The rocking chair is the most definitive of American furniture forms, holding a unique place in our history, homes, and hearts.
You may not know the name Michael Thonet, but you’ve probably sat in one of his chairs hundreds of times. Thonet was a German-Austrian furniture maker and designer who developed bentwood furniture and the incredibly popular No. 14 chair, known as the Cafe Chair, that is used in bistros and restaurants around the world.
To celebrate its renovation and reopening in the incredible Andrew Carnegie Mansion, New York’s Cooper Hewitt—Smithsonian Design Museum is showcasing a selection of its collection of 210,000 furniture and decorative objects from all over the world and spanning 30 centuries—with a new exhibit, “Making Design”, on exhibit now and, according to the Cooper Hewitt, “until it’s not.”
The mirror has been in existence almost as long as humankind. By legend, the first mirror was formed in the ancient Himalayas when a little brook tarried to rest itself, as if to ponder and reflect upon its course. Thereby, in time, the first woman walked and looking down into the pool was surprised by—another girl!—which she slowly came to understand as a reflection of herself.
Eileen Gray is a name closely tied to women’s dignified entrance into the male-dominated design world. Born in 1878, Eileen Gray was the youngest of five children of a wealthy Scots–Irish family. This privileged background allowed her to travel frequently and to attend prestigious private art schools in London and Paris. Nevertheless, because she was a woman, not even her advantageous upbringing and notable life experiences granted her access to important professional networks.
Duncan Phyfe, cabinetmaker, designed furniture just about 200 years ago. Yet his name, more than that of any other furniture maker in our history, embodies fine craftsmanship—fine American craftsmanship. His name has been whispered reverentially in art museums for decades, alongside the creators of the finest oil paintings and best porcelains. His is a legacy and a “brand” that tastemakers today would die for.
Almost all historical sources believe that the Ball & Claw design was derived from the Chinese: a dragon’s claw grasping a crystal ball, or a pearl, or sometimes a scared, flaming jewel. In Chinese mythology, the dragon (Emperor) would be guarding (with the triple claw foot) the symbol (ball - for wisdom, or purity) from evil forces trying to steal it.
Often while researching furniture design, people do not know exactly which designer they are looking for, when the designer lived, in what country, or how most furniture historians describe the designer’s style. Bienenstock Furniture Library offers this reference to help you to find the design information you seek.
Cosmic harmony. Who could pass that up? Not Greece 2000 years ago and not America and Europe 200 years ago. Apollo was the mythological god of music and dance, and his stringed lyre was thought to represent not just artistic sensibilities but also harmony and heavenly peace, social order, and all that was rational in ancient Greece.
Are futuristic and classic and mass-produced and organic all terms that can be used to describe just one chair? Let me introduce the Tulip Chair. Mostly defined by its formal unity and unique organic shape, this chair has been a symbol of futuristic thinking in furniture design since it was first introduced and mass-produced by Knoll as part of Eero Saarinen’s pedestal series in the 1950s.