Every year a new swathe of classics from the past are reissued by brands hopeful of a second (or third) round of success. While you can be a little cynical about their motives, most of the time reissues of this sort bring a wonderful piece of design back into the limelight and introduce it to a new generation of design lovers. While it can be annoying for those who own vintage originals and who are less than excited by the sudden proliferation of their favourite piece of design, these pieces are important for us to cherish and to appreciate their role and position in the timeline of modern design.
I'm not a stickler for absolute adherence to the original design but I'm equally against changing the proportions of classic pieces just so they are more suited to our 21st century body size. Once you start changing the scale of a design the purity of the original concept is quickly lost. While some chairs seem extremely petite these days and are unsuitable for 120 kg bodies, 'scaling up' designs starts to rewrite design history.
The new version of the 'Throw Away' armchair and two and three sofas by Willie Landels were relaunched by Zanotta at this year's Salone del Mobile in Milan with some very subtle modifications. Originally launched in 1965, the design has been updated in 2015 to coincide with it’s 50th birthday. Given modified seat dimensions and goose down back cushions, the design appears identical but is now more appropriate for use in domestic applications. The unit's polyurethane frame can be specified covered in fabric or leather with fixed or removable upholstery.
Finnish brand Artek reissued Ilmari Tapiovarra's highly sculptural 'Crinoline' chair during IMM Cologne at the start of the year. Like other Tapiovarra designs such as the 'Mademoiselle' chair, 'Crinolette's roots are in traditional stick furniture but with the refined woodturning turning and light appearance that marks similar modernist pieces from other countries such as the UK 's Ercol brand. Designed in 1962 the chair's name derives from Crinoline, a material that supported the shape of women’s skirts with a cage-like structure back in the late 19th century. It's this cage-like quality that is the unique element of the design. The timber back supports feature tight curves rarely seen in this type of furniture and create a delicate flowing rhythm of solid and void.
Flemming Lassen (1902 -1984), worked with Arne Jacobsen and was a leading exponent of Functionalism in Denmark. In fact it was Flemming and his brother Mogens that convinced Jacobsen while still at school to switch his career interest from being an artist to an architect. Lassen designed ‘The Tired Man’ in 1936 and it’s highly organic form and grand scale was considered extremely progressive for its time. The chair which has consistently achieved records for Scandinavian design at auction was reissued at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February. It has small turned timber front legs with brass castors - an obvious indicator of its era - and is available in several Kvadrat fabrics or upholstered in sheepskin.
Also released during the Stockholm fair but light years away in terms of style was the 'Saxe' folding chair designed in 1955 by Flemming's brother, Mogens Lassen (1901 -1987).
Originally designed by the the visionary designer and architect for the Copenhagen Cabinetmakers’ Guild Competition, it was made by the master joiner A.J. Iversen. Now being produced by by Lassen - a company set up and run by the designers grandchildren - 'Saxe' was launched during the Stockholm fair to mark the 60th anniversary of the design.
A visually light lounge chair, the folding frame is available in natural oak, stained black or in a smoked oak version with natural, black or dark brown saddle leather slings respectively.
Yngve Ekström (1913 -1988) was one of Sweden’s principle proponents of modernist design. He founded the furniture company Swedese in 1945 and remained the company’s leader and key designer until his death in 1988. Designed in 1958, two years after Ekström’s signature ‘Lamino’ chair, ‘Fakta’ is a square storage cabinet with open front, housing vertical and horizontal dividers. The 70cm square box can be either wall hung or used as a freestanding unit and orientated in four ways. Multiple ‘Faktas’ can be stacked or placed side by side yet the internal dividers always line up perfectly - irrespective of the orientation - to create a precise geometric composition. Available only in oak, the cabinets can be specified with drawers in four sizes.
This beautiful combination of 50’s style and Japanese minimalism was a huge hit at Maison & Objet for Ligne Roset this year. The low slatted timber base of Paulin's daybed has three moveable cushions in three colours allowing the seat to become a fully upholstered bench or an overnight bed.
Originally part of Pierre Paulin’s first ever collection, shown at Salon des Arts Ménagers in 1953, the design went into production with French brand, Meubles TV in elm and rosewood. The success of his debut show landed Paulin a job with Thonet France where he designed several pieces in just a single year, including the delicate ‘Tanis’ desk (reissued by Ligne Roset in 2008). He then began his long connection with Dutch brand Artifort that cemented his name as one of the greatest French furniture designers of the 20th century.
The Italian company, Molteni & C added two more designs to its growing Gio Ponti Collection during Salone del Mobile this year. Both from the early 1950's, the designs by the famous Domus editor, architect and designer, Gio Ponti (1891 -1979), expresses his ability to work in varying styles.
The 'D154.2' armchair was designed especially for one of Ponti’s most loved projects, the villa of Anala and Armando Planchart in Caracas, Venezuala, built from 1953-57. The armchair, with its embracing cocoon-like shell, has a rigid polyurethane outer frame, a soft polyurethane inner framework and a separate seat cushion. The upholstery can be specified to differentiate these three parts (as seen in the image shown here) or in one unified colour.
