Sunday, July 12, 2009

Outdoor Lounging - A Modern Classic

When I think of the perfect outdoor lounge chair, two images come to mind. One is the traditional and classic Muskoka Chair (more on that in the next post) and the other, is the iconic modern Butterfly chair, also known as, the BKF Chair, or the Hardoy Chair.

The Butterfly chair is a favorite of mine because of its sculptural lines, its affordability, its flexibility, it can be used both indoors or out,,,,and folds up or stacks for easy storage, and the covers can be easily replaced or changed. With its steel frame and hammock like seat it evokes a relaxed mid-century style - this chair will instantly add a hip modern edge to any setting. I prefer it used in either simple modern, or simple rustic settings.

In 1937, Antonio Bonet, Juan Kurchan and Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy apprenticed under architect/designer Le Corbusier in Paris; the following year they invented the "BKF" or butterfly chair. In 1941, MoMA design director Edgar Kaufmann Jr. brought the first two chairs to the United States. One chair went to the museum, the other to Fallingwater, his home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Most people associate this retro cool looking chair with the 50's when it was being mass produced, its hard to believe it was actually designed in the 30's and first used in North America in a Frank Lloyd Wright house.

The chair was originally mass-produced by Artek-Pascoe. In 1947 Knoll acquired US production rights of the Hardoy butterfly chair, bringing international notice and commercial success to the design. Unlicensed knock-offs and the loss of a Knoll copyright suit have made this one of the most copied chairs of modern design and it became one of the most widely copied chairs in existence. After losing their claim of copyright infringement, Knoll dropped the chair from its line in 1951.

In 1997 Circa50 resumed mass-production of the chair to the exact dimensions of the Knoll version. Their frames are solid steel and do not fold or disassemble. Both black and stainless steel frames are historically correct, while stainless steel offers additional benefits: stacks for easy storage; contains 75% recycled steel and is totally recyclable; does not corrode or rust as easily as ordinary steel. An estimated 5 million of these chairs were produced during the 1950's by numerous manufacturers under various name and all varying in size. Circa50 makes covers for any size. Today, the canvas covers in use at Fallingwater are made by Circa50.

Steel Frame and cowhide cover by Circa50.

Folding frame and leather cover by Urban Outfitters.

Butterfly chair shown both inside Frank Lloyd Wrights Fallingwater house, and outside (below).

The ultra chic Parker Palm Springs hotel.

The Starlux Hotel, NJ.

The butterfly chair in a bamboo garden.

I owned a house last summer that I was renovating, we actually didn't do any new work to the backyard but it had a big huge beautiful tree and large level deck. I brought over a couple of my butterfly chairs and set them up under the tree and we sat and had lunch or coffee there almost every day. We often received comments on how great the backyard looked,,it was quite a mess actually but I think the chairs alone just brought a whole new modern vibe to the setting. (this picture was taken during a freaky summer hail storm)

Used indoors as often as outdoors. This image and more of this home can be seen at Dwell magazine.

The mesh version in all black seen in Elle Decor.

Today the Butterfly chair is part of these permanent collections; MoMA, Fallingwater, Knoll Museum, Vitra Design Museum.

Photos: Canadian House & Home, Knoll, Knoll, Circa50, Urban Outfitters, Flickr, Parker Palm Springs Hotel, Starlux Hotel, Flickr, Carol Reed, Dwell, Elle Decor, Living Etc., Country and Modern by Dinah Hall, Style at Home May 2008