Is This the ‘It’ Chair of 2023? Interior Designers Think So | Kanebridge News
Kanebridge News
Share Button

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

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.”


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
Italy, Land of Uncollected Garbage, Combines Running With Trash Pickup
By ERIC SYLVERS 04/10/2023
Jean Arnault Has New Goals for Louis Vuitton Watches. Profit Isn’t One of Them.
By NICK KOSTOV 03/10/2023
Love Patterns? Try This Design Trick to Pull Any Room Together
By KATE MORGAN 02/10/2023
Italy, Land of Uncollected Garbage, Combines Running With Trash Pickup

At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

Wed, Oct 4, 2023 4 min

GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
How Research in Space Helps Doctors Treat People on Earth
By BRIAN GORMLEY 25/09/2023
Italy, Land of Uncollected Garbage, Combines Running With Trash Pickup
By ERIC SYLVERS 04/10/2023
Residential building approvals on the rebound
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop