panton’s unlikely chairs

last week i was calmly sitting on a swivel barstool when it decided to collapse. i had sat on this chair many days a week for years at a thrift store’s desk.  not that i sit much, but unnoticed this wood chair had succumbed to the florida heat and humidity so that when i did sit there this day, it gave out.  it was a strange feeling having the chair collapse under me, once so trusted.

so i come to the unlikely chairs of verner (or vernon?) panton, l’enfant terrible of danish furniture design. his designs have been described as innovative, provocative, sensational, visionary, and eccentric.  

vernon panton cone chair @

vernon panton cone chair @, a 1958 design

will it hold me?  maybe you are a small person and this question has never come up.  i am not particularly large, but i would not call myself small either.  i find myself eying this chair with suspicion.  impressed by the improbable design, i am not convinced of its strength. given the larger average proportions of people over the decades, i would be interested to know what weight the design holds.  

panton seems to have been escaping reality and weight, as others were in the 1960s.  

the first one-piece molded plastic chair, the panton chair, 1960

the first one-piece molded plastic chair, the panton chair, 1960

phantasy landscape, verner panton, 1970, at the visiona 2 exhibit, cologne design fair

phantasy landscape, verner panton, 1970, at the visiona 2 exhibit, cologne design fair

marcus miller explains panton’s well known fantasy landscape: “This soft, undulating womb of an environment, composed of upholstered foam panels, virtually dispenses with gravity. Leisure-seekers would recline across any number of organic protrusions built into modules that paid little or no attention to conventional coordinates like up or down. Panton’s immersive environments and futuristic designs of the 60s gave flesh to the dream of a blissful world free of constraints.” Marcus Miller

the phrase l’enfant terrible, literally the terrible child, refers to a successful avant garde, unorthodox person.  it also carries the meaning of a shockingly candid child embarrassing his elders with his comments and ideas.   i do find panton’s dismissal of constraints shocking, but the wild abandon has it’s attractions… can’t get the falling chair out of my mind, though… has several vintage panton pieces available this week.

vintage cone chairs, denmark @

vintage cone chairs, denmark @

vintage heart cone chair @

vintage heart cone chair @


One Response to “panton’s unlikely chairs”

  1. john hopper Says:

    The great thing about furniture design in the 1960s, like so many other disciplines, is that it was experimental. All areas were open to discussion and ‘thinking outside the box’ seemed a prerequisite of a designer.

    Admittedly, many of the ideas didn’t work, though they look good as conversation or sculptural pieces today.

    I suppose today we would say that Verner Panton was a great visual designer rather than a practical one.

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