued pastels, fabric-covered walls and brass railings, as an example of “sensuous modernism.”


    Platner also designed the interiors for Water Tower Place (1976), a vertical shopping mall in Chicago, and in 1986, directed interior renovation of the Pan Am Building lobby for its new owner, MetLife. While still active in his firm, Platner Associates, he died in 2006 at the age of 86.


    Warren Platner received the Rome Prize in architecture in 1955 and in 1985 was inducted into Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame.

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  • Charles Pollock

    Charles Pollock

    USA (1930–2013)

    Charles Pollock is best known for the Pollock Executive Chair, which was introduced in 1963 and remains one of the most recognizable and successful office chairs ever. It became an instant sensation upon release, at a time when many corporate offices began to reflect a sleek, modern aesthetic. The chair is ingeniously constructed with an aluminum rim that structurally and visually unifies the tufted seat and back.


    Born in Philadelphia, Pollock moved as a teen with his family to Detroit, where he was exposed to art and design at Cass Technical High School. He went on to receive a full scholarship to the Pratt Institute in New York and studied sketching and model making. While visiting Pratt one day, designer George Nelson saw a sculpture of Pollock’s that he admired. Pollock later gave Nelson the sculpture as a gift – a portent of exciting things to come.


    Pollock eventually took a job working for Nelson in New York and contributed to the development of the Swag Leg Collection, which became known for its innovative use of tubular steel legs after being introduced by Herman Miller in 1958. Building on the success of Swag, Pollock struck out on his own to open a studio in Brooklyn. Two years later, Florence Knoll discovered his designs and began paying Pollock a small monthly salary, which he put toward rent and product development. The Pollock Executive Chair came as a result of that relationship with Knoll.


    After the 1960s, Pollock disappeared from the forefront of American furniture design, spending time in Europe sculpting and painting. He was thrust back into the limelight in 2012 with the introduction of his CP Lounge Chair, which he designed after being wooed by Jerry Helling of Bernhardt Design.


    That same year, at the age of 81, he talked to The New York Times about his philosophy of designing chairs. “When you have a chair,” he said, “it’s like a sculpture of a person. It’s alive. It’s big. You can’t miss it. It’s a ‘look at me!’ item.” Pollock’s work is exhibited in museums throughout the world, where it undoubtedly calls out to viewers, “Look at me!”

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  • Gio Ponti

    Gio Ponti

    ITALY (1891–1979)

    In a career that spanned 60 years, Gio Ponti – architect, designer, journalist, teacher, painter and poet – showed that factory-made goods could pulse with personality and proved that art and industry could coexist.


    Ponti produced startling work at every scale, from household objects to large buildings. As the young artistic director at the Manifattura Ceramica Richard-Ginori in Milan, he applied neoclassical motifs to ceramic bowls and plates, creating a fresh look in everyday objects. As founder and longtime editor of Domus magazine, he encouraged the overlap of art and architecture. And as an architect, he built “typical houses” that looked fairly conventional on the outside but were inventive on the inside, with flexible spaces and modular furniture.


    “Industry is the style of the 20th century, its mode of creation,” said Ponti. In the 1930s he celebrated modern industry with large architecture projects such as the Mathematics Department at Rome University and the Milan headquarters of Montecatini. In the 1940s he designed numerous pieces of Murano glass, created stage sets and costumes for La Scala in Milan and developed the La Pavoni coffee machine. His 1953 Distex Armchair and 1957 Superleggera Chair became classics of the period. And in 1956, he designed the Pirelli Tower, a love song to the future.


    Throughout his designs and his writings, Ponti shared infectious enthusiasm for the possibilities of architecture. “Love architecture,” he wrote in In Praise of Architecture. “Love it for its fantastic, adventurous and solemn creations; for its inventions; for the abstract, allusive and figurative forms that enchant our spirits and enrapture our thoughts. Love architecture, the stage and support of our lives.”

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  • Jean Prouvé

    Jean Prouvé

    FRANCE (1901–1984)

    As the critical reassessment of 20th-century design continues, no greater rediscovery has been made than the work of French engineer-designer Jean Prouvé. “Never design anything that cannot be made,” Prouvé once said. He betrayed his training as an engineer with a practical body of work ranging from letter openers and doorknobs to furniture and buildings.


    Prouvé was born into an artistic family in Nancy, France; his father, Victor Prouvé, collaborated with the great art nouveau artists Emile Gallé and Louis Majorelle as a ceramicist. Prouvé himself was trained as a metalsmith before attending engineering school in Nancy, and his intimate knowledge of metal remained the foundation of his work and career. After opening his own workshop in 1923, Prouvé began producing modern metal furniture of his own design as well as collaborating with some of the best-known French designers of the day, including Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand. His shelving units for the dormitories at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris, designed with Perriand and the artist Sonia Delaunay in 1952, are perhaps the best-known examples of his collaborative work.


    Prouvé always regarded himself as more of an engineer, or “constructor,” than a designer. He never designed for the sake of form alone, concentrating instead on the essence of materials, connections and production. Prouvé strove for the most constructionally and materially efficient designs, with such classic end results as the Standard Chair of 1934 and the Antony Chair of 1954. Utilizing his innovative method of folding sheet metal, Prouvé designed a series of tables that have the perceived lightness of bridges and the presence of architecture. In the mid 1950s, Prouvé was forced to abandon furniture production and began devoting his time to the challenges of prefabricated architecture. His own house, which he designed as a prototype, is now considered a major development in prefab housing.


    Even though Prouvé has long been an influential force among designers, especially constructionally minded architects such as Norman Foster and Renzo Piano, and his vintage designs have been sought after for years by connoisseurs and museums, his work has remained relatively unknown to the general design public. Recently, however, the esteemed Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra reintroduced a series of classic Prouvé designs, shedding light once again on one of the greatest designers of the 20th century.

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  • Andrée Putman

    Andrée Putman

    FRANCE (1925–2013)

    It would not detract from her keen originality to call designer Andrée Putman the Coco Chanel of interior design. As Chanel did with clothing, Putman liberated French interior design from its proper, stuffy roots with her unmistakable vision of elegance, clarity and wit. Born in Paris, Putman enjoyed a budding career in music before becoming a journalist for prominent French interior design magazines. It was not long before her own individual style ushered Putman into the design limelight, and in 1978 she opened her first design studio, Ecart. In addition to producing interiors and stores for some of French fashion’s biggest names (Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Azzedine Alaia, to name a few), Ecart also reissued furniture by then-obscure designers from the early part of the twentieth century.


    Putman was singularly responsible for the revival of now-venerated names of design such as Jean-Michel Frank, Eileen Gray and Mariano Fortuny by reproducing some of their best work. Andrée Putman continued to win the world over by designing interiors from Tokyo to New York, where her work for Ian Schrager at The Morgans Hotel launched the genre of designer hotels. In 1997 Putman opened a new design studio under her own name and continued to expand her product line to include furniture, accessories and interiors, as well as exhibitions, a line of perfume and the redesign of the Concorde interior. Justifiably called the “Grand Dame of Modernism,” Andrée Putman’s career spanned several decades, largely impacting the design field with her quintessentially French style, that is in turn, quintessentially Putman.

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  • Jens Quistgaard

    Jens Quistgaard

    DENMARK (1919–2008)

    With the introduction of his first products in the 1950s, industrial designer Jens Quistgaard was instrumental in bringing Danish Modern to midcentury American homes, and in the process, he transformed the way we look at housewares.


    Quistgaard was born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark; his father, a sculptor, offered early design training. As a child, Quistgaard made his own toys from wood scraps, and after receiving a blacksmith forge and an anvil at age 14, he began making jewelry and knives. He went on to study at a technical school in Copenhagen and apprenticed with the renowned Danish silversmith Georg Jensen. During World War II, he worked with the Danish Resistance.


    By the early 1950s, Quistgaard had developed a line of hand-forged flatware called Fjord. Designed in stainless steel with teak handles, it was considered a daringly modern mingling of materials at the time. When American entrepreneur Ted Nierenberg saw Fjord displayed at the Danish Museum of Art and Design, he expressed interest in producing it on a large scale. Despite Quistgaard’s initial reluctance – he was certain his pieces could be produced only by hand – he agreed, and by 1954 Dansk International Designs had been established, making Fjord flatware and other products available to post-war Americans hungry for anything Danish Modern.


    The trend in residential architecture at the time was toward more open floor plans, including combined kitchens and dining rooms, which created a market for visually appealing cookware and tableware. Quistgaard was the right man for the time, seeing the potential for beauty in everyday household items. Elegant, well-made goods accessible to the average homemaker, his products bridged the gap between mere function and high design.


