Marcel Lajos Breuer was a designer and architect best known for his design of the iconic Wassily Chair, as well as his contribution to modern architecture. He left art school after finding out he didn’t like the study of painting and became an apprentice to a Viennese architect instead. Throughout his career, Breuer’s architecture and design underwent several, but distinct and recognizable phases. Besides being an architect and an educator, he was also a very good furniture designer. Ultimately, Breuer made a huge impact on modernist architecture and design. In fact, his furniture designs are so influential and popular that they are still being produced by some furniture companies today.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a German-American architect who was best known for “skin and bones” architecture, as he called it. Mies never had any formal training but he grew up helping his father with construction work. By the age of 15, he was already apprenticed to a number of architects around town. In 1913, Mies opened up his own shop in Lichterfelde. The First World War derailed his career for a little while as Mies served in the military. After the war, he came back and started to design in a more modernist style. By the mid-1920s, Mies had established himself as a leading avant-garde architect.

If we think of the aesthetics of the 80’s, we immediately make a mental image of bright colours, graphic patterns, and asymmetrical shapes. We can thank the Memphis Group for this. One of them was Ettore Sottsass, an Italian architect and designer. After working with his father on restoring destroyed buildings during the war, he moved to Milan to set up his own design studio. During this time, he experimented with working on a variety of media. Sottsass, with his experimental mind, created the Memphis Group as a way to join forces with his colleagues who share his design principles. Ultimately, he changed the way people see mundane objects.

Eero Saarinen was a Finnish American architect and designer. His famous designs would include the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri and the Womb Chair. This neo-futuristic designer started receiving critical recognition when he was working with his father. He then went on and won several awards. The most notable of these awards was from an architectural competition for what would later be known as the Gateway Arch National Park. Aside from his architectural works, Eero also designed furniture, oftentimes including them in his architectural designs of building interiors. Despite his relatively short career, Eero is an indelible mark on architecture and his furniture designs are highly sought after up to this day.

Le Corbusier was born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret in Switzerland. He eventually acquired a French citizenship and got the pseudonym: Le Corbusier. Even though Jeanneret had no formal training as an architect, he designed numerous structures throughout Europe. Following his father’s footsteps, he first studied watch engraving under Charles L’Eplattenier. Ironically, it was his teacher who got him into architecture. When he moved to Paris, he became busy with exhibits, lectures, publishing books, and architectural projects. Le Corbusier conceptualized new ways to classify furniture. Despite the controversies of his socio-political ties, one could argue that he played an immense role in the birth of modern design and architecture.

Born to a bootmaker, Douglas Snelling already had a design business at 16 and was employing other boys. He had a passion for Hollywood films and his dream was fulfilled when he travelled to Los Angeles to work as a freelancer for film studios, doing sketches of stars onset. He became a popular writer and cartoonist in New Zealand. In 1940, Snelling moved to Sydney where he would spend most of his life. He began designing some of Sydney’s shop fit-outs after World War II. He then developed a range of furniture, which was considered the first modernist chairs designed by an Australian. Thus, the “Snelling Line” was born.

Fritz Karl Heinz Lowenstein was born in Upper Silesia, Germany. After making it to England to escape from Nazis, he arrived in Australia aboard the Dunera. He began selling wooden dinnerware despite having very little knowledge of wood. He met Ernest Rodeck, who was making pencil propellers at that time. It was this fateful moment that they struck a partnership and opened their own small workshop. Fred Ward, a designer of Myer Emporium, convinced Lowen to make chairs after noticing his craftsmanship. Fred Lowen then refined his skill. He won several awards like the Dunhill Design Award in 1970. Today, his designs have reclaimed the spotlight alongside those of notable designers like Boyd, Featherston and Parker.

Fred Lowen and Ernest Rodeck never imagined they would become founders of one of the most sought-after brands for modern furniture when they first came to Australia. Being Jewish, they escaped from Nazi Europe and arrived on the prison ship Dunera. The name Fler is a combination of the initials of their names. Fler furniture leaned towards the modern styles and gradually took the limelight from the cumbersome and dark English style furniture. The growing interest in mid-century furniture has allowed Fler furniture back into the spotlight. Up to this day, their pieces are being sought out by antique sellers and restorers.

A partnership between Alf Dagger and Jack Parker is what started Parker Furniture. However, it was Jack’s eldest son, Tony Parker, who turned the company into an icon. While working for his father during the day, Tony took night courses for industrial design. He drew plans for homes and interiors. He honed his skills in managing a team and measuring the success of a design during his stay in London. With Tony at the helm, Parker Furniture incorporated the innovations and iconic designs of the times, but the company still made certain that their products maintained the same quality and attention to detail their brand was known for.

Did you know that the house on Walsh Street was originally designed by Robin Boyd for his own family? This house is considered, both nationally and internationally, as an example of modern Australian architecture. Having designed the house, the influential Victorian architect thought it was only fitting that he creates the furniture as well. Each was masterfully crafted to be beautiful, yet comfortable and built for everyday use. Up until today, each piece of furniture from the Boyd Collection is made from Australian hardwood and Australian wool fabrics. With the help of the original drawings, each item faithfully follows the exact specifications and functional solutions that Boyd imposed on his originals.  

The term “Mid-Century Modern” was already being used as early as the mid-50s, but it wasn’t until author Cara Greenberg mentioned it in her 1983 book, as a descriptor of the design aesthetics at the time, that it gained attention. The term is now used to define a design movement originating from a bygone era, specifically those from the mid-40s to the early 70s. This was due to the renewed interest in furniture designs which began in the early 20th century. Despite the advent of postmodern aesthetics, mid-century modern never truly went into a decline. Nowadays, mid-century pieces are still highly sought-after in auctions and sales. Even authorised reproductions are in high demand.

Huon Pine : The Chests and Davenport

Lagarostrobos franklinii is a species of conifer native to the wet southwestern corner of Tasmania, Australia. It is often known as the Huon pine or Macquarie pine, although it is actually a podocarp, not a true pine. Join Jason and discover three ways this beautiful timber has been used by cabinet makers.

The Tasmanian chair is delicately balanced and finely worked and displays a congruence with Sheraton’s finest aspirations for chair making. All of the decoration owes its origins to Hope – no other chair recorded has the fineness of detail and superior design, form and construction of this chair.

At the end of the Second World War, designers led the trend for futuristic designs in a bid to forget the horrors of the past. Of all the designers that grew to prominence in that era, few can surpass the legacy left by Grant Featherston. In 1947, Featherston launched his Relaxation Series. This series was designed to be aesthetically pleasing and timeless without sacrificing comfort. This cemented Grant Featherston as a household name

Mid Century Bonanza

The “Mid-Century Cycle” has been on us now for over a 15 years in Australia.  Typical cycles run between 8 and 15 years, are we at the end?  No.  The market is still very strong with increasing demand the local and international prices at auction continue to rocket.  It seems we just cant get enough.