Editor's Picks: 7 Irresistible, Modern Furnishings

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By Amanda Dameron / Published by Dwell
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's September 2015 issue.

"Success…seems to consist of an object’s ability to transform the atmosphere of surroundings in an unusually powerful and pleasing way while managing not to exclude or overpower the other objects in the room. Though this may be the goal of every project, it’s not often the result."
—Jasper Morrison

Editor's Picks: 7 Irresistible, Modern Furnishings - Photo 1 of 7 - Despite a rise to prominence in the 1970s, pioneering designer Percival Lafer has remained a best-kept secret for collectors of midcentury Brazilian furniture. Designed in 1965, Lafer’s MP-041 series presented an innovative, modern aesthetic, with heavy solid hardwood frames and hand-tufted, pre-formed cushions.

Despite a rise to prominence in the 1970s, pioneering designer Percival Lafer has remained a best-kept secret for collectors of midcentury Brazilian furniture. Designed in 1965, Lafer’s MP-041 series presented an innovative, modern aesthetic, with heavy solid hardwood frames and hand-tufted, pre-formed cushions.

The quote above appears in the British designer’s recent tome, A Book of Things, in reference to the marketplace’s affinity for the Glo-ball lighting pieces he created for Flos in 1998. As he gratefully nods to the collection’s persistent success over the past 17 years, Morrison acknowledges that he can’t pinpoint exactly why it remains a best seller—noting also that if he could, he would like to repeat such a favorable outcome more often. 

Editor's Picks: 7 Irresistible, Modern Furnishings - Photo 2 of 7 - Available in three shapes, the handheld, stainless-steel Utility Mirror Pocket by Visibility for Good Thing is polished to a reflective finish then given a colorful, industrial rubber tool grip. Check out more picture-perfect mirrors here.

Available in three shapes, the handheld, stainless-steel Utility Mirror Pocket by Visibility for Good Thing is polished to a reflective finish then given a colorful, industrial rubber tool grip. Check out more picture-perfect mirrors here.

It’s intriguing to use the words of a world-renowned designer—one with decades of experience developing objects for the industry’s most notable companies—as a point of discussion about the elusive nature of market success. It’s also a proper introduction to this issue’s theme, which explores the popularity of certain furnishings alongside the newer forms, reconsidered production processes, and progressive material interpretations emerging on the horizon.

Editor's Picks: 7 Irresistible, Modern Furnishings - Photo 3 of 7 - An artful reminiscence of Rietveld’s 1934 Zig-Zag chair—with a spare, wooden geometric frame in the shape of a letter Z, and bearing a name equally alliterative—the iconic Tripp Trapp, designed by Peter Opsvik, distinguishes itself from other high chairs in that it allows children to sit closer and more intimately to the family dining table.

An artful reminiscence of Rietveld’s 1934 Zig-Zag chair—with a spare, wooden geometric frame in the shape of a letter Z, and bearing a name equally alliterative—the iconic Tripp Trapp, designed by Peter Opsvik, distinguishes itself from other high chairs in that it allows children to sit closer and more intimately to the family dining table.

In the front of the book we share conversations and revelations we’ve captured over the past year, as we attended furniture fairs and design conferences from Milan to New York. We salute exciting explorations by up-and-coming talents, from textile designer Nadia-Anne Ricketts in the UK to Istanbul-based ceramicist Tamer Nakişçi. For a more seasoned view on the business of making, we chat with Erwan Bouroullec, who, with his brother Ronan, is pursuing a new collection in wrought iron. Michael Young shares his thoughts on how leaps in manufacturing ability, coupled with large brands using their considerable muscle, are making way for more sophisticated work. The names of design heavyweights, from Achille Castiglioni and Charlotte Perriand to Franco Albini and Patricia Urquiola, are as resonant as ever, thanks to a crop of reissued pieces. New work from Joseph Guerra, Sina Sohrab, Nicholas Karlovasitis, Sarah Gibson, Nin Truong (and many more) signal promising careers to track.