    He saw a place for enameled steel in cookware, elevating the lowbrow material to something considered polished enough to sit on dining tables. His now-iconic Kobenstyle line of vividly colored enameled steel pots and pans was released by Dansk in 1956. Dansk also produced Quistgaard’s sculptural teak pepper mill, an innovative design that combined a salt shaker on top and a pepper grinder on the bottom. Each was stamped with his initials, JHQ (sometimes IHQ, based on the Danish pronunciation of “Jens”).


    Quistgaard designed thousands of products during his time with Dansk, where he remained the principal creative force through the mid-1980s. Many classic Quistgaard pieces are considered collector’s items today, and his work is featured in the permanent collections of both MoMA and The Met in New York, as well as The Louvre in Paris.

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  • Ron Rezek

    Ron Rezek

    USA (1946)

    If all design practitioners were as ambitious as Ron Rezek, the innovation, quality and function present in daily life would increase by leaps and bounds. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Rezek spent his early career teaching in the school’s art and architecture departments, as well as at Art Center College of Design and the Southern California Institute of Architecture. In addition to his professorate, Rezek has been designing products for various markets for nearly 40 years, including a lifeguard rescue float in 1969 that is used around the world – and seen on the classic 1990s TV show Baywatch. After working for designer Deborah Sussman and architect Frank Gehry, Rezek started Ron Rezek Lighting in 1978 with the goal of modernizing the decorative lighting industry. Co-owned with Artemide, Ron Rezek Lighting produces state-of-the-art lighting that reflects the designer’s philosophy of “simplicity in form and economy in production.” Rezek was also responsible in 1990 for opening the first Highlights showroom, which is now a national retail “gallery of lights featuring the best modern designs.”


    Rezek’s penchant for sleek, modern and energy-efficient forms led in turn to The Modern Fan Company – another successful business that has since filled the gap left by traditional, Victorian-minded ceiling fans. Since 1997, Modern Fan – a charter member of EPA’s Energy Star Program and the first to produce ceiling fans that incorporate fluorescent lighting, upward lighting and low-voltage lighting – has made available 12 sophisticated ceiling fans that have virtually defined the genre’s 21st-century aesthetic. By minimizing components, and maximizing efficiency and economy of production, Rezek has originated a patented single-piece rotor for his fans. The rotor has accomplished the two things that didn’t previously seem possible in ceiling fan design: made installation easier and diminished the proverbial wobble. Rezek’s leadership in the design of lighting and ceiling fans has expanded the two product areas beyond the realm of pure function to relevant, design-conscious expression.

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  • Richard Sapper

    Richard Sapper

    GERMANY (1932–2015)

    The Tizio Desk Lamp has probably made an appearance on the desks of more architects and designers than any other object since the lead pencil. Richard Sapper, its designer, provided a model for product design that combines the rational approach and technical sophistication of his German homeland with Italian flair and originality. After receiving an engineering degree from the University of Munich, Sapper began work for Mercedes-Benz and then moved to Italy to work in the design studio of Alberto Rosselli and Gio Ponti.


    In 1959, he received a Compasso d’Oro for his Static Table Clock, subsequently collaborated with Marco Zanuso and finally opened his own design office in Stuttgart in 1970. He continued, however, to team with Zanuso, and together they produced a number of notable products, including a plastic child’s chair for Kartell that doubled as a construction toy. They also created the highly styled Doney television for Brionvega, a sewing machine for Necchi and the Grillo folding telephone. These products represented state-of-the-art technology, elegantly housed and designed to convey function with a visual clarity that was eloquently modern.


    The Tizio Lamp, created for Artemide in 1972, was matte black, minimal in form and operated in a completely new way, being equipped with an inner balancing mechanism that allowed users to alter its position by the lightest touch of the hand. It won the Compasso d’Oro in 1979. In 1980, Sapper became a consultant for IBM and is credited with the design of the ThinkPad laptop in 1992.


    He lent postmodern inflections to his high-tech style to create designs for Alessi, including the 9090 espresso maker and the 9091 teakettle, which features a two-note whistle in place of the shrill variety found on typical models. Sapper was a versatile designer who could create compelling, solution-oriented designs for the most sophisticated products and also respond to the simpler challenges of everyday objects, such as a set of flatware or a child’s chair.

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  • Richard Schultz

    Richard Schultz

    USA (1926)

    “With outdoor furniture there is more freedom to be playful because of context. With interiors, form should not be so exuberant because you have a roomful of furniture.”


    For half a century, Richard Schultz has been designing outdoor furniture, first at Knoll, where he assisted Harry Bertoia and developed his own lines, and after 1972 as a freelancer. He later launched his own collection that included his reissued Knoll classics, including the Petal Table and Leisure Line chaise on wheels, plus new designs such as the Café 2000 Chair and Topiary Chair.


    Schultz has always managed to work independently, without clients or assignments, defining his own projects that he then sells to manufacturers for production. What interests him most are materials and techniques. “The challenge,” he said during an interview with DWR, “is creating a beautiful form that works as a chair.” It must be comfortable as well as aesthetically pleasing. He admires basic, irreducible Shaker designs and modern Eames furniture while striving for simplicity in his own work.


    Outdoor furniture, Schultz explained, must also withstand rigorous physical and environmental testing. There is the salt spray test, for example, in which furniture is put into a chamber and alternately sprayed and dried in an effort to simulate the environmental abuse found at the seashore. Such testing standards are often set by the automotive industry, particularly for corrosion. “That’s why we don’t pop things out in a hurry. We don’t want the customer to do the testing.”


    After refurbishing the Leisure Line (reissued in 1992 as the 1966 Collection) with mesh woven from vinyl-coated polyester yarn – making it more durable, less susceptible to ultraviolet damage and easier to clean – Schultz continues his quest for better ways of sitting using textiles that are different from the mesh, webbing and cushions found today. His most recent work also explores anodized and coated aluminum sheet metal, materials that may not be new but are rarely found in outdoor furniture.

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  • Jens Martin Skibsted

    Jens Martin Skibsted

    DENMARK (1970)

    What do poetry, design and bicycles have in common? Namely, Jens Martin Skibsted – a Danish designer and entrepreneur who has studied philosophy, published a collection of poems and acts as the energetic creative director of Biomega Philosophy Aps, the company behind the Biomega bicycle.


    Grounded in a humanistic Scandinavian design tradition, Skibsted is a visionary who has made an extraordinary impact while still early in his career. At the age of 20, he founded the art association AV-ART and soon became the editor of AV! and Start, with support from the Danish Arts Foundation. In 1994, Skibsted graduated from the French film school ESEC in Paris, followed by studies in philosophy at Copenhagen University and in project management at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2004, he published a poetry collection, Kavesom.


    Skibsted has founded and co-founded a number of companies, among them the bicycle company Biomega, an ethical consultancy called Actics and Skibsted Ideation, which creates “radically new concepts for brand owners.” As an industrial designer, creative consultant and concept developer through Skibsted Ideation, he has worked with some of the world’s leading designers including Marc Newson, Ross Lovegrove and Karim Rashid. He is one of a select group who has worked with Puma, along with the likes of Philippe Starck and the late Alexander McQueen.


    Skibsted’s celebrated Copenhagen bicycle has been displayed and exhibited in numerous museums and exhibitions worldwide, including the Danish Design Centre and Danish Museum for Craft and Design. Wallpaper* magazine chose his Copenhagen bike as the most promising means of urban transport and voted it one of the top Danish design products. In Skibsted’s words, it has become an “instant classic” rather than an “object of fashion.”


    Featured in a host of international design magazines, Skibsted was honored with a place on the I.D. 40, International Design magazine’s list of the most influential people in the world of design. In 2005, he received the I.D. Design Distinction Award for consumer products, and in 2006 his Puma bicycle was acquired for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


    Referring to the Biomega bicycle, Skibsted says, “There are loads of good bikes for specific sports, but few are built just for getting around town.” The bicycle is designed for “urban mobility,” with the intent of “making towns and cities lovelier, beautiful and cleaner places to be.” Beyond creating an object of beauty, “We want to spread the love we put into our bikes to the people who ride them. We believe that a kind of osmosis from the bike to the rider takes place, spreading our feel for quality and originality.”

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  • Ettore Sottsass

    Ettore Sottsass

    AUSTRIA (1917–2007)

    It would not be an exaggeration to call Ettore Sottsass the godfather of Italian design. His designs are smart, elegant, always surprising and idiosyncratic, all hallmarks of true Italian design.


    Although born in Austria, Italy became the adopted home for Sottsass and his father, a well-respected architect of the rationalist movement (Sottsass always referred to himself as Ettore Sottsass, Jr., in deference to his father). After architecture school in Milan, Sottsass worked at the office of George Nelson in New York before returning to Italy as a design consultant to the Olivetti company. This appointment produced numerous concepts for adding machines, computers and furniture, culminating with the Olivetti Valentine typewriter (1969) that he designed with Perry King. A cherry-red portable plastic typewriter, it broke away from the office equipment stable. Meant for use in any place but the office, the Valentine supremely embodied Sottsass’ constant challenge to the predictable everyday object.


