array of 20th century modern chairs exhibited since Nov. 24 at the
Milwaukee Art Museum is more than a revealing window into past design
— it is a study in various materials and shapes that some local
designers say resonate today.
Materials and Modernity," created by MAM curator Monica Obniski,
introduces a history of industrial production that includes diverse
materials of tubular steel, plywood and mold injected plastic. The
display also notes an emerging era of 3-D printing technology.
While each of the
19 pieces displayed has merit in telling a historical perspective of
chair design and production, Obniski pointed to a few examples that may
still have legs for 2016 tastes.
Chair," a 1960 creation by Danish designer Verner Panton, is an
undulating "S" shaped single piece of smooth, glossy plastic
that comes in a variety of bold colors and is still manufactured by
Swiss manufacturer Vitra.
Chair," designed in 1947 by Eero Saarinen of Finland, emulates its
moniker with chrome-plated steel, a fiberglass, plastic and wood
particle shell, latex foam and upholstered fabric. New York-based Knoll
International Inc. still manufactures it.
Armchair" (Model JH501) by Danish designer/cabinetmaker Hans Wegner
relies on oak for its frame and weaved cane seat to give it its natural,
material classic form. Like other classics from this entire exhibit, the
chair can be found on various websites (such as 1stdibs.com) or through
design experts echoed Obniski’s reference to the web as an important
tool in searching for authentic originals or replicas.
The questions for
those designers — Magdaline Benson of Bergson Interiors in Dousman,
Vicki Beaudoin of Haven Interiors in Milwaukee and Greg Holm of Peabody’s
Interiors in Milwaukee — included whether the midcentury chairs would
be a good companion to other furniture styles and if the original pieces
were worth the price tag.
you can use a particular accent piece in a particular corner or another
place where it’s a nice, eclectic mix," Benson says.
"Sometimes it’s a piece you love, but it just doesn’t work and
then you just say, ‘Don’t do it.’ It’s not
worth what is usually a very high price for
Beaudoin, who says
she is all for transitional and eclectic mixes when they work, says it
may be difficult to use these pieces in traditional interiors.
"Unless you really want the original, there are companies
knockoffs," she recommends.
Holm says the
chairs could play well with what he sees as a midcentury modern
resurgence over the past few years. "I could see them being part of
an eclectic mix with traditional or standing on their own as a
sculptural form," Holm says.
additional MAM pieces, including the aluminum and upholstered "Barwa
Lounge Chair" of 1946 designed by Americans Edgar Bartolucci and
Obniski says the
20th century exhibit will live on in its present form for
an undisclosed period and gradually change with
different designs — a nod to the public’s
interest in ever-evolving style.
- Now trending
While the style of
a furniture piece is important, so is the upholstery, which provides an
ample amount of the work’s personality. We asked experts in design and
in the hands-on craft — Shelly Dineen and Kim Schmidt from Manhattan
Textiles in Wauwatosa and Greg Mueller from Mueller Upholstery in
Thiensville — to weigh in on the current trends.
Polyester is still
favored, based on durability and price. Additionally, polyester blends
well with other fabrics, including linen and silk, to give it more
dimension and a luxurious feel.
imitate almost anything," Schmidt says. "Velvets and linens
have been around a long time and continue to be popular as well."
"I see all kinds of fabrics, but polyester has been more popular
because it is inexpensive and a lot of the less expensive materials are
being manufactured in China."
blending into each other are out while bright, clear and bold are in.
teals, pinks, oranges and other pops of color are in," Dineen says.
The designers also note that warm gray – "greige" – also
currently trends well because it can be easily accessorized with
A variety of
geometric patterns are in, including ogee, an hourglass shape. While not
the designers’ favorite, chihuly print also trends. Among patterns
fading out, they say, is the more embroidered look of suzanni.
like novelty patterns like crazy bird," Dineen notes.
benches and coffee table ottomans have become more popular options.
Mueller says those who value their antiques also want to refresh them to
today’s popular styles.