Contemporary Accent Chairs

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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Since the advent of industrial design in the late 1800s, there are an increasing number of contemporary accent chairs that are introduced every year. In fact, prior to the Arts and Crafts movement in Europe around the turn of the 20th century, accent chairs had little to do with being "modern" at all--they were generally purely used for ornament. However, as a few key modern designers began to develop their styles, contemporary accent chairs became functionally, aesthetically, and commercially modern.

The Influence of the Bauhaus on Contemporary Accent Chairs

Some of the most important contemporary accent chair designs emerged from the Bauhaus, a German design school that existed until the mid-1930s. In the beginning, the Bauhaus elaborated on the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement--that is, craftsmanship, respect for materials, and aesthetic sensibilities, or "simplicity in multiplicity"--and refined them into an institution that became a prototype for modern art instruction. Walter Gropius, the founder of the school, and his contemporaries believed in training the next generation of designers to combine aesthetics with a thorough knowledge of modern production methods and tools.

The Bauhaus soon became interested with mass production methods. In the late 1920s, Bauhaus designers such as Marcel Breuer and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy began working with modern materials that had more relevance to common mass production techniques than the earlier custom, handmade approach. Some of the most famous designs for contemporary accent chairs, such as Breuer's Wassily chair, embody the approach of beautiful, functional design for modern production methods.

Though not all European designers of modern accent chairs are Bauhaus alum, many are related to the school in some way. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the designer of the much-revered Barcelona chairs, was director of the Bauhaus from 1930-1933, and, like Le Corbusier, knew Gropius from early in their careers, when they all worked for architect and designer Peter Behrens. Through the development of the International style in the first half of the 20th century, these designers created a look for modernity that reflected the lifestyle of the times.

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