In 2021, the renowned Danish furniture manufacturer Carl Hansen & Son reissued the “Deck Chair” range of outdoor furniture designed by its compatriot Børge Mogensen in the late 1960s. Proof that “historic” publishers are still interested in outdoor design. Today, outdoor furniture has become a must for people who like to live in their garden in the summer. It is no longer seen as an accessory or secondary item, but rather as a feature of a leisure and reception area. This article looks back at the iconic pieces of outdoor furniture…
An American design icon to start with. In 1903, Thomas Lee designed a comfortable armchair to enjoy the long summer evenings at his home in Westport, Connecticut. Thus was born the famous “Adirondack” chair: a sloping seat and back, wide armrests and a footrest to improve the comfort of everyday life at the time. Originally made of wood, the Adirondack chair has become a symbol of the American Way of Life and continues to grace patios across the country, from the East to the West Coast.
A student at the Bauhaus School in Weimar, the architect and designer Marcel Breuer is known for having designed the first chair in folded steel tubes (1925). In 1933, in cooperation with the Embru AG (Eisen-und-Metallbettenfabrik AG Rüti), he designed a series of chairs, armchairs and deckchairs made of flat steel and aluminium profiles. The Swiss manufacturer is still in existence and is reissuing the model 1096 lounge chair designed by Breuer.
Attention cult French chair! In 1927, Xavier Pauchard registered the Tolix trademark for the first “manufacturer of household items in galvanised sheet metal”. In 1935, he markets the A chair which will make the fame of the brand. In 1937, TOLIX chairs were chosen for the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Tolix chairs and tables invaded café terraces, public gardens and post-war spas and seaside resorts.
This one is also very well known and is becoming trendy again: the famous “Acapulco” chair, designed in the 1940s. Its origin is still unclear, at most we know that it was designed on the Mexican Pacific Coast. We like its unique pear-shaped design. Ideal on a terrace or balcony.
You can’t talk about outdoor furniture without talking about rattan. In the 1960s and 1970s, the French took over their gardens with outdoor living rooms made entirely of rattan. The Basket armchair designed by the designer couple Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel in 1950 is the symbol of an era. And then, how can we not mention the “Emmanuelle” armchair which in 1974 became a cult in the eponymous film…
In 1964, Italian designer Gae Aulenti, creator of the iconic Pipistrello lamp, brought chic and pop colours to the garden room. The Locus Solus collection by Poltronova is the first large outdoor collection ever made. The chrome or lacquered tubular frame with its sinuous shapes and round vinyl seat make the Locus Solus garden chair so charming.
In the 1960s, Florence Knoll, who had taken over her late husband’s company (Knoll International), asked Richard Schultz, a well-known designer of outdoor furniture, to imagine and design a complete range of outdoor furniture for her home in Florida. Schultz did just that, and the result was the famous 1966 Outdoor Collection. Simple, elegant and functional design.
The Italian company EMU has been producing outdoor furniture for home and business for over 70 years. It is a real trendsetter in the field of garden furniture. One of its bestsellers is the Rio chair/armchair, of which more than 8 million have been sold on the market.
The post-war development of the plastics industry allowed designers to express their creativity. The pieces they designed are capable of dressing a terrace as well as a living room. Polypropylene in particular is ideal for garden furniture, as it is lightweight, easy to maintain and relatively weatherproof. For example, Vitra is reissuing the famous Panton Chair in polypropylene. Other publishers are revisiting design classics by offering an outdoor version, such as Gubi for the iconic Pacha chair designed in 1975 by Pierre Paulin.
Some contemporary outdoor furniture models made a big impression when they were released. Philippe Starck’s famous Bubble Club armchair, designed in 1998 for Kartell, is one such example. In 2000, Finnish designer Jukka Setälä created THE Pouf of the 21st century for the Fatboy brand, reminiscent of its distant ancestor, the famous pear-shaped Sacco pouf (1968). In 2011, Andrée & Olivia Putmann created the elegant Inside Out chair for Fermob, designed for both indoor and outdoor use. Finally, for the Italian publisher Moroso, the Dutchman Tord Boontje designed the African-inspired chair in woven plastic Shadowy – Sunny.
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