Is This the ‘It’ Chair of 2023? Interior Designers Think So
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Is This the ‘It’ Chair of 2023? Interior Designers Think So

Folksy wooden seats that hail from midcentury Europe and Scandinavia—which some design pros are calling brutalist in style—are showing up everywhere

By ANTONIA VAN DER MEER
Thu, Jan 12, 2023 8:59amGrey Clock 3 min

AN UNFUSSY and downright brutish, midcentury vintage chair design has been muscling its way into even the most traditional of homes lately. Though no cozy La-Z-Boy, the seat is getting high marks for a wabi-sabi style that celebrates imperfections, thanks to exposed bolts, obvious joints, plain-Jane planks and unpolished wood. Some look like little more than two pieces of wood attached to legs, but keyhole details or sculpted backs can make them sweeter. Designers and dealers are calling the increasingly in-demand seats, which hail primarily from Scandinavia and Europe, brutalist. At online marketplace 1stDibs, searches for “brutalist chair” are up 115% year over year.

“These mid- to late-century chairs are raw, organic and almost harsh,” said Maureen Ursino, an interior designer in Colts Neck, N.J., who’s been buying them for clients because they add “a contemporary element in not too intense of a way.” Recently she placed a single Danish pinewood chair, likely a survivor of the 1970s, in the bathroom of a Larchmont, N.Y., home. “I used it as a decorative accent, as though it were a piece of art,” she said.

Heidi Caillier planted an oak example from Germany in a child’s bedroom in San Francisco. The Seattle-based designer welcomes “the sense of patina” the seats bring to a project: “Like maybe this chair has been in this family for years and keeps being passed down but also is not too precious.”

Though this simple wood chair is unquestionably trending, skeptics take issue with its equally buzzy “brutalist” label. Florence de Dampierre, author of “Chairs: A History” decries that description as sloppy. “Brutalism refers to an architectural style from the ’60s, of concrete,” she said. “The term for this kind of modern chair might more appropriately be handicraft.” Meanwhile, Los Angeles interior designer Martha Mulholland traces its influences to the rustic modern Scandinavian simplicity of Axel Einhar Hjorth and 18th-century Tyrolean furniture. (The Future Perfect, a retailer of collectible pieces, labels its examples above as such.) “The beauty of the design is in the simplicity of seeing the wood grain and joinery detail,” said Ms. Mulholland. She prefers to classify the seats as European Primitive Modern: “I would say the chair is more primitive than brutal, but it’s a matter of semantics.”

At Chairish, a reseller of vintage design where interest in the terms “brutalist” and “wabi-sabi” are building, Noel Fahden Briceño, vice president of merchandising, says European dealers first applied the term. Although the name is being used loosely, she said, “when dealers started titling these chairs ‘brutalist,’ I said, OK, I can see that.”

Whatever you want to call the seats, designers are embracing the little brutes because they are unexpected. “I like that they feel unrecognisable,” said Ms. Caillier. “So many chairs have become trendy and overused, but it’s hard to find the same one of these chairs more than once.”

The design is also proving quite versatile. “There is a boldness and sharp sculptural quality to them, and they can hold their own in any room because they are simple,” said Ms. Mulholland. “They can cover a lot of ground aesthetically.” She recently used a couple of primitive three-legged walnut chairs underneath the living room windows of a home in Los Angeles’s Lafayette Square. The historic Craftsman home boasts its original unpainted mahogany woodwork. “I was playing into that masculinity,” she said, “but I also liked the contrast of putting the chair up against a pink velvet drape.”

The chairs’ roughness tends to clash intriguingly with softer, more feminine elements like that. This visual dissonance has helped fuel their popularity. “You can use one chair as an accent piece, even if the rest of the room is refined,” said Ms. Fahden Briceño.

Ms. Ursino says these chairs are not known for their coziness and may need a little help—she upholstered the seats of brutalist chairs she set around a game table to boost their comfort. Other designers are stationing them around meal tables, however. Los Angeles interior designer Lauren Piscione placed eight barrel-backed examples in a dining room, their rugged homeyness contributing to the calm of the space.

In a Tudor revival by Seattle interior designer Lisa Staton, a family of five pulls up oak versions made in the Netherlands in the 1970s. A depression in the seat makes them quite comfortable, said Akash Niranjan, the father in the household. “We work from home three days a week and often find ourselves sitting at the dining room table for long stretches and have not had any issues,” he said. “Our three young kids like them as well.”



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Sparkling wine flows as Australian winemaker takes out top international award

The Tasmanian-based winemaker was among a number of Australian producers to be honoured at the event in London this week

By Robyn Willis
Thu, Jul 11, 2024 2 min

An Australian winemaker has taken out the top prize for sparkling wine at the International Wine Challenge, the first time a local winemaker has done so. It marks just the second time in the competition’s 40-year history that the award has gone to a winemaker outside France’s Champagne region.

Tasmanian-based House of Arras’ chief winemaker, Ed Carr, was presented with the award for Sparkling Winemaker of the Year at a special ceremony in London earlier this week.

“I’m incredibly honoured to be named this year’s Sparkling Winemaker of the Year. It’s a challenge to describe the feeling, but I’m proud to be recognised amongst my peers for such a significant international award,” Mr Carr said.

The IWC is considered one of the world’s most rigorous and impartial wine competitions. This year, France topped the medal tally with 72 gold, 394 silver and 455 bronze medals – extending their haul by 84 more wins than last year.  

The 40-year-old competition is considered one of the most influential events in the winemaking calendar.

Australian winemakers took out second place, with 54 gold, 250 silver and 154 bronze medals. Australia also won 19 trophies, 10 of which went to South Australia.

House of Arras also received the Australian Sparkling Trophy for its 2014 House of Arras Blanc de Blancs, as well as two gold and six silver medals.

Tasmania’s cool climate and soil make it ideal for producing world-class sparkling wine says Ed Carr (pictured).

Mr Carr said Tasmania’s cool climate and terroir were equal to the world’s best sparkling wine regions. The wins follow a strong showing this year at Australia’s National Wine Show and the Decanter World Wine Awards, where House of Arras also collected awards.

“2024 has been an outstanding year on the awards front, and I’m honoured to add this recent recognition from the International Wine Challenge to the mantle,” he said. 

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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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