An article appeared in Playboy magazine in July of 1961 titled ‘Designs for Living” which directed attention to the leading creators of contemporary American furniture, of which we now refer to as “midcentury design.” George Nelson, Edward Wormley, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, Charles Eames and Jens Rison were profiled. “Unfettered by dogma, the creators of contemporary American furniture have a flair for combining functionalism with esthetic enjoyment,” so states the article. The article read in its entirety is a fantastic piece, written to discisus the current state (back then) of what we now know of a period of such historical significance.
We’ve taken excerpts from that now famous article highlighting each of the six designers. It gives us a chance to look back at how they were thought of in their day, and to reflect on their meaning in present day.
“An early modern chair had an aura of fatalism about it; it had to look the way it did, just as von Stroheim had to spy and torture; it couldn’t help its swift lines and metallic glint any more than Dietrich could help falling in love again. There is nothing inevitable about a chair any longer. Today the machine is the collaborator rather than the determinant of a design.”
FIRST UP, GEORGE NELSON
“Wouldn’t it be beautiful,” George Nelson, one of today’s major designers, could say three years ago, to have some kind of sculptured metal leg on a piece of furniture?” – an idea that the Bauhaus would have condemned as frivolous and ungermane to the “soul” of steel. Nelson’s office promptly set about investigating how a suitable sculptured look could be attained by a machine process. That problem solved, Nelson further blasphemed against the Bauhaus commandments by inventing a way to hide the connections where the four sculptured legs, joined together to form a central pedestal.
ON THE NEXT PAGE, EERO SAARINEN...