    As Sottsass moved away from the pure functionalism of his school days, he began to experiment with designs that had explicit social and historical dimensions. Sottsass became an acknowledged leader in the Anti-Design movement, which opposed the “correctness” and “good taste” of functionalism.


    In 1981, Sottsass led a group of designers who were interested in an alternative to the coolly functional designs of the period, exemplified by the matte black electronic box. Memphis, as the group called themselves, exploded riotously with colors and materials the design world had not seen before. Under the aegis of Sottsass, a design movement was born. Memphis’ colorful, multifunctional and ambiguous pieces were designed by a stable of talented designers that included Michele De Lucchi, Andrea Branzi, Michael Graves and Sottsass himself. These designers broke with conventional forms and poked fun at the seriousness of functional objects. Neon, exotic veneers and wildly patterned plastic laminates became signatures of the group.


    Even after the Memphis movement had crested, Sottsass continued to produce provocative work and question the rigid parameters of the functionalist movement. Constantly challenging the status quo with new forms, he reaffirmed the need for design itself.

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  • Erik Spiekermann

    Erik Spiekermann

    GERMANY (1947)

    Professor Erik Spiekermann is an internationally renowned type designer (FF Meta, ITC Officina, FF Info, FF Unit, Nokia Sans, Bosch Sans et al), as well as a prolific writer and creator of wayfinding systems worldwide. “Information designer” is the phrase he feels best expresses his work, which began when he was a teen. “A neighbor was a printer,” explains Spiekermann, “I used to hang out at his shop. When I was 15, I got a small printing press and started messing about with metal type.” He started working as a printer and typesetter while studying art history and English at university.


    In 1979, Spiekermann founded MetaDesign and built it into Europe’s largest design studio, departing in 2001. In 1989 he started FontShop, the first independent mail order distributor for electronic fonts. Until 2014, he ran Edenspiekermann, with offices in Berlin, Amsterdam, San Francisco and Los Angeles (he’s now on the supervisory board), and he now heads up galerie p98a, a letterpress workshop in Berlin.


    Spiekermann’s clients include Bosch, Deutsche Bahn (German Railways), The Economist, Pioneer Investment, Messe Frankfurt, Nokia and Birkhäuser Verlag. He wrote Stop Stealing Sheep: And Find Out How Type Works, with E.M. Ginger. He is an honorary professor at the University of the Arts in Bremen, Germany, and recently received an honorary doctorate from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena.


    When designing new fonts, Spiekermann begins by drawing on paper rather than on screen. “If I design a typeface, I just look if it needs to be thicker or thinner or softer or harder, and that’s so easily done with a pencil. I spend about two days sketching to develop the basic essence of it, and then it becomes technical.” Of the design process, Spiekermann points out that “you don’t actually design the black, you design the white: the space inside it and the space around it.” The reason, he explains, is that we read contrast.


    In 2006 Spiekermann’s system of typefaces for German Railways (designed with Christian Schwartz) was recognized with the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany, the most prestigious award in the country.

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  • Mart Stam

    Mart Stam

    NETHERLANDS (1899–1986)

    Steel tubing, applied to furniture for the home, was one of the most dramatic innovations in 20th-century design, creating a radically new profile for chairs, dining tables, coffee tables and desks. The industrial material also transformed expectations of the domestic environment from one characterized by bulky upholstered chairs and sofas to one of cool, clean simplicity.


    Mart Stam started the revolution. Stam had studied drawing in Amsterdam from 1917 to 1919 and then worked as a draftsman for an architecture practice until 1922. Upon moving to Berlin, he met a number of avant-garde architects and artists, including the Russian constructivist, El Lissitzky. While in Berlin, Stam constructed a prototype of a cantilevered chair made of welded gas pipes and plumber’s elbow joints and took his experimental drawings to a meeting of architects held in Stuttgart to discuss the organization of the Weissenhof Exhibition.


    Stam’s revolutionary concept immediately inspired Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design his own version of the chair; Mies went on to produce an elegant and stylized version of the cantilevered chair in 1927, perfecting his design in 1930 with the Brno Tubular Chair. Marcel Breuer also designed a tubular metal chair, the Wassily, reputedly inspired by his recently purchased Adler bicycle. Breuer continued to pursue this form as the ideal modern chair. Eileen Gray also used tubular steel, combining it with organic materials to offset the cold quality of the metal.


    Stam, a founding member of the Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne, also worked as a town planner while he continued to design functional furniture in accordance with his socialist ideals. However, it is Stam’s cantilevered S 33 Chair, with its flexible tubular steel frame and radical new form, that won him a reputation as one of the great designers of the 20th century.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Philippe Starck

    Philippe Starck

    FRANCE (1949)

    School dropout Philippe Starck jump-started his career by designing two nightclub interiors in Paris in the 1970s. The success of the clubs won the attention of then-President François Mitterrand, who asked Starck to refurbish one of the private apartments in the Élysée Palace.


    Two years later, Starck designed the interior of the Café Costes in Paris and was on his way to becoming a design celebrity. In quick succession, he created elegant interiors for the Royalton and Paramount hotels in New York, the Delano in Miami and the Mondrian in Los Angeles. He also began to produce chairs, lamps, motorbikes, boats and a line of housewares and kitchen utensils, like his Juicy Salif for Alessi.


    During the 1980s and ’90s Starck continued his prolific creativity. His products have sensual, appealing forms suggestive of character or personal identity, and Starck often conferred upon them clever, poetic or whimsical names (for example, his Rosy Angelis Lamp, the La Marie Chair and playful Prince Aha Stool). Starck’s furniture also often reworks earlier decorative styles. For example, the elegant Dr. No Chair is a traditional club chair made unexpectedly of injection-molded plastic. While the material and form would seem to be contradictions, it is just such paradoxes that make Starck’s work so compelling.


    Starck’s approach to design is subversive, intelligent and always interesting. His objects surprise and delight even as they transgress boundaries and subvert expectations. During the ’90s Starck also began to promote product longevity and stipulate that morality, honesty and objectivity become part of the design process. He has said that the designer’s role is to create more “happiness” with less. One can almost hear echoes of Charles and Ray Eames, who “wanted to make the world a better place.”


    For all his fame and fashionableness, Starck’s work remains a serious and important expression of 20th-century creativity.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Gunta Stölzl

    Gunta Stölzl

    GERMANY (1897–1983)

    Gunta Stölzl spent 12 years at the Bauhaus, beginning in 1919, when she was invited by Walter Gropius to join as a student, and ending in 1931, when she was forced to resign as director of the Weaving Workshop. What made her departure so surprising was that Stölzl’s artistic strengths and technical abilities made her precisely the type of designer the Bauhaus hoped to create.


    Stölzl arrived at the Bauhaus after studying painting at the School of Applied Arts in Munich and spending two years working as a Red Cross nurse behind the front lines during World War I. She’d been drawn to the school after reading Gropius’ prospectus, which spoke of breaking down the barrier between art and craft and promised an environment where women were on equal terms with men. In her preliminary courses, taught by Paul Klee and Johannes Itten, Stölzl displayed a sophisticated understanding of color and abstract composition, but like all the women at Bauhaus at that time, she was encouraged to pursue crafts deemed suitable for the Women’s Department. (The lack of female faculty also pointed to the less-than-ideal circumstances at this “egalitarian community.”) Rather than being frustrated by this, Stölzl saw opportunity in pursuing a subject that didn’t interest the men. Free to make the Weaving Workshop her own, she explored ways to reinvent weaving and, in the process, evolved it from craft to industrial design. In 1922, Stölzl passed her journeyman’s exam and continued to work in the Weaving Workshop. She became the Workshop’s technical director in 1925, and two years later became a senior member of the faculty, making her the first woman to hold this senior position.


    Under her leadership, the Weaving Workshop thrived. Stölzl had an affinity for color and an equal fascination with technical innovation, and the textiles produced by her and her students made the department one of the most commercially lucrative areas of the Bauhaus. It’s ironic that at a time when Stölzl’s work was building the Bauhaus reputation for excellence in design, she would be forced to resign. However, the growing right-wing political climate in Germany was reaching the Bauhaus, and Stölzl had lost her German citizenship when she married Palestinian architect Arieh Sharon in 1929.


    Forced to exile from Germany, the family moved to Zurich, where Stölzl started a private hand-loom weaving business. After several years, Stölzl started another company, producing hand-woven fabrics for upholstery, draperies and wall coverings, as well as knotted and woven rugs. She ran this business for 30 years, until 1967.


    Despite how Stölzl was treated by the Bauhaus in 1931, she remained positive about the experience. In 1968 she wrote, “Even today, I believe that most important of all was life itself. It was brimful with impressions, experiences, encounters and friendships that have lasted over decades.”

