Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nelson Marshmallow Sofa


Designed in 1956 by George Nelson and Irving Harper, the Marshmallow Sofa is wholly unique. The Marshmallow Sofa is constructed of 18 urethane foam cushions floating on a brushed tubular steel frame. This design was originally intended for high traffic public areas. The cushions are easily removable to facilitate easy cleaning and allow for rotation to distribute wear evenly. You can also create new looks if you have a multiple color version. This sofa was only produced until 1965 so vintage pieces are rare. Herman Miller again started producing the Marshmallow Sofa in 1999 after a 34-year hiatus.

The 1956 Herman Miller catalogue stated, “Despite its astonishing appearance, this piece is very comfortable.”

The list price of the sofa starts at $2,899 for the crepe or vinyl version, with a leather version available for $3,699. Remember, the vintage 1956 – 1965 versions are quite rare. They were however designed for public use and therefore do survive quite well.

George Nelson Ball Clock


George Nelson designed the Ball Clock in 1949. The clock was part of a series of timepieces called The Chronopak. These clocks were designed for the Howard Miller Clock Company. The shape of the clock is borrowed from science; it is reminiscent of the shape of an atom. These are indeed clocks for the atomic age.

Interestingly enough, George Nelson admits to not designing the clock. As the story goes, Nelson had been working on some clock designs. One night Nelson was hanging out with other Mid-Century heavy hitters along with Bucky Fuller, Isamu Noguchi and others. While enjoying drinks, they all “contributed” by sketching their personal variations of clocks on some drafting paper. The next day, while looking at the drafting paper, Nelson found this design. Whoever designed it, the clock succeeded in selling and in becoming an iconic piece of the 50’s.

The clocks are still produced by Herman Miller and list for $315. They are also available second hand. They were produced in significant numbers and are still fairly easy to find.

Nelson Swag Leg Desk


Nelson designed the Swag Leg Desk in 1958. The desk is part of the Herman Miller swag leg group. The sides and back of this desk are solid walnut; the writing surface is white laminate. There are five cubbies separated by four colored dividers — two orange, one blue and one chartreuse. The legs are machine tapered and curved with a process called swaging.

The desk was out of production for a number of years, but is again being produces by Herman Miller. The desk’s newfound popularity is dew in part to the popularity of laptops. The design is as current and relevant as it was in 1958.

The desk lists for $1,799. There are occasional vintages pieces available on Ebay, but I have seen them sell at prices near that of the new production.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Meet George Nelson

Photo Credit Herman Miller Company

George Nelson is considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of American Modernism.

George Nelson was born in Hartford Connecticut in 1908. He studied architecture at Yale University where he graduated in 1928. He also received a degree in fine arts in 1931.

Nelson had a career that spanned 50 years. His big break came when he was named the first associate editor of Architectural Forum Magazine He held that position from 1935 – 1943. He continued to working for the magazine as a consulting editor from 1944 – 1949.

Nelson’s accomplishments continued to firmly place him at the front of the Modern movement. In his book, Tomorrow’s House, he introduced the concept of the “family room”.

In 1945, he became the director of design at Herman Miller. He worked for Herman miller for 25 years along with some of the most famous pioneers of the Modern movement. Some of his most famous designs were the Marshmallow Sofa, The Nelson Ball Clock and the Nelson Swag Leg Group.

Nelson died in New York in 1986.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Book Review: Modern Retro

Modern Retro

In keeping with our recent Mid-Century Modern theme I have posted a new book review. The book review for Modern Retro: Living With Mid-Century Modern Style is now up on the Book Reviews Page.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Eames Molded Plastic Rocker

1 roundup

Charles and Ray Eames designed the Eames Molded Plastic Rocker in 1948. Also known as the RAR (rocking armchair rod). The RAR was initially manufactured by Herman Miller and was the first ever mass-produced plastic chair. It was out of production for 30 years, but Herman Miller is again manufacturing an updated version of the RAR. The original was produced in fiberglass-reinforced plastic. The current, officially-licensed version is made of more environmentally friendly molded polypropylene. The rockers are made of maple and topped by the iconic Eames wire base. The current version is visually identical to the 1948 original.

This chair is a landmark design. It has an organic shape that is sculpted to fit the body and is made to be extremely durable for years of use. It was presented to The Museum of Modern Art in 1948 as part of an international low cost furniture design competition.

The Chair has a current list price of $449. Like many Mid-Century classics, it is occasionally possible to pick these chairs up at thrift stores and used furniture shops. It is also not uncommon for a vintage Herman Miller Molded Plastic Rocker to sell for well above the current new production list.