Masters of Furniture – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Good Morning!

It has been a long time since I have posted in my Masters of Furniture series. Way too long! These are some of my favourite posts to write.  I love learning about the history of design and delving into the lives of these design icons.  Today I’m featuring Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, German-American architect and furniture designer.


Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Germany, and remained there for the first half of his career.  As with many of the other masters of modern furniture, Ludwig was an architect by trade.  He began his career working in an interior design studio and then in an architecture studio under Peter Behrens.  His talent was noted at an early age, getting his first commission for a home at the age of 20.  Some of the most famous buildings of his career in Germany were the Barcelona Pavilion and the Villa Tugendhat.

The Barcelona Pavilion was the German pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain and has been an influential building as a representative of modern architecture.

Barcelona mies v d rohe pavillon weltausstellung1999 03“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Villa Tugendhat was commissioned by Fritz and Grete Tugendhat for their home in Brno, Chechoslovkia.  They lived in the house for only 8 years before they fled the country in after the Munich Agreement.  It was severely damaged at the end of  World War II, and was then used for various purposes for decades after the war. In 1967, Greta Tugendhat returned to the villa with a senior architect from Mies’s Chicago studio and explained the original design to him, and a group of Czech architects began to bring the home back to its original glory. The villa was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.

Villa Tugendhat-20070429” by Daniel Fišer (-df-) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Mies specified all the furnishings for both these buildings, in collaboration with interior designer Lilly Reich with whom he was in a relationship at the time. His most iconic furniture design, the Barcelona chair, which he designed with Lilly, was created as part of the Barcelona Pavilion but was first used in the Villa Tugendhat.

via Knoll

Two more of van der Rohe’s famous armchairs (also in collaboration with Lilly Reich) were specifically designed for Villa Tugendhat; the Tugendhat chair and the Brno chair.

via 1st Dibs

via Knoll


Knoll furniture now owns the rights to these 3 designs and the Barcelona and Brno chairs are still in production today, along with many knock-offs.

In 1930 van der Rohe was named director of the Bauhaus, the famous German school of experimental art and design, which he led until 1933 when he closed the school under pressure from the Nazis.  In 1937 he immigrated to the US, where he would take on the role as head the department of architecture of the newly established Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago.  In addition to a highly influential teaching career in the US, he would go on to design many more iconic modern buildings.  His most notable include:

S.R. Crown Hall in Chicago

Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Attribution: Joe Ravi

The Seagram building in NYC

via Wikimedia Creative Commons

The Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin

photo via Wikimedia Commons attribution: Manfred Brückels

Something else you might be interested to know is that many common quotes were coined by this design dynamo….

“Less is More”

“God is in the details”

“It is better to be good than to be original”

All these are Ludwig originals!  A wordsmith and a creative genius.  In general I think this masters legacy is more in buildings than furniture, but considering his furniture designs are still being sold today made me still want to include him in this series.  I hope you enjoyed this little walk back in the history books.


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Master’s of Furniture – Eero Saarinen

Good Morning!

First of all, congrats to Lesley, Brandy and David winning the giveaway tickets to the National Home Show/Canada Blooms!  As there were only 3 entries there was no need for a draw. I’ll be in contact with all of you to tell you how you can get your tickets! Enjoy!

It’s now time for the next installment of Master’s of Furniture series, and today’s iconic furniture designer is Eero Saarinen.  (You may recall Eero from my previous post on Charles and Ray Eames who were close friends and collaborators with Mr. Saarinen in their early days.)

Eero was born in Finland but emigrated to the US with his father, architect Eleil Saarinen in 1923, when he was thirteen. He grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where his father was a teacher at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where  he took courses in sculpture and furniture design . You may recall Eero from my previous post on Charles and Ray Eames whom he met at Cranbrook and where they became close friends and collaborators. After Cranbrook, Eero then studied sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris and then architecture in at Yale School of Architecture. After some traveling and spending a year in Finland, he returned to Cranbrook to work for his father and teach at the academy.

Saarinen first received critical recognition for his furniture design while working for his father, for a chair designed together with Charles Eames for the “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition in 1940, for which they received first prize.  Saarinen was then recruited by a friend from his Yale days, to join the military service in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Saarinen was assigned to draw illustrations for bomb disassembly manuals and to provide designs for the Situation Room in the White House. Saarinen worked full-time for the OSS until 1944. Saarinen founded his own architecture office in 1950.

