I am happy to have acquired a pair of these fab chrome directors chairs that I an eagerly looking forward to redoing and updating. They desperately need new seats and backs and the chrome needs a bit of TLC. I will bring them along on my September trip to Plus Modern Design in Kansas City where I will be having a trunk show of sorts for their First Friday Gallery Stroll event.
I love learning the history of mid-century pieces, as they always have a fascinating story, often overcoming war, depression, family feuds or other such turmoil of the 20th century (these guys pretty much covered it all).
The chairs were manufactured in the late 60s by Virtue Manufacturing Company, now known as Virco. This company was founded in the 20s by two brothers by the name of Virtue who experimented with chrome plating in their own backyard. It was not until the depression took hold that they boldly decided to stop merely plating other people’s furniture, but to design their own. They specialized in furniture for schools and other such institutions. Their bold move of expansion during the depression paid off, and they grew like gangbusters once the depression ended and they had enough manufacturing capability to take on huge government contracts once WWII began. They supplied most of the bunk beds and mess hall tables and chairs for the military. Wow.
Despite the prosperous times, one brother left the company. Rumors noted it was due to family tensions and things slowed a bit after the war years. After the war they expanded into home furnishings, including the iconic 50s metal and Formica dining tables that most baby-boomers cannot stand.
During the post-war period, the company name was changed to Virco, they went public, and the company continues to this day, creating innovative chrome and plastic furniture for the education sector. And they still manufacture in the US to boot!
So while I had romantic visions of these two chairs in a hip Soho artists loft in the early 70s (maybe even Andy Warhol’s loft), these most likely resided in a vice principal’s waiting area. Oh well, can’t have it all. Stay tuned for the restoration of these, photos coming in about 2 weeks!
I did find out a bit about the designer that created these chairs as well. I am glad to see the Virtue brothers had the wherewithal to hire some proper furniture designers when the expanded into furniture design (not everybody does that). And that is most certainly a bit part of why their designs are actually appealing today. Robert Kjer Jakobsen did a lot of work for them, including these directors chairs. His Danish heritage surely had great influence on his design aesthetic, which comes across in many of his designs in the period.
I will not go into much detail on Jakobsen, seeing as there is a fantastic blog post about him by Studio, Garden & Bungalow. I recommend you head over and read the great post and see many of his other designs.
While deciding on a new fabric for these, I browsed pinterest a bit, but found few really cool ideas. Of course directors chairs are typically quite utilitarian, so I suppose that would be the reason why many are clad only in solid black or white. I did find a few worth sharing (links can all be found on my pinterest page)-
Love this, but a bit TOO seventies glam for me…
Love the natural leather seats on these, but think it works better with the black metal than my chrome-
This works better with the chrome-
And here is my Andy Warhol reference!!!
Of course I could not help pinning a few classic shots of Hollywood stars on or around directors chairs just for fun…