You Decide.

Last weekend we made a leisurely “window shopping” visit to IKEA. At the end of the store, I quickly perused the seasonal furniture (our recent yard work has put me in that mode). I noticed a new outdoor dining chair that had yet to appear on the website, but I quickly passed it by as I rushed to join Tim in the checkout line. Now don’t get excited, all we bought was a pack of little felt pads for under chair-legs (whoopee!).

So anyway. Later, I was trying to find some information about a particular chair produced by Thonet in the fifties. During my search, I happened upon an image of a different Thonet chair that immediately brought to mind the one I’d seen at IKEA the day before. The s 40F, designed by Dutch architect and designer Mart Stam, originally appeared in the 1935 Thonet catalog. As a side note, according to Thonet Germany, Stam designed the first cantilevered chair in furniture history (the s 33, in 1926) predating Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe by several years. But apparently, this was a contended issue, with Breuer and Stam actually going to German court in a patent lawsuit, to settle the issue of who was the legal inventor of the basic cantilever chair design principle.

Either way, there’s no arguing that the Thonet s 40F came way before the IKEA Vinö. But just humor me here, and take a look at the two chairs:

s 40F by Mart Stam for Thonet, 1935

Description according to Thonet Germany website: “In all of his furniture designs Mart Stam relied on straightforward forms, an aesthetic economy of means in the construction and the benefit of improved sitting comfort.” The chair is “clear and reserved in form, with ideal sitting comfort and high quality with respect to materials and processing.”
Wood:
In it’s current incarnation, the wooden strips are made of solid Iroko, a weather resistant, high-density African wood that has been Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. It is similar to teak in appearance and has a smooth, even surface. All wooden parts are oiled for protection.
Metal Frame:
weather-resistant tubular brushed stainless steel
Price:
609,00€ ($820.00) from http://www.dieter-horn-designfurniture.com in Germany

Vinö by Niels Gammelgaard for IKEA, 2010

Description according to the IKEA website: “A comfortable chair that gives. Body-contoured back for great comfort. Stackable. Saves space when not in use.”
Wood:
Solid acacia, a durable hardwood, highly suitable for outdoor use. Pre-treated with oil. Not certified as responsibly managed, but IKEA claims they are working towards that goal.
Metal Frame:
Steel with silver powder coating
Price:
$59.99

The influence is obvious. Not that I’m surprised. IKEA often riffs off more famous designs. When I first saw the Vinö, I thought it was okay, but now that I’ve seen what it’s supposed to look like, it seems a bit…how should I say…lacking. But then again, fourteen IKEA versions can be bought for the price of one Thonet chair. Does the IKEA Vinö’s lack of grace, awkward armrest supports, and almost-certain lack of comfort (earth to IKEA: people do NOT have flat butts!) make it one-fourteenth the chair? Or does it’s affordability make up for it’s shortcomings? Most people wouldn’t have the luxury of choosing between the two, so does it even matter?

That’s something only you, your wallet, and your buttocks can decide.
Talk amongst yourselves.


photo via Thonet Germany

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One thought on “You Decide.

  1. What bothers me most about the IKEA version is what bothers me most about IKEA most of the time: the little niggling details which are meant to either create more comfort, since they’re using a modern, minimal design with inferior materials, or they’re trying to make a modern design more functional…which sometimes backfires. In this case, I mean the ugly little round tabs (pads?) on the bottom bars, and that unfortunate pair of “flying buttresses” from the arms to the seat…again because the materials are inferior. Overall, I understand this completely within IKEA’s mission…to make decent, modern design accessible to the masses. But sometimes it just ends up LOOKING like a compromise…not all the time, but sometimes.

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