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  • Studio 7.5

    Studio 7.5

    GERMANY (1992)

    Studio 7.5 operates with few rules. In fact, there’s just one rule: “Join lunch,” says Carola Zwick, one of the partners of the company, which is based in Berlin. “Lunch is special. It’s eating and chatting and getting everybody on the same page. And that’s every day. It’s really the only structure we have in the office.” When she says that, she’s not exaggerating. Studio 7.5, established in 1992, operates as a completely flat company of one woman and two men without a managerial hierarchy. The three partners make all the decisions in concert, including those on product design. “For us at 7.5,” says Burkhard Schmitz, another partner, “we have redefined design as a team sport.”


    Aside from the daily lunch, they may spend time apart working on individual projects, yet they remain connected. “Even if we don’t talk to each other,” Schmitz says, “we anticipate what the others will say; I’m always thinking about the others when I’m working at something.” Partner Roland Zwick, Carola’s brother, credits their work relationship to how well they all know each other. “It’s just the blind way we trust each other,” he says.


    One important ideal they share is attention to the smallest of details, or what they call EMC – every molecule counts. “If you ask specifically for what terms we use,” explained partner Claudia Plikat prior to her death in 2013, “there is one German word: It’s called einfach – simple, but not too simple.” It’s the concept of always being on a mission to boil things down to their essence. “We don’t expect anybody to read instruction manuals.”


    Case in point is the Mirra Task Chair. Ten years after designing Mirra, the team decided to revisit the chair to see how it could be improved. The final product, reintroduced as Mirra 2, featured upgrades throughout while using 25 percent less material. Studio 7.5 even designed the manufacturing process for Mirra 2 to more closely integrate it with the design, resulting in a spry form that yields to the occupant. “A chair,” Plikat explained, “actually should act like your own shadow: It should be there, it should be supporting you, but it should not bother you. And it should never interfere with your natural way to move.” Mirra 2 is a reflection of Studio 7.5’s mission, which is focused on the workplace. “We’re not making furniture,” Plikat said. “We’re making equipment.” Her spirit is still very much a part of the ethic at Studio 7.5.

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  • Bill Stumpf

    Bill Stumpf

    USA (1936–2006)

    What does jazz have to do with design? Everything, according to Bill Stumpf, who once said that he liked to collaborate with other designers the way a jazz trio improvises, playing together with no fixed destination. The approach requires complete attention, and you have to trust your instincts. Design should make room for spontaneity and discovery, said Stumpf, “blending the pleasure and pain of life into something wonderful.”


    Stumpf trained at the University of Illinois and then studied environmental design at the University of Wisconsin. Soon after, he was commissioned by Herman Miller to design an office chair to be sold alongside the Action Office II workstation. The resulting Ergon Chair was one of the first chairs whose design was based on ergonomics – the way people sit. In 1994, Stumpf and Don Chadwick co-designed the revolutionary Aeron Chair for Herman Miller, earning themselves and the chair a place in the permanent design collection of New York’s MoMA.


    Stumpf was a skillful innovator and something of a philosopher who envisioned a world where design serves civility. And yet, when he looked around, he saw design that too often “denies the human spirit” and “architecture that acknowledges money and not people.”


    He addressed those issues in his book, The Ice Palace That Melted Away: Restoring Civility and Other Lost Virtues to Everyday Life. Civility, according to Stumpf, “is the something extra – comfort, hidden goodness, personal worth, helping others, play – the joy we take in our achievements and the compassion we show toward our all-too-human faults.” His work is certainly evidence of those concerns.


    In his work for Herman Miller, as Stumpf transformed the company’s approach to problem solving and research, he also had profound influence on the way people work in office environments around the world.

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  • Michael Thonet

    Michael Thonet

    GERMANY (1796–1871)

    With all the talk about form and function, we sometimes overlook the importance of the advances in materials technology in the 20th century. Without doubt, the development of bent and laminated wood veneers was one of those significant innovations, making it possible to construct furniture using fewer pieces and allowing designers to obtain greater visual unity and fluidity. One can hardly imagine the work of Alvar Aalto or Charles and Ray Eames without this technology.


    Michael Thonet is one of the most important innovators in bentwood furniture making. Thonet patented a process of bending under heat several layers of wood veneer glued together and laminated, and used the new material to create curved back-rails and legs on chairs, contoured headboards for beds and scrolled arms for sofas.


    By 1900, the curvilinear furniture made possible by Thonet’s techniques was widely produced by furniture manufacturers in the United States, where the process was exploited for mass production of simple, inexpensive chairs and tables.


    Thonet also developed a method of bending solid wood, and his bent solid and laminated beech chairs with woven cane seats and backs remain among the most successful industrial designed products of all time. Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, all of whom designed for Thonet, made use of his bentwood techniques to create classic chair designs still produced or copied today. Le Corbusier later used Thonet furniture in his Pavillon de l’Esprit Nouveau at the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Julie and Mika Tolvanen

    Julie and Mika Tolvanen

    USA (1970) FINLAND (1976)

    Being husband and wife and also design partners at Studio Tolvanen, Julie and Mika Tolvanen spend a lot of time together talking about their work. “We are constantly looking at things,“ Julie says, ”and pointing things out to each other in a kind of never-ending conversation about design that later shows up in our work. Neither of us ever gets tired of thinking about design, so we are a good match.”


    Julie is American, born and raised in Washington state, and Mika a native Finn who speaks flawless English. They met at a birthday party in Helsinki, where Julie had come in 2009 to study for a master’s degree. “I thought Finland sounded like an exotic place to spend two years, which makes most Finns chuckle.” They were married in 2012 by her brother in his backyard in Portland, Oregon. “He bought a license for $16 on the internet,” Julie says. In 2015, they founded Studio Tolvanen in the Töölö neighborhood of Helsinki.


    They come to design work from different directions. Mika recalls being “blown away” when he first walked into the art and design library at Aalto University in Helsinki. “The library is entirely devoted to design,” he says, “and I spent most of my time there during school. “I realized I wanted to focus on household things instead of industrial design. I once designed a snow grooming machine, but furniture is my true passion.”


    Julie landed in design almost by accident at the tail end of architecture school in St. Louis. During her last semester, she took a furniture course and designed a complicated tête-à-tête chair that took her several months to build. “It was the first time I started feeling comfortable in the workshop,” she recalls. “I got really cozy with the router.” That experience led to a two-year apprenticeship with one of her mentors from the course, which came after her first-and-only job in architecture with a firm that designed only jails.


    Studio Tolvanen has produced a number of products, but most of them have been designed independently by either Julie or Mika. In fact, they only just completed their first project together in 2016. “We are both very independent minded,” Julie says. “We also have basic differences in how we describe things that come from speaking different languages. That leads to some pretty amusing misunderstandings but also inadvertently pushes designs in unpredicted directions – and usually they improve along the way.”

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  • David Trubridge

    David Trubridge

    ENGLAND (1951)

    David Trubridge is a trained naval architect and self-taught woodworker who is passionate about the environment. And this passion isn’t expressed while sitting behind a desk, rather while being out in the world and living in extreme situations. In 1982, Trubridge and his family moved aboard their 45-foot cutter, “Hornpipe,” and spent the next four years exploring the Caribbean and Tahiti. Along the way, Trubridge designed and built entire houses of furniture for clients living on the islands. “Facilities and supplies were very limited, and I had to design around what was available and what I could do there,” says Trubridge. “It was a very valuable lesson in economy and creative design. Mostly I worked in a tiny shed with about one machine, and if I had to, I bought time on larger machines nearby. In Tahiti I worked out of the clients’ garages, and they could wander out and watch their furniture being made. Electricity came from generators that did not run all the time, so I had to work around that too.”


    At the end of four years, Trubridge and his family settled in New Zealand, which continues to be their home. In 2004, Trubridge was selected for the Antarctica New Zealand program, which takes two artists to the ice each year. Trubridge explains that the intent of the program “is to communicate something of this amazing and unique place through the sensitivities of artists of all disciplines, rather than through the normal scientific journals or National Geographic-type articles.” The experience, combined with his relationship with marine life, furthered Trubridge’s dedication to live in ways that support a delicate footprint. A firm believer in reuse, he created his studio out of an abandoned joinery shop in a closed meatpacking district. In 2007, Trubridge was honored with the Green Leaf Award for artistic excellence, presented by the Natural World Museum and the United Nations Environment Programme. These awards celebrate an artist’s ability to inspire and engage the public in environmental awareness and action.


    “Designing is like the kids’ game of rolling a number of balls into holes. Each time you get one in, the next pops out. The design that gets every ball in the hole, everything right, is very rare, because all the criteria are competing. So you learn to make the best compromise, which may sound a bit negative, but isn’t really. It’s one of the skills of designing.”

