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