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Category Archives: chair history

The Acapulco Chair

Chair Blog is 7,5 years old. This blog might as well be the biggest online chair encyclopedia out there. Is it any surprise that when I need info on a certain chair I first turn to Chair Blog?

Now imagine my surprise when even 7,5 years of blogging about chairs didn’t prove to be enough to return any items on my “Acapulco chair” search. I just had to step in and add this one to the collection!

acapulco1The brief history memo on the Apartment Therapy website shares the following:

Legend has it that a French tourist was visiting Acapulco in the ’50s and was uncomfortably hot atop a solidly-constructed chair in the Mexico sunshine. Inspired by the open string construction of traditional Mayan hammocks nearby, he designed a chair fit for the modern tropics.

So the first Acapulco chair was produced in the ’50s. It’s usually made of vinyl cords on a metal frame and has most commonly been used as outdoor lounge seating. However, the designers of today have been producing many variations on the classic, changing the shape of the frame and using other materials such as leather and cotton cord. Today the Acapulco chair is successfully used indoors, too.

acapulco2

I love how one can easily customize their Acapulco chair by using their favorite thrown on or a pillow or even by weaving over it. Search for the Acapulco chair on Pinterest, find your preferred version and you might just fall in love!

N.B. Let’s be fair though and mention that Guido happened to unknowingly add a glimpse of the Acapulco chair just recently. This post from October 21st features Claudia Cardinale posing in a… what appears to be an Acapulco chair! Great minds think alike, eh?

P.S. Yes, I’ve effectively stepped down from being a regular contributor to this beloved online publication a few years back due to a new demanding job (and therefore lack of time). I, however, have continued to help out with the Facebook page whenever I stumbled upon a worthy chair related piece of information.

Images via vtwonen.nl

The Chair that Grew by John Krubsack

The Chair that Grew by John Krubsack

The Chair that Grew by John Krubsack

A banker and a farmer John Krubsack in Wisconsin is believed having created the first chair grown, rather than manufactured. In 1903 he started to grow this chair and it was “harvested” in 1914. It has a remarkable story.

John Krubsack:

After I had planted 32 trees, all box elders, in the spring of 1907, I left them to grow in their new home for a year until they were six feet tall, before beginning the chair. In the spring of 1908 I gradually began the work of training the young and pliable stems to grow gradually in the shape of a chair. Most of this work consisted in bending the stems of these trees and tying and grafting them together so as to grow, if possible with all the joints cemented by nature. This was largely an experiment with me and it was with a great deal of interest that I watched and assisted nature in growing piece of furniture.

The first summer’s growth found all the joints I had made by tying and grafting grown firmly together. Some of the trees I found, however, grew much faster than others. To overcome this, I began to cut the stems of those trees that to my notion had grown large enough. This did not kill these trees but simply retarded their growth so as to give the weaker trees a chance to catch up.
In this manner I let these trees grow for seven years. During the last two years I had only four trees growing from the root. These were the four that consisted the legs of the chair and all the other stems kept alive from these four stems because they were grafted to them. After the seventh year all the trees were cut, making in all eleven years from the time the seed was sown until the chair was finally completed

Is it still around?

The chair, eventually dubbed the “Chair That Grew,” had its first big public showing in a natural history exhibit at the 1915 World’s Fair, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, held that year in San Francisco, California.[3] Hugo assisted his father in all aspects of the living chair project and went on to promote it in many ways, including contacting Robert Ripley, who ran it in his “Believe It or Not” column[4] and later filmed John standing beside the chair explaining all about it. The film ran in the weekly newsreels of the time in theaters across the US. The Lloyd Mfg. Co. at the Chicago Furniture Mart subsequently showed the chair during a large trade show for furniture manufacturers. The “Chair That Grew” was displayed on a golden pedestal at the entrance. Krubsack’s chair garnered many offers (one was $5,000) from would-be buyers over the years, but John, and later Hugo, turned them all down. Hugo had no heirs and simply could not bear to see it in the hands of others. He maintained possession of it until he let his nephew Gerhard A. Krubsack buy it for a token amount to use in advertising his furniture business, Noritage Furniture of Embarrass, Wisconsin.

