Los Angeles Magazine
100 YEARS OF THE LA CHAIR
By: BILL STERN
Charles and Ray Eames came to the right place. When the young couple arrived here in 1941, Southern California was already renowned for redefining America’s notions of architecture, design, even lifestyle. Modernist R.M. Schindler and ranch house creator Cliff May had transformed the concept of what a home is. Walt Disney had made brooms dance, and the McDonald brothers were making food fast. The revolutionary molded plywood and fiberglass chairs the Eameses would invent came directly out of this creative ferment. But for half a century before the “shell” and the “potato chip” chairs became international phenomena in the ‘50s, Los Angeles designers were -- as they have been for the half century since -- reconfiguring this seemingly mundane object into every imaginable shape. The chair is the ultimate challenge for designers, daring them, as Eudorah Moore, director of the landmark California Design exhibitions of the 1960s and ‘70s, puts it, “to re-form this basic need of everyday life and to push the limits of new materials and new technologies.” And, quite often to push the limits of aesthetics, for as L.A. designer Charles Hollis Jones says, “Chairs, like sculptures, are observed from all around.” The evolution of the chair chronicles the city’s development in surprising detail, from its rustic roots to its birth as an aerospace center to its technology-fueled neomodernist tendencies today. Here, then, are 16 history makers in a century of sitting pretty.
1968 Furniture designers experimented with a wild array of materials and forms in the 1960s, but Charles Hollis Jones’ Lucite dining room chair from 1968 was surely one of the bolder creations. Unlike most other Lucite seating, his was held together solely with adhesive; there wasn’t a single bolt or fastener. Tennessee Williams liked the chair so much he gave it its name: the Wisteria chair.