His furniture designs were taken into production by the Knoll Company starting in the late 1940’s and included the “Grasshopper” lounge chair (taken out of production in 1965), “Womb” chair  settee, side and arm chairs, and his most iconic collection, the “Tulip” or “Pedestal” group, which featured side and arm chairs, dining, coffee and side tables, as well as a stool.   Here are some of his pieces which you definitely  will recognize…

The Tulip Collection

The Womb Chair

all photos via the Knoll Company Website

Eero is perhaps even more well-known for his architecture works including the  Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Gateway Arch) in St. Louis, Missouri, the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport that he worked on with Charles J. Parise, and the main terminal of Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C..

via 123

A running theme with these masters of furniture design is that many of them either start in architecture or move into that field at some point in their careers.  Which makes sense, as these pieces often are highly architectural in nature.  And I think I will need a Tulip table in my world at some point.  A true classic.  You can read more about Eero here and here.

Have a great day!


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Masters of Furniture: Charles and Ray Eames

Good Morning!

Since was talking about the Eames molded plastic chair in my last post, I thought it seemed appropriate to have Charles and Ray Eames as the subject of today’s Masters of Furniture post.

So I’m a little embarrassed. Although I know their designs very well it was only this week that I discovered that Charles and Ray Eames are in fact a husband and WIFE team, not two brothers. Ray is woman. Perhaps everyone else knew that already, but I had no clue.  But I suppose this is why I’ve been posting this series, to learn more about these designers.

photo by Christian Newton via Flickr CC

Charles Eames, Jr was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Charles studied architecture for two years at Washington University in St. Louis on an architecture scholarship. and then left the university. Many sources claim that he was dismissed for his advocacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and his interest in modern architects. However, less publicized sources indicate he left because couldn’t balance his studies with his part-time work at a local architecture firm.While at Washington University, he met his first wife, Catherine Woermann, whom he married in 1929. They divorced in 1941.  They had one daughter.  Charles worked in his own architecture firm in St. Louis until Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen (one of his great idols) invited to further study architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.  He became a teacher there and later the head of the industrial design department.

Ray Kaiser, born in California, graduated from Bennett Women’s College in Millbrook, New York, and then moved to New York City, where she studied abstract expressionist painting with Hans Hofmann.  In 1940, she began studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.  That is where magic began!

Charles had became close friends with Eliel’s son Eero Saarinen and together they designed prize-winning furniture for New York’s Museum of Modern Art “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” competition. Their work displayed the new technique of wood moulding.  Ray was working on design drawings for the competition.  Charles and Ray married a year later to Los Angeles where they would continue designing furniture.

I’ve highlighted some of their most famous and influential designs below which are still in production to this day by Herman Miller.  You will recognize most of these pieces, in particular the iconic Eames lounge chair and ottoman.

670 Lounge Chair, 1958

Aluminum Group Tilt Swivel, 1958


Dining Sideshell Wire Wood base  or DSW, 1954

Dining Chair Wood or DCW, 1948

Dining Armchair Wood or the DAW, AKA the shell chair, 1954

All product photo above from Herman Miller

They also designed some toys using molded wood, like the Eames Elephant!

Photo Source Design Within Reach

Outside of furniture design they were still involved in architecture projects. Most notably, Charles and Ray designed and built the Eames House, as part of Arts & Architecture magazine’s “Case Study” program.  Case Study House #8 was hand-constructed in a matter of days out of entirely prefabricated steel parts and it is considered to be a milestone of modern architecture to this day.


The couple also were involved in other creative ventures over the years such as films and textile design. Charles Eames died in 1978 and Ray died 10 years later. You can read much more on the Eames and their designs here.

Even if modern mid-century style pieces aren’t your go-to design style, I think most people can certainly appreciate how much the Eames designs have influenced today’s modern furniture design.  You can see my two previous Masters of Furniture Posts, here and here.

Have a great weekend!


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Masters of Furniture: Charlotte Perriand

Good Morning!

I’m a bit groggy this morning after the Interior Design Show opening party last night but after seeing only a few booths at the party, I’m excited to go back on the weekend to really explore.  And on the topic of design today I have the second installment of the Masters of Furniture series featuring French furniture designer Charlotte Perriand, a pioneer in machine age furniture.

