Bertoia, who was born in Italy and immigrated to the United States in 1930, met Florence Knoll at the famous Cranbrook Academy of Art. While he started working on chair designs in California, collaborating with Charles Eames, another Cranbrook alumnus, he moved to Pennsylvania to develop an original seating collection in 1951. Florence and Hans Knoll encouraged Bertoia to explore whatever he liked, and he was immediately drawn to the idea of utilizing steel wire in developing a new chair design. To further soften the hard shell of the woven-wire, furniture designer Richard Schultz was asked to help Bertoia in coming up with ideas for the upholstery. The collection was introduced by Knoll in 1952 and quickly became a classic. The success of the collection allowed Bertoia to move away from furniture design and devote himself entirely to his art.
Although the products of a single collection, Bertoia chairs remain one of the most popular chairs in home furnishing. It's hard not to be drawn to the strictness of steel wiring made delicate by the transparency of the grid. The chameleon-like qualities of the chairs allow them to work well in any environment, from dining rooms to outdoor spaces, and they make a bold statement wherever they're placed. So for those who are wondering how to include these chairs in their home or are just curious about the story of this modern classic, here's a look at the history of the Bertoia seating collection and some of the Dwell homes that showcase the chairs to their best advantage.
Dora Vanette is a part time lecturer at Parsons The New School for Design. She holds MA degrees in 20th Century Art History and English from University of Zagreb, Croatia, as well as in Design Studies from Parsons The New School for Design. She has written about art and design for a variety of print and online publications. email@example.com