In 1988 the chair was summoned to make another appearance, this time to be sat upon by an actor in the costume of Mickey Mouse, at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, on the occasion of the character’s 60th birthday. Currently the chair sits inside a special Plexiglas case at the entrance of Noritage Furniture, the furniture manufacturing business now owned by John Krubsack’s descendants, Steve and Dennis Krubsack.

Sadly it seems that Noritage Furniture has been closed in the meantime.

Via John Krubsack – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

On the positive site however I’ve found a site Tree Shapers featuring several similar grown chairs.

TG12 Sling Side Chair by William Katavolos, Ross Littell and Douglas Kelly

TG12 Sling Side Chair  by William Katavolos, Ross Littell and Douglas Kelly

TG12 Sling Side Chair by William Katavolos, Ross Littell and Douglas Kelly

I’ve been searching endlessly to connect some dots and pieces, but looked in the wrong direction as I misread Gratz Industries as Graz Industries and landed in the Austrian city rather than in Long Island City where Gratz Industries is located nowadays and still produces its Gratz Archive collection of which the TG12 forms a part.

Part of the dots and pieces I could connect thanks to the site Chairpedia, a portal to the (US) contract furniture business. There I also learned how NEOCON was born.

William Katavolos or Bill Katavolos is a professor at Pratt.

Ross Littell died in 2000, age 75.

 History of Gratz Industries

Gratz Industries began as Treitel-Gratz with owners Frank [ed: there seems an error on their site calling him Frak] Gratz and Harold Treitel in 1929 in their mid -town Manhattan studio…

Industrial design giant Raymond Lowey commissioned Treitel-Gratz for creation of many prototypes, models and appliance designs.

Donald Deskey, another influential designer of the day, designed custom architectural metal elements and furniture for Radio City Music Hall and its impresario Roxy Rothafel that Treitel-Gratz fabricated in 1932.

It was also during these early years that Florence Knoll asked Treitel-Gratz to manufacture the Mies Van Der Rohe designed Barcelona Chairs, ottomans and day beds, as well as the Tugengdhat and Brno chairs for which the company became so well known.

The company also developed a relationship with sculptor Isamu Noguchi and worked on the iconic rocking stools and other furniture designs. The work continued on various sculptures , models prototypes as well as bases, supports and armatures that were developed for Mr. Noguchi, Gratz Industries still provides custom metal work for the Noguchi Museum.

The second world war brought Treitel-Gratz many commissions from the defense department and related industries and Treitel-Gratz designed and provided seating for the Navy as well as developing instrument control panels for the Air Force.

Treitel-Gratz continued to serve the architectural and interior design community in New York creating work for Philip Johnson and I. M. Pei and partners as well as Skidmore, Owens, and Merrill, and others. The connection with artists and sculptors continued as Alexander Lieberman and Sol Le Witt discovered the artisan-quality craftsmanship and attention to detail that Gratz Industries still provides today.

Furniture design companies such as Donghia and La Verne also commisioned Gratz to produce their work, as well as Nicos Zographos, for whom Gratz continues production of over 100 items from chair frames, bases, and tables to upholstered benches. Gratz recently provided the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington DC with 18 of the Zographos designed upholstered benches for seating in the galleries.

Gratz Industries worked with mimimalist sculptor Donald Judd on many seminal metal wall pieces and later produced the “lightning rods” for Walter De Maria‘s “Lightning Field” installation in New Mexico. Mr. De Maria continues to have work fabricated by Gratz Industries as does the Alexander Lieberman estate, for whom they fabricated many metal sculptures in the 1970’s. Art furniture legend Frosty Meyers has a long standing relationship with Gratz Industries and his expressive 1980s sculptural furniture was produced at Gratz’s shop. Frosty continues to work with Gratz Industries in the development and fabrication of his work.

Architects Gwathmey-Siegel and Deborah Berke, Richard Meier, Philip Johnson, and I. M. Pei have also worked with our company on assorted architectural metal installations and the artist Maya Lin created her ceiling mounted clock entitled “Eclipsed Time” in the concourse and PennStation .

