Welcome Home, Ida.

I’d like to introduce the latest addition to our family:

(Getting the typical inspection from Moxie…)

Her birth name is PAC-1 (sounds like a Droid, doesn’t it?). Actually, it was just Herman Miller’s abbreviation of Pivot Armchair with Cast aluminum (or Contract) base and 1-piece upholstery.

But I’ve decided to call her Ida… as in Ms. Ida Blankenship. Let’s pause here for a moment. If you do not know who Ms. Blankenship is, please do not Google her. Rather, I implore you to go and watch Mad Men (starting with season one — no skipping!!!). Like, now. I mean it.

For those of you still with me, based on a little research at the Eames Office, my guess is she’s from the early 70s. So she’s a little rough around the edges, but she’s still got plenty of spunk.

This is a bunch of iPhone shots I took of Moxie and Moo trying her out (okay, so I pretty much forced them to sit on the chair in attempts to get cute pictures… Doesn’t everyone do that???). Well, Moxie wasn’t really feeling it. But Moo has really taken to her. Unfortunately, for him, I’m pretty sure Ms. Ida will be taking her rightful station at the desk. I just hope she can catch on to all that advanced technology…

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Dear Chair,

You had a hard life.

It was clear you’d been through much even before we found you by the side of the road. A previous owner had attempted to refinish you, but obviously didn’t know what they were doing (your coloring was uneven and splotchy). After bringing you home, I had grand intentions to sand, paint, and reupholster you. But rather, you were relegated to storage in our damp basemenwhen t for several years with other “project” chairs. You saw the glorious light of day during the past winter’s snow storms, only to serve valiantly as our “urban parking space holder”. And for that, dear chair, I thank you. Yet, how have I shown my appreciation? By leaving you outside since. You deserved so much better.

You certainly didn’t deserve to be thrown to the curb again by a man (I’m ashamed to admit – my husband!), who didn’t want to take the time to mend you. My only hope is that you were rescued from the crushing jaws of the trash truck by a kinder soul than I…Someone who will lovingly restore you and give you a rightful place at their desk or dinner table.

I am honestly glad that I happened to take this picture the day before you moved on.

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

Emeco in Our Home

Last summer, I posted about the legendary Emeco Navy® Chair. At the time, I was a bit obsessed, and after much ogling, I won one on ebay. Now it lives in our dining room!

The chair came from a guy not far from the Emeco factory in Hanover, Pa (also the home of Utz snacks). I liked his creativity with packing materials – he used gallon iced tea containers to take up extra space in the box. Most were Rutter’s, but there were a couple Turkey Hill ones in there, too.

This is a vintage chair, so, it’s not in mint condition. The finish shows wear and it has a few dings, but most noticeably, the back of the chair has the word “PLASTICS” etched into it. I’m sure this reduces it’s “value”, but I like that the chair has physical evidence of it’s history. I only wish I knew a bit more about it’s provenance. Anyone have any ideas?

What about you? Do you own any vintage pieces that have mysterious markings that hint at it’s previous life?

Classic Design: Emeco 1006 (Navy®) Chair

I have always loved this chair.

So, I was excited to find out that the company that has produced it for the past 65 years, is located only three hours from here, in Hanover, Pennsylvania!

Emeco, Inc. first started producing the No. 1006 chair during World War II, for use on Navy ships and submarines. The design was developed according to stringent requirements that the chairs be extremely light, non-magnetic (so as not to interfere with Naval instruments), and both fire and corrosion-proof. Another stipulation was that the chairs not be able to be dissasembled for use in weapons manufacturing by the enemy. The result was a practically indestructible, one-piece aluminum chair, that has clearly stood the test of time. Form + Function = Classic Design!

I admire Emeco for continuing to make this chair in essentially the same way as they did back then – their 77-step process has each chair passing through the hands of over 50 people from start to finish! I am dually impressed by their lack of complacency. They have not been content to rest on their past successes, but rather, have collaborated with designers such as Philippe Starck, Frank Gehry, and Ettore Sottsass (at the age of 90!), to come up with new designs consistent with their vision. In addition, they now make their chairs out of 80% recycled (40% post-consumer) aluminum. But, with their lifetime quality guarantee, the folks at Emeco believe that their products have classic staying power and hope they will never end up in the recycling bin.

On the Emeco website, there’s a really sweet series of documentary videos that gives a nice peek into the people and processes that go on in the factory everyday. If you like the chairs, I’d suggest checking them out.

Perhaps this is old hat to you, but hey, I’m easily excited.

Craigslist Find (One Down, One to Go!)

After a few negative experiences, I had sworn it off for a while. But in the past few months we have found a couple of good things at good prices, sold by good people.
I now have a somewhat renewed faith in Craigslist.

Just last night, we picked up this vintage butterfly chair from a couple in the Italian Market section of Philly. The wife said it was her favorite chair, but the husband didn’t like it. With space in their loft at a minimum, it had to go. And we were glad to take it off their hands!

The frame is in great shape, and the seat is a newer canvas one from Circa50. The only requirement was to give the cover a washing and a good once over with a lint roller (it was coated with black cat hair) – no biggie.

All for less than the cost of a new cover alone! Yay Craigslist!

So, thanks Lillian and Ed! Don’t worry, we promise to take good care of it!