furniture design, bent wood chairs, alvar aalto, and my dad

 

chaise-lounge model 43, alvar aalto, finland 1936

chaise-lounge model 43, alvar aalto, finland 1936

alvar aalto was an anti bauhaus modern designer “immersed in his struggle against metal in furniture design,” in the 1920s.*  he and his finnish business partner, otto korhonen, perfected the bent knee technique for their stool 60 and sold millions of them in the next decades.  for anyone who enjoys wood, working with wood and the beauty of it, bent wood remains a remarkable feature in furniture design.  aalto’s stool 60 and chair 43 were some of the early classics.  

Alvar Aalto

Stool 60 in Viipuri Municipal Library, 1933-35, Viipuri, Russia (formerly Finland). Architect: Alvar Aalto

stool 60

stool 60

i would also object to interior design in which there is no wood.  like the scandinavians who feature wood so beautifully in furniture and interior design, i grew up with a love for trees and their uses.  in this love, i was influenced by my dad.  he spent most of world war two as a boy scout and school boy in southampton, england, though there were not so many school days in those years, because of the german bombs.  when the americans finally showed up (thank God) and the allies were pushing back across france, my dad had turned 16, and went to work in the nearby new forest.

new forest, hampshire, england

new forest, hampshire, england

new forest timber, an old source for ship building in old england

new forest timber, an old source for ship building in old england

after training in north wales, he worked in nigeria and hong kong in forestry and conservation.  some of my best memories of my wonderful daddy include watching him skillfully chop down trees with an axe, working with him in his carpentry shop, and listening to him talk about wood and trees in forests we would walk through together.  

but aalto and my father held very different world views.  they both lived through terrible times of war and the dramatic changes in the world brought by the industrial revolution.  aalto became an avid proponent of humanism.  he believed that the solution to life’s problems were to be found in humanity, and that the reason for life was to improve humanity itself.  “We should work for simple, good, undecorated things, but things which are in harmony with the human being and organically suited to the little man in the street.” (Alvar Aalto, speech in London 1957)**  to aalto, wood was a tool for humanism.

on the other hand, in war torn england my father met God and did not waver through his life from his christian faith.  he saw, as i do, no hope in humanity without God, or in working for humanity alone. actually i do not see how anyone could walk through forests or work with wood and reject God and any relationship with Him.  the beauty of His creation screams His presence and the hopelessness of humanity compels me to His power and love.  as a young teenager my dad spent a lot of time chopping firewood with his boy scout troop.  once they were out in the woods camping when there was an unexpected air raid.  many nights he spent alone or huddled with his mum, dad and granny in the little air raid shelter in the garden. lots of time to think.  my dad thought of God, and though he died a few years ago, i know that now he is, through Christ, alive with God.  throughout his life he inspired many others to his same belief.  there is no other shelter.  

*Furniture Design, Jim Postel, 2007 (page 78).

** quoted in wikipedia

lounge chair design, the need to unwind, furniture classics up to thonet

 

upholstered chaise lounge thonet brothers 1900

upholstered chaise lounge thonet brothers 1900

can you picture lying around in this lounge chair in 1900?  this is the edwardian era in england of ‘upstairs downstairs’ and ‘mary poppins.’  who had the time to lounge then?  only the few, only the rich.  but life is stressful for all walks of life and the chaise lounge offers a welcome attitude-in-waiting to unwind.  

i was glad to find these pics on designboom.com.  they have several pages of the history of the day bed.  nice idea, history had, to bed in the day.  i concur (today, at least).  to go all day and stop only at night does not always cut it.  not that i do not believe in hard work, and live to work, but some moments of calm, of thought, of rest, of sanctuary, are needed to pause in the day or to unwind in the evening. having your feet up at such moments helps.    

here are some of thonet’s chaise lounge predecessors and others of their designs of that era.  relax and imagine.  

medieval drawing of a day-bed, early 13th century @ designboom.com

medieval drawing of a day-bed, early 13th century

 

resting bed (in french lit a repose), england, later 16th century

resting bed (in french 'lit a repose'), england, later 16th century

 

chair a duchesse , france 1765

chair 'a duchesse' , france 1765

 

kangaroo day bed virginia 1830s

kangaroo day bed, virginia 1830s

 

napoleon III steel camp daybed circa 1850

napoleon III steel camp daybed circa 1850

 

rocking reclining chaise-longue, thonet brothers, austria 1883

rocking reclining chaise-longue, thonet brothers, austria 1883

 

thonet chaise-lounge, austria, ca. 1890

thonet chaise-lounge, austria, ca. 1890

 

thonet chaise lounge ca. 1980

thonet chaise lounge ca. 1980

 

garden recliner, thonet brothers, ca. 1900

garden recliner, thonet brothers, ca. 1900

 maybe they were gazing at a garden like this…. whilst pondering future artistic possibilities of the chaise lounge pose.

english garden landscape design

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