Ponte created the 'D552.2' table for M. Singer & Sons, a leading New York furniture retailer. Made from solid rosewood with satin finished brass feet, it’s three legged base is topped in glass in a softly rounded triangular shape.
Gianfranco Frattini, a Milanese architect, began designing interior products in the late 1950’s when he couldn’t find the right type of products for his architecture projects. An apprentice for Gio Ponti early in his career he was nominated for the Compasso d’Oro in 1954. Famous for his snake-like ‘Boalum’ light for Artemide which was designed the same year as 'Sesann' that is still in production, it is the ‘Sesann’ sofas and armchairs that are perhaps most highly regarded of his many impressive furniture designs. Originally produced by Cassina, the design has been reissued by Tacchini. ‘Sesann’s soft and enveloping form is created in curved plywood then covered with polyurethane foam and then upholstered. Encircled with a tubular steel frame either in polished chrome or painted, the seats have cylindrical feet in ash.
Included in the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the ‘4/4’ table is an important example of Italian space age design. Designed by Rodolfo Bonetto in 1969, four identical pieces of injection-moulded ABS plastic join together to make up the ‘Quattro Quarti’ or ‘4/4’. The versatile table released by plastic experts B-Line can also be stacked on top of each other to create a modular bookcase or by joining the elements together in different ways, circular or undulating tables can be created. It is available in solid or semi transparent colours.
Sheridan Coakley founded SCP in 1985 in Curtain Road London and the brand has been an important part of Britain's contemporary design scene ever since. The brand released the first commercially produced products of both Konstantin Grcic and Jasper Morrison. To mark the 30th anniversary of the brand, SCP took a shop space in the San Gregorio district of Milan and re-created the typical second hand furniture store but propped it with an array of their newly reissued pieces separated from the furniture all-so-rands by orange coasters.
While SCP has been actively reissuing a number of its early products since 2013, this year they dropped some beauties such as Grcic's 'Mono' side tables from 1995 and Matthew Hilton's 'Metalware' bowls and 'Swan' candlesticks.
Designed in 1997 by Jasper Morrison, the original 'Vega' design was intended for use in contract projects. Stylistically the design shares a futuristic quality with some of Marc Newson's mid 90's designs such as his chairs for the Coast restaurant in 1995. Morrison's work is always pared back to the bone and with Vega the frame is reduced to the bare minimum. The 2015 version of 'Vega' has been revisited with a greater emphasis on the domestic environment with new colour matched powder coated frames. With a focus on more environmentally friendly production methods, Artifort has developed a system of powder coating that is more sustainable than traditional steel chroming.
The ‘Sof Sof ‘ chair was designed in 1971 for Driade and is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art New York. Like the groundbreaking ‘Box’ chair he designed for Castelli a little later, which pre-empted the modern flat pack, ‘Sof Sof’ was an extremely simple design consisting of a wire frame of hoops and a simple folding cushion. Reissued by Driade during this year's Salone del Mobile, the chair is destined to capture the hearts of many people all over again.
Enzo Mari is one of the living legends of Italian design. His work in industrial design began in 1956 after studying at the Brera Academy in Milan. His first product was a wooden animal puzzle called 'Sedici Animali' that is still in production today and during the sixties he produced a number of children's books including The Apple and the Butterfly, that are considered classics of the genre. As an artist he avidly promoted the international art movement New Tendencies and in the ‘60s took a stance on designing useful objects for the ordinary person. He was passionate about creating objects that were free from fashion due to the inherent quality of the form.
Italian lighting company Oluce has an amazing array of important classic lighting designs from Joe Colombo, Vico Magistretti and others including the 'Spider', 'Coupe' and 'Atollo' lamps. This year they have extended the range of Colombo lights reissuing the 'Globe' series designed in 1964. Released in wall, table and pendant form, the lights combine metal and blown glass based around sphere and cylinder forms. Interestingly the table lamp ends up unequivocally sixties in spirit while the pendant appears far more geometric and timeless. The pendant comes in two diameters - 20 and 30cm.
Joe Colombo (1930-1971) was a believer in democratic and functional design. He had a special interest in flexible and convertible furniture and designed many pieces that converted from one function into another. ‘Il Kilometre’ is Colombo’s multi-purpose shelving system reissued by new Danish brand Karakter. Inspired by a field trip to Scandinavia in the sixties the design is an exercise in geometric volumes. Made from a simple combination of an extruded aluminium rail with timber boxes of different styles, the unit can be configured in a wide variety of ways. Currently the shelving is offered in natural ash or stained black.
Although strictly speaking the 302 chair by W.H. Gispen was reissued by Lensvelt in late 2014, I have decided to include it as the history of Dutch design is generally less well known than that of Italy and Scandinavia.
Willem Hendrik Gispen (1890-1981) designed the 302 easy chair in 1950. Originally manufactured by Dutch company Kembo, it was awarded at the Milan Triennale in 1954. Other more upright variations are also available (the 202 and 201 chairs) and an armless version of the 302 known as the 301. In all seven WH Gispen chairs from the mid century era are now being manufactured by Lensvelt.