The ‘Your Home Needs This’ series is all about profiling a must-have design that is on my wishlist or in my own home – telling the story behind the object and its creation. As Fritz Hansen releases a special, new, velvet version of Arne Jacobsen’s famous Series 7 chair, I thought it was a good chance to take a closer look back at what makes this design in particular so timeless and enduring.
With its sinuous, steam-bent shell and slender, metal legs, the Series 7 is instantly recognisable as a classic whether in the home or the office. It may have been designed over six decades ago, but this chair still holds a distinctive sense of style and allure thanks to a bold silhouette that seems to transgress eras, tastes and fashions.
The velvet version, for instance, could be equally at home in an 18th-century chateau as a bang on trend 21st-century home. It is the result of a collaboration with Berlin-based fashion label lala Berlin, pairing contemporary fashion with modern design.
Inspired by founder Layla Piedayesh’s Iranian heritage, the new edition comes in burgundy red and luxurious midnight blue, with powder coated legs in matching colours. The two styles are rich and warm yet still retain their minimal expression.
She explains: ‘Velvet brings back memories of my childhood in Iran; velvet, like no other material, can take me on a journey to another time,
‘The dark blue takes me back to midnights in the city of Isfahan, Iran, and the Cimmerian water of the Caspian sea, and when I see the burgundy shade, I can almost taste the barberries used in traditional Iranian cuisine’.
But let’s go back. One of the most copied chairs in the world, the Series 7 chair was originally designed by Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen in 1955.
Made of pressure-moulded sliced veneer, it was a development of his Ant chair (first on the left below), a stackable, three-legged design developed a couple of years earlier in 1952. Inspired by the bent plywood designs of Charles and Ray Eames, the seat and back are formed of the same piece of wood veneer, narrowed at the ‘waist’ to create the form of an ant. By reducing the elements of the chair down to just a few pieces – the seat and legs – the chair could be manufactured quickly, efficiently and sold at an affordable price.
The Series 7 chair, first called model 3107, followed the same principles as the Ant chair using plywood, but developed a much more curved, feminine form. The versatile, functional piece was designed to be used everyday – in the home, at the desk, stacked in classrooms and meeting rooms, which is where you’ll still find them today.
The enduring popularity is as much down to its design as the careful craftsmanship of the chair. To make a Series 7 chair, thin layers or plies of wood veneer are layered up and cut into the curved form you see above, if you imagined it laid out flat. A machine then presses and mould the wood, using steam to distort it into shape. The shell is trimmed and the edges refined, before being hand sanded and buffed to perfection. Chairs can then be upholstered if needed, and fitted with legs or castors.
There’s a fascinating video you can watch of the making process here:
Since its birth, Fritz Hansen has sold more than 5 million Series 7 chairs – that’s a huge amount if you imagine them still in homes across the world.
One of the successes is that it comes in multiple varieties. There’s 9 different veneers available as well as coloured ash and lacquered finishes in 12 different colours. Then there’s fully upholstered versions in fabric or leather, not to mention the various bases – a height adjustable swivel with castors for the office and a low or high bar stool base too. It really could fit at home anywhere.
This year two new colours – deep red Merlot and the serene pastel Nude with a 22 karat rose gold coated base – were released just for 2017. They’re grown-up and glamorous yet soft and feminine.
The possibilities are endless, which leaves me thinking what will Fritz Hansen do next?
All images courtesy Republic of Fritz Hansen. The special lala Berlin x Republic of Fritz Hansen collection is available in Republic of Fritz Hansen Concept Stores as well as selected stores worldwide until October 2018