Rise of the archives

For­ward-think­ing in­te­ri­ors brands are look­ing to the past, rekin­dling our love of clas­sic de­sign

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Contents -

Why the most for­ward­think­ing in­te­ri­ors brands are look­ing to the past and rekin­dling our love of clas­sic de­sign

The de­mand for care­fully cu­rated, mid­cen­tury, reis­sued fur­ni­ture is noth­ing new – brands such as Vi­tra, Knoll and Cassina have been cap­i­tal­is­ing on it for decades. Yet the scene seems to have ex­ploded of late, with more and more man­u­fac­tur­ers of­fer­ing gen­uine li­censed pieces from their back cat­a­logues. This year, Minotti cel­e­brated its 70th an­niver­sary by bring­ing back spe­cial edi­tions of the ‘Al­bert & Ile’ fam­ily of seat­ing and a cof­fee ta­ble de­signed by Gigi Radice in the 1960s, while Carl Hansen & Søn of­fered a new Kaare Klint sofa, orig­i­nally cre­ated in 1930. At Flos, re-edi­tions of the ‘Nasa’ and ‘ Ven­tosa’ lights by Achille and Pier Gi­a­como Castiglioni cel­e­brated the cen­te­nary of Achille’s birth. At Gubi, a chair de­signed by Pierre Paulin in 1975, as well as sev­eral pieces by Mar­cel Gas­coin de­signed in the late 1940s, were in­tro­duced into the col­lec­tion for the first time. Cassina pre­sented Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Taliesin 1’ arm­chair de­signed in 1949, while Fritz Hansen, which holds the size­able Arne Jacobson ar­chive in its en­vi­able arse­nal, also re­launched the ‘Plan­ner’ ta­ble cre­ated by Amer­i­can de­signer Paul Mc­cobb in the 1950s. That list is just the tip of the ice­berg.

So why is ar­chive fur­ni­ture madly pop­u­lar and seem­ing en­tirely rel­e­vant? Per­haps it’s the au­then­tic­ity of the de­signs that we’re crav­ing? Maybe the sim­ple sil­hou­ettes of the Bauhaus and mid-cen­tury move­ments, which might’ve seemed too avant-garde for tra­di­tional tastes back then, are now bet­ter un­der­stood and ap­pre­ci­ated? Re­gard­less, the mar­ket is boom­ing right now.

Si­mon Alder­son from the de­sign shop Twen­tytwen­ty­one, which has of­fered en­dorsed and li­censed pro­duc­tion pieces for sev­eral decades, be­lieves the ap­peal can be traced to the in­crease in ex­hi­bi­tions and pub­li­ca­tions cel­e­brat­ing mid-cen­tury de­sign, as well as the emer­gence of more eclec­tic tastes in in­te­ri­ors. ‘The grow­ing aware­ness and re-eval­u­a­tion of ar­chive pieces is also man­i­fested in de­mand and price in­creases for orig­i­nals as the vin­tage mar­ket grows to merge de­sign with fine art,’ says Alder­son. ‘The use of clas­sics in homes has also fu­elled the ap­petite for man­u­fac­tur­ers to re­view back cat­a­logues. Clas­sic de­sign is in­creas­ingly un­der­stood to be au­then­tic, af­ter many years of these pieces be­ing un­der­mined by poor qual­ity, unau­tho­rised fakes.’

As one way of sidestep­ping the greedy mar­ket for knock-offs – Eames, Saari­nen, Weg­ner, Breuer and Le Cor­bus­ier seem to be among the great­est vic­tims of cheap copies – some brands are delv­ing even deeper into their archives to re-es­tab­lish the work of for­got­ten names or the lesser-known de­signs of high pro­file peo­ple. One such de­signer join­ing the con­ver­sa­tion is the 86-year-old Dan­ish ar­chi­tect Bodil Kjær, who at this year’s Mi­lan Fur­ni­ture Fair pre­sented 20 pieces from her ‘El­e­ments of Ar­chi­tec­ture’ se­ries (see be­low) cre­ated be­tween 1955 and 1963. The de­signs have been re­pro­duced by Form Port­fo­lios and six man­u­fac­tur­ers, in­clud­ing Karak­ter, Carl Hansen & Søn, Fritz Hansen and Holmegaard.

The trend for re­vival de­sign isn’t go­ing away. Alder­son tries to ex­plain: ‘There re­ally is some­thing for every­one, from strict Modernism to craft, the cel­e­bra­tion of wood and flam­boy­ant ideas. That, com­bined with a far more eclec­tic ap­proach to liv­ing and work­ing, means peo­ple are com­fort­able with mix­ing ma­te­ri­als and eras. The ac­cep­tance that de­sign pieces have an en­dur­ing ap­peal of­fers con­fi­dence that an in­vest­ment in a clas­sic is worth­while, that it won’t go out of fash­ion and it will hold its value.’

‘CLAS­SIC DE­SIGN IS IN­CREAS­INGLY UN­DER­STOOD TO BE AU­THEN­TIC, AF­TER MANY YEARS OF BE­ING UN­DER­MINED BY POOR QUAL­ITY, UNAU­THO­RISED FAKES’

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