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  • Gerard van den Berg

    Gerard van den Berg

    NETHERLANDS (1947)

    Had it not been for designer Gerard van den Berg, Dutch design might not be all that it is today. Taking a radical departure from the Netherlands’ tradition of solid-wood furniture, van den Berg paved the way for a Dutch design renaissance. With van den Berg’s designs, the Netherlands quickly became a resource for distinctive modern design in the latter half of the 20th century, joining the ranks of Italy and Denmark.


    Van den Berg attributes his innate talent for design to a natural curiosity, a creative, open mind and a love of adventure. But he also gained the necessary skills while apprenticing as a furniture maker in his father’s company in Hellevoetsluis, Netherlands. Of his apprenticeship, which began in childhood, Van den Berg said:


    "There I learned to practice the craft to its technical perfection. Under the guidance of extremely experienced craftsmen, I was able to polish and fiddle with my models for weeks, and I could try out all kinds of materials and manufacturing skills. That is why I really know how people sit and how to build a seat. My technical knowledge is an essential contribution to my artistic creativity."


    Van den Berg designed furniture for his father until founding Montis with his brother Ton in 1974. Allowing the upholstery to direct him, van den Berg began changing the shape of Dutch furniture – literally – with seating that was graceful and slim while remaining solid and comfortable. Today, Montis designs can be found in homes and businesses around the world.


    In 1989, van den Berg opened his own design studio, where he continues to design seating under the name of Gerard van den Berg Design for such companies as Molteni, Perobell and Wittmann. In addition, in 1991, van den Berg began the company LABEL, carrying forward the earlier success and prestige of Montis. In keeping with van den Berg’s unwavering vision, LABEL seating designs place paramount emphasis on comfort, quality and a casual aesthetic. Without exception, van den Berg’s seating shows a tension between the design and the material chosen – angular metal legs set against a full, rounded seat. For every seat, a base is designed to highlight the form, thus creating the beauty and counterpoint of each of his designs.

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  • Ellen Van Dusen

    Ellen Van Dusen

    USA (1987)

    Designer Ellen Van Dusen has always been attracted to textiles, the more brightly colored and patterned the better. Raised by two architects in a vibrant, creative home, Van Dusen started creating her own fashions in high school. She painted designs on clothes to wear at concerts with friends, and she started frequenting thrift stores, picking up garments to take apart and remake in her own style. Shortly thereafter, she moved on to buying fabric and making her own clothes from scratch, at one point running a one-woman business knitting hats and selling them at school.


    Still, Van Dusen didn’t imagine she could sustain a career in textiles or fashion. Instead, at Tufts University in Boston, she designed her own degree centered on the psychology of design, studying the visual system, how we experience aesthetics and how the brain reacts to visual stimuli. During college, she created costumes for the theater department, anything from Victorian dresses to animal costumes, which gave her an opportunity to become proficient at sewing and tailoring.


    After graduating from Tufts, Van Dusen moved to New York and worked a series of internships, including those with fashion designers Norma Kamali and Proenza Schouler. In 2010, at the age of 23, she founded Dusen Dusen, based in Brooklyn. Once on her own, she could translate her fondness for vibrant colors and geometric, doodle-like patterns into simple, wearable clothing. Her inspiration is at times unconventional, ranging from midcentury resort architecture and Scandinavian textiles to fine art, native design and even handwriting. Business quickly took off for Van Dusen, with orders coming in from New York boutiques, and as her clothing line has continued to grow, she has created new textiles for each season. Her work has been written up in numerous publications, including Refinery29 and Vogue.


    In 2015, Van Dusen expanded her company to include Dusen Dusen Home, a home-goods line of bedding, rugs, towels, pillows and blankets – all with her trademark look – through which she can work on a larger scale with color and pattern.

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  • Massimo and Lella Vignelli

    Massimo and Lella Vignelli

    ITALY (1931–2014, 1934–)

    Massimo and Lella Vignelli were raised and educated in Italy, but they made their most significant contributions to design while living and working in the United States, where their work is seen daily by millions of Americans. They were born just 250 miles apart in Northern Italy – Lella in Udine, into a family of architects, and Massimo in Milan, where he developed a fascination early on for the city’s architecture. They met while studying architecture at the University of Venice and married in 1957. Both went on to further study and work in the United States, and they founded Vignelli Associates in 1972.


    Lella focused her career on commercial interiors, while Massimo gravitated toward graphic design, including books, corporate logos and public signage. They both worked on furniture and product design. “They were exquisite in doing their own areas,” says Alan Heller, who worked with the Vignellis on many products. Lella and Massimo shared a minimalist design philosophy and a common mantra, “Design is One,” which became the title of their 2004 book. “The basic concept is that the discipline of design is one,” they wrote, “and if you can design one thing you can design everything.”


    The notion of oneness extended to their personal and professional relationships as well, which were uncannily and seamlessly bound. Everything they did, they did as design partners, confiding and consulting with each other continually. “This book is affectionately dedicated to Lella, my wife and professional partner,” Massimo wrote in The Vignelli Canon, published in 2010. “Together we shared our intellectual experiences and growing process from the very beginning of our professional lives.”


    Together, the Vignellis created work that is distinguished by clean, bold lines and a confident use of pure color. Among the most prominent work, credited to Massimo, is directional signage for the New York City and Washington, D.C., subway systems and for the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum.


    Other work by Vignelli Associates includes corporate identity programs for American Airlines, Xerox, Cinzano and Ford Motor Company; glassware for Venini; showrooms for Artemide and Hauserman; interiors for the Minneapolis Museum of Fine Arts, Joseph Magnin and the United States Postal Service; and furniture for Sunar, Rosenthal, Morphos and Knoll. The Vignellis designed extensively for Heller, which continues to produce Heller Dinnerware and the Vignelli Bench. Their work lives in the permanent collections of museums around the world. In 2010, the Vignelli Center for Design Studies opened at the Rochester Institute of Technology, established on a donation of the entire archive of the Vignelli’s work.


    In a documentary released in 2012 and titled, just as the book, “Design is One,” they said their favorite work was the interior of Saint Peter’s Church in New York City, which included a massive wooden altar designed by Lella. Massimo died in 2014; his ashes reside in a columbarium inside Saint Peter’s.

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  • Jonas Wagell

    Jonas Wagell

    (1973)

    Jonas Wagell was born in Linköping, Sweden, about 100 miles southwest of Stockholm, the capital. He began his career as a graphic designer and project manager but, in his late 20s, switched his focus and returned to school to study interior architecture and furniture design.


    Now a well-established industrial and furniture designer, Wagell continues to draw on lessons of that early work experience. Just as a graphic designer might do, for example, he strives to pare down his products to simple, intuitive and easy to understand forms. “I try to reduce unnecessary details and emphasize a function or main character,” he says. “I am fascinated by how a chunk of wood, some threads of yarn or a piece of plastic can take on a form that suddenly creates emotions and affections.” He calls his approach “generous minimalism.”


    Wagell began his design studies in Stockholm, continued in New York at Parsons School of Design and finished back in Stockholm, where he earned an MFA in Interior Architecture and Furniture Design from Konstfack, the largest university of arts, crafts and design in Sweden. Not long after, he won praise for his Mini House, a 160-square-foot prefab structure intended for use as a guest or weekend house. Mini House helped him earn inclusion in Wallpaper magazine’s 2008 list of the world’s 50 hottest young architects.


    Wagell launched Jonas Wagell Design and Architecture in 2008, a small firm that occupies a former milk shop on the ground floor of a 1940s apartment building. Spanning just three rooms, JWDA studio is in Stockholm’s gentrifying Södermalm district – actually an island – which Vogue called the coolest neighborhood in Europe. Referred to by locals simply as “Söder,” it’s the stomping ground of fictional Lisbeth Salander in the “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and was home to its late author, Stieg Larsson.


    Since he began in 2008, Wagell has designed for a range of companies, including Muuto, Normann Copenhagen and Design Within Reach. Over that time, as his attention has turned more toward product and furniture design, he acknowledges a professional evolution that reflects itself in more mature and confident work.

    “I try to create objects,” Wagell explains, “that are based on my own aesthetical expression, detached from immediate trends – products that I can be proud of and that can be justified and appreciated for years to come.”

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  • Kevin Walz

    Kevin Walz

    USA

    Lighting design seems to spark the imagination, eliciting some of the most inventive, intriguing and poetic forms. Take, for example, Baldinger’s Four Arc Lamp by Kevin Walz, a cluster of translucent diffusion panels that resembles the head of a graceful flower set atop a slender stem. Walz, an American designer who now resides in Rome, studied fine arts at Pratt Institute and New York Studio School. While he never studied design, his first paid design job, for Italian fashion designer Adri, captured the spirit of the moment and was published in over 30 magazines around the world. Today, Walz has successfully completed projects in architecture, interior design, product design, graphics, packaging, advertising and film sets. His work can be characterized as innovative, accessible and practical. Walz himself might be described as a maverick, a designer who questions accepted ideas and solutions.


