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Iconic Furniture, Ergonomics, and the Barcelona Chair
For me, my home must have at least one piece of iconic furniture, which looks like I stole it from my mom and dad's house. I love the Mad Men type pieces with thematic color combining of dull, earthy tones and a bright splash of color.
Three walls one color, one wall a contrast shade makes a nice effect with plants scattered in the corner and on a windowsill. Another great find is the retro Barcelona Chair, giving an ambiance of solidity and class.
Iconic Furniture's Debut
Iconic furniture began about a hundred years ago, first showing its unconventional new face at the end of the 19th century in western Europe. It is both Asian and European, and seemed to emerge from a universal need for practical furniture that appealed to the sensible side of life.
Influenced by the new modernism, it was a huge departure from the types of furniture that the world had known up until that time. As the world expanded its trade barriers, new ways of home design were considered and put into use.
A Good Egg
Attempt to Define the Iconic Look
The iconic furniture look is made with love and care, with almost a custom designed feel to each piece. Besides wood and steel, iconic furniture means fresh new colors – lime, lemon, orange, as well as rich natural tones like copper, brown, beige, white and off-white.
So, what are a few examples of iconic furniture?
First, the minimalistic but functional chairs with curved backs and body hugging designs.
As pictured to the the right, some styles were produced in color, others in glorious wood tones with special decorative panels. Steel framed dining room chair in with bright colorful backs somewhat resembling tulips or Easter egg shells. There are other attractive designs to choose from like high backed colorful cabin style chairs with a comfortably designed high winged back, almost leading you to think of a space ship captain's piloting seat. Another style is a triangular backed chair with a wide base sitting on a narrow stem with a four pronged base in a lovely splash of orange. Resembling an orange peel mounted on chicken legs, this, too, is part of the iconic furniture style.
Legend of the Barcelona Chair
Also known as The Chaise Lounge, Barcelona Chaise and perhaps other nicknames, it has a historical connection. It is the exact replica of the chair made for the King and Queen of Spain created especially for the 1929 world's fair which was held in Spain.
The Barcelona chair is more like a mini-couch or loveseat, designed for two to three people at a slightly reclining position. The couch is in a dimpled look with tiny disks adding a fantastic random quilted surface. The back and the seat are placed at a 90 degree angle, giving the consumer comfort and support after a long tiring day at the office. It would not be unusual to see a 1960s personality like James Bond reclining in such a chair, sipping a famous "shaken, not stirred" martini.
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Understated Elegance and Comfort
The Marshmallow Couch
Other fun and funky designs include the egg chair, the marshmallow couch and the Grand Comfort. The majority of these designs follow geometric ideals – square, cubes, circles, disks and right angles. The marshmallow couch is a fanciful display of color, focusing on primary color tones. The round comfy disks are great for back and neck support in all the most support-needing places. The colorful look is a work of art all its own, designed to add distinctive color burst and art to a simple and tastefully decorated living area. This is one of the great advantages of iconic furniture. The look is both eclectic and very practical, even ergonomically designed. It's both a sensual and a visual feast combined.
The Whimsical Marshmallow Sofa
How Iconic Furniture Developed
The hit television show Mad Men (Madison Men), circa 1962, is also a big reason behind the retro-furniture craze, but the look actually began much earlier. In Europe, it began to emerge at the turn of the century.
The iconic furniture design may have been introduced to the United States right after World War II. The unique and body hugging design as opposed to functional and mass produced wooden A-frame chairs and tables gave a new influence to home design and comfort. The trend started to gain a foothold in fashionable living rooms in the late 1940s, developing into mainstream society well into the 1960s until the early 1970s, often referred to as the Space Age.
The look is so appealing! Today's stick wooden furniture somehow lacks the qualitative funky home décor that the iconic furniture look provides.
The 1970s shook things up - focusing on the future - like steel, glass, and minimalism in a transparent kind of way. Fiberglass, bean bags and mirrors were the new fashion darlings of interior designers.
Architectural and Design Trend Landmarks
- The Late Edo Period - from 1900 onward, began a new phase of Japanese minimalistic design.
- Frank Lloyd Wright built upon this style, effectively blending Asian and European styling with the focus on function, not formality.
- Marcel Breuer's Wassily Chair and the Eileen Gray Side Table were also important landmarks in the non-traditional approach to interior design.
- The Noguchi Coffee Table reinforced the new trend of refinement without being overly pretentious.
An Eileen Gray Creation
From Heavy to Visually Light
"Less is More"
Influenced by modernism, it was a huge departure from the types of furniture that the world had known up until that time.
Up until the advent of Iconic Furniture, the world had become accustomed to a different look. The wood was dark, heavy and massive. Brocades and upholstery were thick, heavy and densely stitched, creating a solid look that appeared to weigh a ton - a nightmare to carry!.
Conversely, modern furniture, using shiny streamlined steel bars, geometric shapes and a completely now, realistic design, gave the furniture a welcome new appearance of being both sturdy and visually light.
This was a switch from function ability – how useful was the item? – instead of ornamental massiveness. In olden days, the more time spent on an article reflected upon its intrinsic, and material, value.
Masterpieces - a relic from the past, handed down for generations...
This also tied in with the idea of a masterpiece, heirloom, or hand worked furniture held in a family for generations. Hence the intricate carvings, dust catching nooks and crannies, ornamental figures and lattice work. The new design disregarded this approach entirely, focusing on the present and the future, not the past as the previous style had done.
What's New, Pussycat?
Instead of heavy wood, molded plywood, and even plastics (gasp!) and steel were used. A fusion of technology and artistic influences, reaching beyond the boundaries of what had then been considered acceptable or desirable. Iconic furniture represented to design what Jazz had been to classical music as an art form.
Think - Flapper Culture and Speak-easies
The iconic furniture style is also tied in with the Art Deco influence – functional, geometrical, and simplistic.