Accent Chairs

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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In the late 1800s, a new aesthetic developed that would eventually affect everything from accent chairs to silverware. The Arts and Crafts movement, which began in England, was a response to the exaggerated decoration that enveloped post-industrial revolution furniture designs. The designers who were associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, which included William Morris and (later) C. R. Mackintosh, sought to produce furniture that, through design, fulfilled its functionality to the highest degree possible.

Soon after, designers began developing accent chairs hat were comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and capable of being produced with modern materials and methods. In the early 1900s, organizations such as the Bauhaus were started as a way to spread the ideas of modern design. Many students--from all over Europe--of the Bauhaus formed their ideas and tempered their design sensibilities during their years in the international institution.

The Role of the Bauhaus in the Reinvention of Accent Chairs

Some of the most popular accent chairs to come out of the Bauhaus tradition are the chairs of designers like Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Both Breuer and Mies van der Rohe were originally students of Bauhaus instructors--Breuer a student at the Bauhaus in Weimar, and Mies an apprentice of Peter Behrens from before Behrens joined the Bauhaus--that became faculty at the new Bauhaus in Dessau. Both designers used thoroughly modern materials and manufacturing technologies to produce accent chairs that became instant "modern classics."

Breuer's furniture designs are known for their elegant simplicity. Structural principles such as cantilevering informed Breuer's work perhaps more than other Bauhaus designers, giving a cleanliness to many of Breuer's designs that has an air of professionalism. Mies van der Rohe is perhaps most well known for his Barcelona series of furniture, which was designed for the Barcelona World Exposition of 1928. The Barcelona series was influenced by traditional ideas of royalty and luxury--no doubt part of the reason that Barcelona chairs and ottomans still define luxury for many people even today.

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