    Interiors magazine called Walz one of New York’s “most creative and artistic interior designers,” while Interior Design noted his “sense of finesse, the delightful surprise of common materials taken to uncommon heights.” Walz himself has said, “Much of my work is forward thinking; other times, it is responsive to the past. I like the process of working within the vocabularies of time periods, within the sensibility of cultures, with ideas from other visual disciplines. Innovation is not defined by clever form; that is called showmanship. Invention can be presented in ways that are understandable yet fresh to the eye.”


    Walz’s client list includes the American Academy in Rome, actress Dana Delany’s residence and Richard and Carole Rifkind’s residence. He has product licenses with Arc International, Baldinger Architectural Lighting, Designtex, KorQinc, Tufenkian Tibetan Carpets and Jado. In 1994, Walz was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame. He was also named to the Metropolitan Home Design 100 Hall of Fame in 1997. That same year, his work was featured in an exhibition entitled “Kevin Walz: Art” at the American Academy in Rome.

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  • Marcel Wanders

    Marcel Wanders

    NETHERLANDS (1963)

    If someone ended an email to you with “bumblebees and sunshine,” you might assume that person wasn’t quite grown up. But Marcel Wanders is fully grown, and he’s not childish so much as he is childlike in his sense of wonder and appreciation for the world in which we live.


    This is the guy, after all, who wears floral trousers in a sea of dark designer garb. Who designed his lumpy Egg Vase (1997) by stuffing latex condoms with hard-boiled eggs. Who smiles and laughs with refreshing frequency. And who, when asked “What is important to you in seating design?” responds with, “My butt; to understand a good butt.”


    At the same time, Wanders can be “serious” too. He designed the Square Light Pendant (1998) and the Container Table (2002), both exemplars of clean lines and pure function. His Can of Gold (2001) is a gold-plated soup can that sells for $200, with the proceeds going toward food for the homeless. And Wanders must be able to meet commitments, because he’s in demand all over the place – designing soap for Bisazza, a lamp for Flos, tables for Cappellini.


    The secret of his success? A fresh vision born of innocence. “I’m a sort of amateur, and amateurs aren’t so sure about things, so they investigate and bring new ideas that experts might overlook,” says Wanders. He adds, “I work with durability in design – products worth bonding with for a lifetime. I have an overall respect for ourselves and the world, and I think this respect is the basis of good design.”

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  • Elish Warlop

    Elish Warlop

    USA (1977)

    From as far back as she can recall, Elish Warlop wanted to be an architect. “I always loved art – mostly drawing, building blocks – and making forts for my sister and me.” When she was 10, her family built a new house. “My father had a booklet an inch thick on how he wanted it done,” she says. “I remember meeting with an architect, seeing the plans, watching the construction. I think that definitely influenced me in later life.”


    She was born Elizabeth Frances Warlop, after her two grandmothers, but her nickname soon became “Elish” (pronounced like “delish” without the “d”), a shortened form of “Eilish,” Gaelic for Elizabeth. Growing up in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, the family lived only a dozen miles or so from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. Encouraged by her mother and father, a high-school teacher and a large-equipment salesman, respectively, she took art classes there each summer and gradually assembled a portfolio that would take her to Cornell University, where in 2000 she earned her bachelor’s degree in architecture.


    At that point, she seemed headed for a career in architecture, but circumstances would shift the focus. After six years working first in a small residential construction company in Colorado and then in a large commercial firm in New York City, Warlop took what was planned to be a one-week vacation to volunteer in Biloxi, Mississippi, after Hurricane Katrina. She ended up staying nine months. “It was a transformative experience – from the people I met to the kind of work I got to do.” Part of that work was in construction management, which she continued at her next stop, Connecticut, working for a small company on a medical building.


    Before long, she was running her own company, managing construction of a 15,000-square-foot bank in Westport from a trailer. “Being out on the job site instilled the importance of seeing things come together, understanding a process, and I think contributed to me becoming a better architect and designer.”


    In 2014, she established her design studio, in keeping with an M.F.A. she earned from Rhode Island School of Design with an emphasis on lighting. ”Light can be both sculptural and functional. I think my work lives somewhere between those two places, between art and industrial design. Light can be both practical and poetic, and that is something I would like to push even further with my work.”

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  • David Weeks

    David Weeks

    USA (1968)

    From wooden robots to sprawling sectional sofas, designer David Weeks takes a hands-on approach to his work, driven by the belief that design must hold universal appeal. Though he moved to New York in 1990 with an art degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and the intention to be a painter, it wasn’t long before he instead applied his sculptural sensibility to product design.


    Weeks transitioned from art to design while apprenticing under jewelry designer Ted Muehling soon after arriving in New York. He started a metal-fabrication shop, where he constructed curtain rods, tables and bookshelves for friends, eventually gravitating to lamps. It was in lighting design that he found his true expression, even if it took some time to get David Weeks Studio off the ground – he sold and delivered his first handmade desk lamps from his VW Beetle. In 1996 he launched his studio from a factory in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn.


    With a commitment to “democratic design,” Weeks applies a technique called “formal reduction” to his pieces, which involves slicing away at generic shapes like orbs and cones until new forms emerge. After achieving acclaim for his sculptural lighting pieces, Weeks began to expand his design repertoire to include furniture and toys. His Sculpt Sofa Collection, which avoids right angles and takes its cues from topographic maps and modernist stone sculptures, received the 2008 Good Design Award from the Chicago Athenaeum. His playful wooden animal and robot toys were also embraced by the design community, proving to be just as popular with adults as with children and earning him another Good Design Award in 2009. Weeks’ work has been used in projects for Barney’s New York, Kate Spade, Saks Fifth Avenue, MGM Grand Las Vegas, Bliss Spa, Brasserie NYC and the W Hotels. Additional honors include several nominations for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award and being chosen as one of seven designers to represent New York at Berlin’s 7+7 Designmai exhibit. Weeks was also featured in the 2003 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Triennial: Inside Design Now.

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  • Hans Wegner

    Hans Wegner

    DENMARK (1914–2007)

    Hans Wegner stands among designers Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen, Poul Kjærholm and Verner Panton as a master of 20th-century Danish modernism. More specifically, he was instrumental in developing a body of work known as organic functionalism. His early training included both carpentry and architecture, and in the early 1940s he worked for Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen designing furniture for the Aarhus City Hall, in Aarhus, Denmark, before establishing his own furniture studio. Until the 1960s, Wegner typically collaborated with cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen to realize his designs, most notably gracefully tapered and curved solid-wood chairs, often composites of wood and woven rattan or leather. He occasionally experimented with laminates, as in the Three-Legged Shell Chair (1963), or steel and oxhide, as in the Ox Chair (1960) for Erik Jørgensen. While he is best known for his chairs, Wegner has also created memorable cabinetry, desks, tables, beds and lighting.


    The debut of the Peacock Chair (1947) at the Cabinetmakers’ Guild of Copenhagen was a turning point in Wegner’s career, and from then on his work was in demand. For years he was compelled to produce a new chair for the show each spring, designing such well-known pieces as the Folding Chair (1949), the Round Chair (1950) and the Flag Halyard Chair (1950), completing over 200 chairs in all. He frequently turned to traditional furniture for inspiration for his modern designs. The Chinese Chair (1944) draws on 17th-century Chinese seating, while the Peacock Chair, with its fanlike back, recalls the hoop form of the Windsor chair.


    Over the years, Wegner perfected the design and production of his work, although the entire process remained lengthy. The Danish King, Frederick IX, waited two years for a four-legged Valet Chair (later versions had three legs) while Wegner tested the prototype at home. It is so-called because the hanger-shaped chair back is designed to keep a jacket wrinkle-free and the seat tilts up for use as a pants hanger, revealing a box for cuff links, keys and watches. Wegner’s preferred method of working was to start with a sketch from which he would make a 1:5-scale model and then a full-scale model. Before beginning production, each piece of furniture was drawn at full scale on a single sheet, with the drawings – two elevations and a top-down view – superimposed on one another.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Martin Wehmann

    Martin Wehmann

    USA (1968)

    Much like the way Steve Jobs got his start, Martin Wehmann planted the seed for his first business in his parents’ garage in suburban Los Angeles. Silver Stream Production & Design, thriving today, is a fabricator of retail environments for retail giants including Neiman Marcus, Patagonia and even Apple. Since the beginning, Wehmann has collaborated with design partner Tom Sandonato on a variety of projects, the latest of which is Kithaus.