Gratz Industries continues its tradition of service and last year designed and fabricated improved umpire chairs for the United States Tennis Association that were previewed at the 2006 U.S. Open at Arther Ashe Stadium. Gratz Industries is proud to have developed a working relationship with engineer/architect and artist Santiago Calatrava as he establishes his New York headquarters where Gratz Industries provided custom metal work, and railings…

Selling Out Chandigarh (02) – Kangaroo Chair by Pierre Jeanneret

Kangaroo Chair by Pierre Jeanneret

Jeanneret-lounge-chair-1960

Selling Out Chandigarh (2)

I started this series about the Selling Out of Chandigarh Furniture in March (time flies) with this post: Selling out Chandigarh (01) – Introduction. I came across more posts adressing the issue and would like to share some with you:

Midcenturia (the second photo is theirs) devoted a long post on the subject with some nice photos of the process of building Chandigarh. In a comment somebody pointed to a satirical post of Mondo Blog giving rise to some heated debate. Some would call it the “looting” of Chandigarh. The same people behind the Indian adventure (as they call it) were part of stripping some African countries from Jean Prouvé furniture that was sold in auctions all over the place for ginormous amounts: In one of the comments I found these wise words:

You know, this isn’t all. Chandigar’s been getting picked clean of its Le Corbusier furniture, fixtures–and manhole covers for years now.

The part where pickers bribe petty bureaucrats to look the other way while they load their offices and guest houses into a truck makes me angry; but the part where pickers save or salvage the same furniture from garbage bins and government surplus sales makes me want to thank them. The part where some random Chandigarhian is walking home drunk and falls into an open manhole because some dealer wants to make a fast EUR 18,000 at Artcurial, well…

Why post now?

The direct reason for this post was I visited Vienna in February and visited the Dorotheum building while there was another auction on display (Their 2012 Leap Day auction).

“Kangaroo” chair or “Chauffeuse” or more simple: Lounge Chair

Thereafter I rummaged around on their site a bit and found this Chandigarh chair.

I believe it is one of the neater furniture designs for Chandigarh.

I’m royally amazed each time I see a piece of the reasonably raw Chandigarh furniture fetch a high bid at an auction.

designed by Pierre Jeanneret for the Administrative Buildings in Chandigarh, c. 1955, teak, Indian rosewood, woven cane, height 60 cm, width 55 cm, depth 63 cm. (DR) Provenance: Administrative Buildings, Chandigarh, India. Lit.: E. Touchaleaume, G. Moreau, Le Corbusier. Pierre Jeanneret. L’Aventure indienne, Paris 2010, p. 570 (PJ-SI-59-A).

Specialist: Dr. Gerti Draxler
estimate EUR 15.000,- to 20.000,- (USD 21.500,- to 28.500,-)

Auction Date: 22.11.2011 – 17:00
Location: Palais Dorotheum
Public Viewing: 12.11. – 22.11.2011
Category: Design
realized price* EUR 15.180,- *USD 21.500,-

Via Dorotheum.

1937 Yacht Chair by Sybold van Ravesteyn

1937 Yacht Chair by Sybold van Ravesteyn Side View

1937 Yacht Chair by Sybold van Ravesteyn Front

1937 Yacht Chair by Sybold van Ravesteyn

This chair was designed by Dutch Architect Sybold Van Ravesteijn for former Dutch furniture manufacturer Mutters (Its full name was “Koninklijke Nederlandsche Meubelfabriek H.P. Mutters & Zn N.V.”) who was involved in the design of the interior for the Royal Motor Yacht Piet Hein which was donated by the Dutch to their former Queen Juliana at the occasion of her wedding with Prince Bernhard in 1937.

Sometimes I take photos of chairs somewhere just without knowing what the name or provenance of the chair is. That happened with this chair a while ago. Now via Pinterest I came across the blog of Ileen Montijn – Ilog who at about the same time had made a photo of the same chair. It was on exposition here in my home town The Hague in the The Hague Municipal Museum of Modern Art. Her explanation gave me the clue to share it with you. Thank you Ileen!