Editor's Picks: 7 Irresistible, Modern Furnishings - Photo 4 of 7 - BeatWoven’s DreaMelody: Patterns in Play collection features designs derived by custom software from musical patterns in iconic British pop songs, including Queen’s "A Kind of Magic" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by The Beatles.

BeatWoven’s DreaMelody: Patterns in Play collection features designs derived by custom software from musical patterns in iconic British pop songs, including Queen’s "A Kind of Magic" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by The Beatles.

By pausing for a moment to reflect on the past, we are reminded that true turning points in design can be glossed over in our relentless pursuit of the new. Through two profiles in this issue, we consider the furniture world of the 1970s as glimpsed through the work of Percival Lafer and Peter Opsvik. Certainly it’s true that we’ve seen a resurgence of that decade’s influence in a number of pieces introduced in the past few years, but rather than collect today’s examples in a trendy, superficial presentation of the era, we prefer to examine how a few furnishings of that time emerged through specialized research in ergonomics, as was the case with Opsvik’s ubiquitous classic, the Tripp Trapp high chair, or how flat-packed shipping strategies helped bring Brazilian modernism to a larger American audience, as evidenced through Lafer’s creations. Historical context helps highlight the significance of these moments in time, and clarifies for us how truly innovative these moments were, through to the lasting impact that’s still discernible today.

Editor's Picks: 7 Irresistible, Modern Furnishings - Photo 5 of 7 - Designer Michael Young’s <5_MY chair for Coalesse is a cutting-edge carbon-fiber design that weighs in at less than five pounds. The chair was inspired by his work with bicycles, is stackable for easy storage, and can be customized to match any color using an app.

Designer Michael Young’s <5_MY chair for Coalesse is a cutting-edge carbon-fiber design that weighs in at less than five pounds. The chair was inspired by his work with bicycles, is stackable for easy storage, and can be customized to match any color using an app.

The process by which people acquire and use furniture in real life is, of course, our main concern. We salute the act of slow, meaningful collection over time, and mixing resources and tools to customize and realize personal style. This can mean patiently trawling online bazaars to find workable gems under tight budgets, as one Massachusetts family did to realize a 168-square-foot outbuilding. It can also mean grouping diverse vintage treasures alongside mementos from far-flung locations, as Nicolas Roche did in Paris. Furniture that works within a bustling family environment appears in Copenhagen, where a designer incorporated her own pieces into a renovated Tudor that she shares with three sons, ages 9 to 14. We end with the home of Sheridan Coakley, owner of the London-based modern furniture purveyor SCP. Coakley found beauty in a sprawling, unloved 1970s bachelor pad in Hampshire and transformed it into a living laboratory for the pieces he carries in his store (including a Jasper Morrison Glo-ball fixture). 

Editor's Picks: 7 Irresistible, Modern Furnishings - Photo 6 of 7 - Like the Roman pendulum scale that gives it its name, Franco Albini’s 840 Stradera table for Cassina—originally released in 1954—is a study in balance. See more reissued furniture here.

Like the Roman pendulum scale that gives it its name, Franco Albini’s 840 Stradera table for Cassina—originally released in 1954—is a study in balance. See more reissued furniture here.

"Living is all about making use of what’s inside us," said Charlotte Perriand, who believed that the 21st century would be built by those able to capitalize on new technologies while communicating on a global scale. Furniture design may seem like a small conversation in the larger discussion about our evolving culture, economy, and philosophy, but it’s a clear, tangible expression of how we live in the modern world.

Editor's Picks: 7 Irresistible, Modern Furnishings - Photo 7 of 7 - Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec’s new Officina collection for Magis includes chairs, stools, and tables made with wrought-iron frames, marking the brothers’ first experimentation with the material. In this age-old technique, iron is hammered into shape by hand.

Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec’s new Officina collection for Magis includes chairs, stools, and tables made with wrought-iron frames, marking the brothers’ first experimentation with the material. In this age-old technique, iron is hammered into shape by hand.

Amanda Dameron, Editor-in-Chief

amanda@dwell.com

Follow me on Twitter: @AmandaDameron