    Taught at a young age by a German-trained master carpenter, who just happened to be his father, Wehmann had little choice but to execute projects with great precision while learning his trade. His skill and breadth of vision have helped to earn Kithaus status as a groundbreaking alternative in the world of prefab. “Kithaus is the most exciting venture I have been a part of to date,” said Wehmann. “I can almost see the history of my experiences in the design and manufacturing industry in each unit we produce.” Viewed as a modular alternative-living solution, Kithaus applies different rules to prefab with its patented frame and clamping system and gentle impact on the environment.


    Driven by his passion for modern design, his desire to build something to be proud of and a fervent loyalty to his team, Wehmann continues to reinvest his company’s resources into his ideas and infrastructure. “I have been fortunate to be able to develop and maintain a core business that has enabled me to expand into other realms of design.”

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  • Judy White

    Judy White

    USA

    Judy White’s passion for design comes from a love of exploring and adventure. Whether she’s working on bedding, tableware, lighting, textiles or travel accessories, she’s driven by the discovery of solutions that lead to the realization of new products. Based in New York, White has international design experience in all aspects of home furnishings. She trained as an industrial designer, studied the fine arts and has an expertise in art history, but the greatest gift to her career was the time she spent working as a product designer in Japan. Surrounded by a culture “where a refined aesthetic and great design are exhibited in all aspects of everyday life was a defining point in my career,” explains the designer.


    When White returned to the United States, she was hired by Calvin Klein to be the creative force behind the brand’s modern luxury dinnerware and giftware collection. After a decade of successfully building that business, she became the head designer for the Hotel Collection, one of the most successful bedding and bath lines for Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. Even spare white china becomes something special in the hands of Judy White, whose collection for Nikko Ceramics is used at upscale hotels and restaurants worldwide.


    In creating bedding for Design Within Reach, White was inspired by the Case Study Houses. “The DNA of DWR is rooted in midcentury design, a period of optimism, as evidenced by its vibrancy, boldness and confidence in design to create a new world,” she says. “I like to think we’re continuing that legacy.” Her bedding for DWR has been featured in The New York Times, adding to the extensive recognition her work has received, including honors in Architectural Digest and Metropolitan Home Design 100.

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  • Samuel Wilkinson

    Samuel Wilkinson

    ENGLAND (1977)

    While studying furniture and related product design at London’s vibrant Ravensbourne, Samuel Wilkinson won several design awards, including the prized RSA Student Design Award. After earning his degree, he worked several years as a consultant, designing for clients such as Audi, Samsung and Virgin Airlines, before opening his own studio in 2007.


    Avoiding superfluous details, Wilkinson has an affinity for simple, well-made items that are at the same time visually appealing. His commitment to sustainability is premised on building products that will last rather than simply using recycled materials in his work, because recycling itself consumes energy and resources.


    Wilkinson completed his largest and arguably most visually arresting project in 2008: L’arbre de Flonville in Lausanne, Switzerland, co-designed with Swiss designers Oloom. In this modernistic interpretation of a town square, a metal tree rests at the center, with a slatted wood canopy that offers shade and steel seating fashioned to resemble tree roots.


    In 2009, Wilkinson narrowed his focus from the outsized L’arbre de Flonville to a decidedly smaller conception when he designed an energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulb, the culmination of a yearlong effort to marry design and technology. Now part of the permanent collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Wilkinson’s design won the 2011 Design of the Year grand prize from the London Design Museum.

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  • Sylvain Willenz

    Sylvain Willenz

    Belgium (1978)

    Sylvain Willenz discovered his passion for design in the woods of New Hampshire, of all places. From ages 10 to 16, Willenz went to summer camp in that state, making the trip each year from his native Brussels. “I loved making artifacts such as baseball bats, bowls and pencil holders in the wood shop,” he recalls. “Though I was always rather creative, I think this is where my interest for making things was born.”


    From those rustic beginnings in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Willenz went on to become a designer of a broad range of products – from rugs, mirrors and light fixtures to chairs, shelving and electronics – for customers around the world, including Design Within Reach.


    His favorite product is still his first that went into production: Brackets Included, a steel shelf with impressions of support brackets molded into the shelf itself, ingeniously eliminating the need for extra hardware. “I came up with the product when I was thinking about an idea of merging shelving and wallpaper.” The design is now manufactured by Hay of Denmark in various colors and sizes. “It’s amazing to see them used across the world,” Willenz says.


    He moved with his family when he was 5 from Brussels to Connecticut for his father’s job at Yale University. They all moved back when he was 10 but continued visiting Vermont and Maine every year helping foster in him a love of moose and loons and a fluency in English to rival his proficiency in French and Dutch, widely spoken in Brussels alongside French.


    After first heading toward a career as a comic-strip illustrator, he discovered furniture design at Nene University College in Northampton, England, and went on to earn a master’s degree in product design in 2003 from the Royal College of Art of London. A year later, he established the Sylvain Willenz Design Office in Brussels. In 2009, he was named Belgian designer of the year by a panel of industry authorities.


    Willenz is inspired by the work of Scandinavian greats Børge Mogensen and Poul Kjærholm along with countrymen Jules Wabbes and Maarten Van Severen. But he most admires Austrian designer Ettore Sottsass. “What’s interesting is his capacity to be so organic,” he says, “and then industrial as well.”

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  • Donna Wilson

    Donna Wilson

    SCOTLAND (1978)

    Growing up in rural northeast Scotland, the daughter of two farmers, Donna Wilson always knew she wanted to be a designer. True to her youthful ambitions, today she is known for her whimsical prints and knit objects – citing Stig Lindberg and Alexander Girard as influences – which draw upon her idyllic childhood and the landscape of the Scottish countryside. Wilson, who is regarded as one of the most exciting young textile designers in the industry, studied textiles at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland, and earned her master’s in mixed media and constructed textiles at the Royal College of Art in London.


    While at the RCA, Wilson developed a fascination with tutor Freddie Robins’ method of freehand knitting, prompting her to begin a collection of odd knit creatures. She presented the collection for her final show and, with Robins’ encouragement, approached local design shops to carry her creatures. They sold out immediately (as did her final show) and generated enough profit to pay Wilson’s rent during college. When she graduated in 2003, she set up her studio and workshop in London.


    In 2010, Wilson was honored with Elle Decoration’s British Design Award for Designer of the Year. Her portfolio includes solo exhibitions and collaborations with retailers such as SCP and John Lewis, and her collection has expanded to include cushions, lambswool blankets, home furnishings and accessories. Wilson’s products, which use natural fibers and support UK-based manufacturers and suppliers whenever possible, are available in more than 25 countries around the world.

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  • Frank Lloyd Wright

    Frank Lloyd Wright

    USA (1867–1959)

    American architect Frank Lloyd Wright played a leading role in transforming the practice of architecture early in the 20th century. Trained as an engineer at the University of Wisconsin but strongly drawn to architecture, he began his career as an architect in Chicago, working in the offices of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. At the age of 29 he set up his own practice and began work on a number of residential projects, chiefly in the Oak Park area of Chicago. These “Prairie Houses,” designed in the early 1900s, are characterized by their use of natural materials – stone, brick and wood. Their low elevations and gently sloping roofs create a strong horizontal emphasis.


    Wright claimed to build “organic” architecture that seemed to grow naturally out of the surrounding landscape. He believed the internal space, furnishings and decorative details of a house to be intrinsic to its architecture. Many of his projects incorporated site-specific furniture and fittings. These unified projects were intended to possess a natural “organic” beauty that would promote the life of the human spirit. Instead of walls, furnishings were often used as spatial dividers, thereby creating more open interiors and a sense of flowing space.


    Wright’s preoccupation with geometric forms and intersecting planes in his architecture led him to develop a similar style for furniture. For example, a series of metal desks and chairs designed for the Larkin Building in Buffalo, New York, were designed to be functionally and visually unified with their surroundings. They were also among the first metal items for indoor use that did not mimic wood. The chairs were made of painted steel with leather-upholstered seats and rigidly geometric backs with square perforations. In addition to furniture, Wright designed stained-glass windows, ceramics and glass, metalwork and textiles. Wright’s work became distanced from its Arts & Crafts origins as he began to explore the structural and decorative potential of industrial concrete blocks, which he used in the design of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and four houses in Los Angeles.


    During the Great Depression, Wright founded a community known as the Taliesin Fellowship and published an autobiography. His career and reputation had flagged during this period, but commissions for the Johnson Wax Administration building and Fallingwater, Edgar J. Kaufmann’s residence in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, breathed new life into the charismatic architect. These projects, like his later Guggenheim Museum, built in the 1940s, incorporated reinforced concrete cantilevered construction that liberated architecture from the “Box.” All of Wright’s works express his reverence for nature and his belief in the “soul of humanity.” His influence on design and architecture in America and in Europe was, and is, profound.


    Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen.

