Hello and Welcome to DOCENT - your guide to design intelligence, creative solutions and earthly beauty.
Today’s DOCENT Briefing explores the birth of modernity through the emergence of Easy Seats - and what happened next. Note: My anecdotal account of the early days of interior decoration are derived from the wonderful book by Joan DeJean entitled The Age of Comfort When Paris Discovered Casual and the Modern Home Began.
THE AGE OF COMFORT AND THE FIRST SOFAS, 1670-1720
Before Louis XIV and his mistresses began their lifestyle revolution which embraced a new comfort and casual styles, there were only a few types of furniture being used in homes. "Furniture" (from the Latinmobilis, mobile, or that which can be moved) was designed to travel when relocation became necessary due to war, famine or disease. But in seventeenth-century France, creating softened, padded, upholstered props for living became part of a flurry of furnishings innovation which brought with it a new posture and physical pose. The comfortable and expansive sofa beckoned and encouraged a behavior previously unheard-of. Reclining with legs stretched comfortably allowed for a new state of ease. Looser clothing styles even evolved to support this new way of sitting. With the advent of the sofa, the joy of lounging came to be.
Jean-Francois de Troy The Declaration of Love c.1720
The softened wings of the sofa (called joues, or cheeks, in French) allow for a place to rest the cheek.
ICONIC CHAIRS, 1950-1970
Flash forward, the iconic chair becomes a symbol of imagination and practicality fused, becomes a relic of functionality and beauty, becomes individualist sculpture. These chairs are elemental. In the 20th century, these chairs dutifully serve their function, yet come to represent a pared-down essence and artistic flair.
Pantone Stacking Chair ; Eames LCW ; Mies Van Der Rohe Barcelona Chair ; Platner Arm Chair
THE CHAIR FOR CHAIR'S SAKE, 2019
The Chair, a current exhibit at the New York contemporary design gallery THE FUTURE PERFECT indicates that the chair has been fully liberated. Its history is no longer relevant, its function is optional and subjective. The chair can now capitalize on its integral iconic status to make a statement, to present a thought or to ask a question. Perhaps in our time, The Chair is more a modern platform for discussion - than a seat.
As a young student, I remember my distaste when a drafting teacher looked over my shoulder at my decorative furnishings sketches. They were creative, yet admittedly a mish-mash of styles and details. There were sofas and wallcoverings, cabinets and window fashions galore. “You can’t just make them up! After all, there is nothing new under the sun”, she declared. How dare she! ... wasn’t each idea a vision newly conceived? Fresh to be explored? “She must be terribly mistaken and certainly dead inside”, I concluded.
Today I'm pleased to note, that although she was probably more correct than not, she had only been correct for about 400 years.