Image by Knowtex via Flickr CC

Born in 1903, Perriand divided her childhood between Paris, where her father worked as a tailor and her mother as an haute couture seamstress, and her grandparents’ home in the mountainous rural region of Savoie. She studied furniture design at l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs from 1920 to 1925. Frustrated by the craft-based approach and Beaux-Arts style championed by the school, Perriand searched for inspiration in the machine aesthetic of the motor cars and bicycles she saw on the Paris streets.

She started her career at Le Corbusier‘s studio in 1927, but almost wasn’t hired after being initially (and now famously) rejected by him with the reply of “We don’t embroider cushions here”.  However, she eventually convinced him to hire her after his partner, Pierre Jeanneret made him go see her exhibit at the Salon d’Automne.

Bar sure la Toit “Bar sous le toit”,

In 1928 she designed three chairs with Corbusier.  One chair was made for conversation (the B301 sling back chair) another for relaxation (the LC2 Grand Comfort chair), and the last for sleeping (the B306 chaise longue).

Photo via Artnet

Photo via Foundation Le Corbusier c/o Cassina

Photo via Complex Mag

In 1937 Charlotte left Le Corbusier’s studio to collaborate with the artist Fernand Leger on a pavilion for the Paris Exhibition and to work on a ski resort in Savoie.  Then after the war she returned to Paris to design prefabricated buildings with Jean Prouvé and Pierre Jeanneret.  Over the years she continued designing buildings and interiors working on League of Nations building for the United Nations in Geneva, the design of the French Tourist Office on London’s Piccadilly (in collaboration with Erno Goldfinger) and worked with Le Corbursier and achtiect Lucio Costa on the interior of their Maison du Brésil at Cité Universitaire in Paris.  However, throughout her career she continued to design great pieces of furniture.

 Photo via Gallerie Patrick Seguin

 Photo via Treadway Gallery

Photo via 1st Dibs

Photo via Cassina USA

And that my friends, is Charlotte Perriand. Such a long and amazing career. And considering she started in the 1920’s, which was not exactly an era where woman were pushing boundaries, speaks even more to her talent and ambition.  You can still buy her furniture at Cassina.  I am having a great time learning the stories behind these masters of furniture.  If you missed my first  post in the series on Milo Baughman, you should check it out!


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Masters of Furniture: Milo Baughman

Good Morning!

I’ve excited to launch a new series called “Masters of Furniture” which will highlight furniture design icons and their famous pieces. I’m starting with a designer who I have only recently discovered: Milo Braughman.  Milo was a  highly respected modern furniture designer from the 1940’s until his death in 2003.

Here’s a little more about the history on Mr. Braughman. (P.s. He’s kind of handsome for an older gentleman, isn’t he?)  Milo studied product and architectural design at the Art Center School of Los Angeles and at Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts). He started designing furniture for companies in the mid-1940s.  Those companies included Mode Furniture, Glenn of California, The Inco Company, Pacific Iron, Murray Furniture of Winchendon, Arch Gordon, Design Institute America, George Kovacs, Directional, Henredon and Drexel. However, his best known and longest running relationships was with Thayer Coggin Inc., from 1953  until 2003.  he used a lot of wood, chrome and brass in his designs.  His furniture is well designed, and although not cheap, it was certainly affordable.  He was very well respected and in his later years spent alot of time teaching the importance of good design. He was inducted into the Furniture Designer’s Hall of Fame in 1987.

Now, I am not normally a fan of uber-modern furniture, but his aren’t modern in the “get out your lava-lamp” kind of way or super futuristic and unrealistically shaped in the “I should be in a museum” kind of way.  They have a timelessness and livability about them which makes them easy to incorporate into almost any style of space.  And that screams good design to me.


Images via 1,2,3,4,5, 6


Some pretty great pieces, if you ask me.  (And yes, I am aware no one is likely to ask me…).  I first came across his furniture when looking for chairs for my kitchen/dining table. Here are some that caught my eye….well, before I remembered that I will need quite small chairs to fit under my smallish gateleg table).

Pink and brass. AH-mazing.

Oh wait…mauve and brass is equally amazing.

And Ms. Tobe Reed of because it’s awesome introduced me to these lovelies….

Images via 1,2,3

Regardless of my disappointment that I can’t fit these in my space right now, I am so happy to have stumbled upon Milo’s genius work. Owning one of his classic modern pieces is going to be a must in a future home of mine.

I hope you enjoyed and would love to hear your thoughts on this new series.


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