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  • Y

  • Nathan Yong

    Nathan Yong

    SINGAPORE (1971)

    Designer Nathan Yong earned recognition as a trailblazer in the Singapore design scene when he founded design company/retail store Air Division in 1999 with three friends. Air Division was the first Singaporean company to sell its designs to high-end furniture retailers. However, Yong’s propensity for innovation began years before, in childhood. Growing up in a seaside wooden hut with limited materials at hand required Yong to invent his own toys using treasures he collected from the beach. He continues to utilize that same practice when designing furniture – creating with indigenous resources and relying on readily available materials, such as wood and steel.


    Yong has a degree in Industrial Design from Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore and graduated from the University of New South Wales in Australia with a master’s in Design. After serving as the creative director of Air Division from 1999–2009, he launched a consultancy called Nathan Yong Design, as well as Folks, a furniture label that honors Asian furniture craft. In terms of scale, Yong’s pieces are influenced by the congestion of city living, placing value on function and simplicity. “My work is a reflection of my yearning for nature in a concrete jungle like Singapore. Spaces are smaller and people are busier,” says Yong.


    Today, in addition to running his own furniture label and consultancy, Yong also serves as design director for Grafunkt, a Singapore-based company that focuses on Asian designers and products. He received the Red Dot Concept Design Award in both 2006 and 2007 and the Singapore President’s Design Award for Designer of the Year in 2008. Yong’s work has appeared in international design magazines including Abitare, Wallpaper*, Monocle and Dwell.

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  • Sean Yoo

    Sean Yoo

    KOREA (1968)

    Currently residing in Matera, Italy, Sean Yoo was born in Seoul and raised in Los Angeles, making him emblematic of the multicultural, globally fluent designers of his generation. His first career was as a city planner, but a visit to the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York, inspired him to pursue design. “I was particularly attracted to the way Noguchi applied sculptural qualities to common household objects,” says Yoo. “It seemed to give meaning and purpose to otherwise meaningless objects.”


    Yoo immediately enrolled in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, graduating in 2000 with a degree in industrial design. After a successful debut at the 2001 Salone Satellite in Milan, he and Angela Tarasco launched their studio, Apt 5 Design. Yoo’s work embodies versatility, with projects ranging from a compact bed and desk unit designed for a South Central Los Angeles housing project to Opus Shelving, a recyclable shelving unit that was inspired by a repeating pattern he noticed in the ruins of Pompeii. “I don’t think I intentionally try to design multifaceted work. It’s not that I don’t respect traditional typologies, but I’ve never really been afraid to mix it up a bit,” explains Yoo. “I grew up in a rough part of L.A. with mostly other immigrant kids, so it was never a big deal to learn, adapt and incorporate different cultural values as a part of my own. We all spoke at least one other language besides English and had to learn to be flexible and versatile to cope with culture clash at home and in the streets.”


    That multicultural sensibility has continually informed and inspired Yoo’s work. Upon relocating to Italy, he found a supportive and open environment for design, one that embraces a global perspective. In 2002, he became the first non-Italian to win the prestigious Concorso Young & Design Award at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, and in 2006, his work was selected by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Design Museum of Milan to be included in the I.DoT (Italian Design on Tour) 2006–2007.

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  • Michael Young

    Michael Young

    ENGLAND (1966)

    Born in Britain, international design maverick Michael Young got into the field because he believed it would allow him to do, basically, whatever he wanted. For this renowned industrial designer, this has turned out to be true. After studying furniture and product design at Kingston University, he launched Michael Young Studio in 1992 and soon after headed to Iceland. His studio then moved to Brussels, Taipei and, finally, to Hong Kong, where he now resides. Sometimes. “I’ve actually always wanted to get my life to a point where I can be wherever I want at any point in time,” he says.


    Setting up shop in Hong Kong was a savvy and calculated move for Young. It places him in the center of manufacturing and has given him direct access to the Asian factories that build his creative concepts. And all this without the pretense of the European scene: “Design isn’t about marketing,” says Young. “It’s about industrialization.” In his work – which has included all types of furniture, interiors and products like the City Storm bicycle for Giant, the Sabar Sextoy vibrator for Kiki de Montparnasse New York and state-of-the-art wireless speakers for EOps – Young pulls influences from all these experiences, melding East and West. This is evidenced in his intricate use of folded paper, which he specified for a furniture collection for Established & Sons, as well as the interior of Pissarro restaurant in Hong Kong.


    Art, design and manufacturing merge holistically in the creative eyes of Michael Young. He has boldly refused to adhere to traditional modernist design constraints and has, through his unique eye, created a new visual language.


    To hear more from Michael Young himself, check out this video on the life and legacy of the designer.

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  • Z

  • Marco Zanuso

    Marco Zanuso

    ITALY (1916–2001)

    One of the elder statesmen of modern design, Marco Zanuso contributed to the Italian design movement in the years following World War II. Trained in architecture at the Politecnico di Milano (1935–39), he opened his own design office in 1945, and his work was marked by rigor and originality during a long, illustrious career.


    Zanuso was professor of Architecture, Design and Town Planning at the Politecnico di Milano from 1945 to 1986, played a role in founding ADI (Associazione per il Disegno Industriale) in 1954 and helped to organize the first postwar Triennale exhibitions in Milan. He served as editor first of Domus from 1947–1949, and then of Casabella, from 1952–1956.


    Zanuso’s early experiments with bent metal brought him recognition at the International Competition for the Design of Low-Cost Furniture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1948. Further exploration of materials yielded sleek designs in plastic and upholstered furniture. Witness, for example, his breakthrough designs for Arflex, a division of Pirelli. In 1948, the company commissioned Zanuso to design its first furniture models using foam-rubber upholstery. Zanuso’s Antropus Chair was released in 1949, followed by the elegant Lady Armchair, which took First Prize at the 1951 Milan Triennale. The chair offered not only comfort and sensual contours, but also a previously unimaginable potential for efficiency in production.


    During the 1960s, Zanuso enjoyed a long and fruitful collaboration with widely respected German designer Richard Sapper. One of their first projects was a children’s stacking chair for Kartell. Light, functional and manufactured in playful colors, the simple chair was among the European designs that began to transform the perception of plastic from a cheap material to an appropriate, even classy, material for the modern home.


    Zanuso and Sapper also earned their place in design history as consultants to Brionvega, developing products that have since become icons of modern industrial design. The Doney 14 (1962) was the first completely transistorized Italian television, while the LS502 (1964) was a battery-powered portable radio that folded into a neat box. The Doney television won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro prize in 1962. Continuing their creative partnership through the 1960s and ’70s, Zanuso and Sapper also designed the characteristically minimal Grillo folding telephone for Siemens (1965), as well as highly styled household products for Necchi.


    Alongside his contemporaries and countrymen, Mario Bellini, Joe Colombo and Ettore Sottsass, Zanuso was one of the great Italian designers of the 20th century.

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  • Eva Zeisel

    Eva Zeisel

    HUNGARY (1906–2011)

    Eva Zeisel was continually intrigued by what she called her “playful search for beauty.” A person of delightfully defiant spirit, the designer was just beginning her career when she declared war on the fashionable avant-garde. “I didn’t accept the purism of modern design,” she said. “In my definition, if it gave beauty to the eye, it was beauty.”


    Zeisel was born Eva Striker in Budapest in 1906. Her father ran a textile factory and her mother was an outspoken feminist and one of the first women to earn a doctorate at the University of Budapest. It was through her mother’s urging that Zeisel switched from studying painting at the Hungarian Royal Academy of Fine Arts to pursuing the more practical career of ceramist. She apprenticed herself to a potter at a porcelain factory, an unusual path for an educated woman at that time. Zeisel persisted, graduated to journeyman status and became the first woman admitted to the local pottery guild. It was during this time that her work took on the sensuous, flowing and biomorphic forms that would continue throughout her career.


    In 1932, Zeisel moved to Russia, explaining, “It was curiosity that moved me. I wanted to see what was behind the mountain.” She found a job working for the Communist government as artistic director of the glass and ceramics industries. In May 1936, everything changed. “At 4am, there was a knock at the door, and so began a different life,” she recalled. Accused of plotting to assassinate Stalin, Zeisel was sent to prison for 16 months, 12 of which were in solitary confinement. The accusations were fabricated, and Zeisel never knew who was responsible for her release or how that joyous day came to be. “I hadn’t seen any colors for a year and a half,” said the designer.


    Upon her release, she married Hans Zeisel. They lived in Vienna briefly, before the threat of Hitler made them leave for America. “I saw the Statue of Liberty, and my fears came down. It was a very touching reception,” said Zeisel of her October 1938 arrival. The next day she went to the magazine China and Glass and was immediately commissioned for ten ceramic miniatures for $100. She was also hired at New York’s Pratt Institute, where she became the first person to teach ceramics as industrial design for mass production, rather than handicraft. Zeisel’s work continued to gather acclaim, and in 1946, her all-white modern dinner service – a first by an American designer – was honored with an exhibition at MoMA. Her work is included in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. In 2005, she was awarded the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.

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