THE chair #1

Designers and architects often become fixated on one type of furniture, and often, it seems, it is the humble chair. And amazingly enough, I am no exception to that rule. I LOVE all chairs…the more bizarre, the better. Well, to some extent. I am not too sure about these…..
(Mathias Bengtsson’s ‘Slice’ armchair ca. 1999, sold at Sotheby’s for $42,500)
(Jon Brooks ‘Styx Ladder back’, 1985, estimated at Sotheby’s at $15-20,000)
OK, I am actually lying….I think they are all pretty fab. As I long as I don’t have to sit through a Norwegian dinner party in either of them.
I am constantly distracted from any task in my own home when I happen to glace over at my dining chairs…the wonder that is THE Bellini.
Mine are in pure white. Can you believe my students never heard of THE Bellini…or even Bellini? I guess I am already getting old and outdated.
Hive Modern notes: “The Bellini chair is often hailed as a piece of modern sculpture in its own right… a versatile and low-cost chair that appeals to the senses. The Bellini Chair has the uncanny ability to elevate its surroundings… a grouping can transform even the most dreary sidewalk into an impromptu ‘design happening’ that excites and invites dialogue. “
DWR wonders: “Is there such a thing as an instant classic?” And decides they: “…think it may be Mario Bellini’s chair…”
(Despite their apparent love of the chair, there was quite a scandal recently when they completely and utterly ripped off the chair…. too much lesser effect and only slightly less cost)  See below.
Bellini himself noted that designing a chair is: “infinitely more complex than designing a skyscraper”. “Tell me what chair you’ve designed and I‘ll tell you what sort of architect you are.”
So you see I am not in poor company in loving this chair. But, this is not, in fact, THE chair I spoke of in the title. Bellini is merely a detour, but a very aesthetically pleasing one.
So, back to THE chair #1. My new client was able to pull off the deal of the year…(fellow pim’ers, you know who you are, this great client is one of you, by the way)
Total cost for the below item at a garage sale: $25.00.


The piece is upholstered in the most fabulously shiny yellow..somewhere between mustard and canary….leather. It’s pulled nice and tight across the chair and fastened securely with large button tufting. And the seat is the most amazing bucket…just like a race car. I have not seen its equal outside of a BMW. And while it might look stiff and uncomfortable, it is in fact not uncomfortable in the least. It just screams cool.

So besides the fact that this chair is just plain cool, let’s examine why it was also the deal of the year. Thanks to 1st Dibs, I managed to do a little comparison shopping.

Of course, the chair’s form originates in the Victorian era when each room of a fashionable residence needed to be decorated in a different style…Rococo, Gothic, Renaissance… Everyone who was anyone needed a library to retire to and contemplate the world in. Oh, and it had to be fabulously decorated, often preferably in the Gothic fashion. But parlors also had to be fabulously decorated, and Queen Anne, although not the most popular, was one of the myriad styles that worked. It was also a period of great technological innovations in furniture design, and springs and tufting as we see in this piece became highly desirable. Horsehair stuffing was OUT and springs were most definitely IN.

A few 1st Dibs finds from that grand era:

An early 19th century chair from Coup D Etat, with no list price.
But this style was, of course, revived many a time. I am fairly confident my client’s chair was birthed during those crazy days of the 1960’s or 70’s. You might assume all leather buttoned chairs in this era looked like these:
A great Barcelona chair from Morateur listed at… also no listed price.
 Groovy 1960’s chairs from Barley Twist listed at a mere $850.
And yes, there were many, and strangely, they are somewhat reminiscent of my client’s chair in some way.

So why do I assume mid-century for this chair? Well the most obvious is the color. This is not quite a natural dye of the 19th century. Its manufactured, its synthetic. And it is much more at home with the typical mid-century chairs shown directly above than the 19th century beauties shown further above. The construction is a bit too sound to be over 100 years old, and overall, the chair does not quite have the carving and wood detail and subtleties to the legs of a 19th century piece. And also, because of these:

From Larry Reilly Collection, 1960’s (see how shiny and tight the leather is?  With an odd sythetic color?)
From Assemblage, 1960’s (same thoughts and points as above)
I think these seem to just be the same creature. There is an element here that just makes these chairs easily relate to my client’s. And now for the WOW moment…. the prices as listed on 1st Dibs for the above chairs:

#1: $2,800.00

#2: $2,750.00

Yes. Deal of the year. Well done! My only regret…it does not work with the living room color scheme!!!

Christa Pirl

6 comment(s)

That is SUCH a gorgeous chair! Oh, my goodness, Christa! I can't help but be a tad jealous. The color is perfect, the finish is perfect, the tufting is perfect.

Nice post! So you use Bellini chairs in your own abode. In this case your taste harmonizes with mine own. Now be a brave designer and show us your place IN TOTO.

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