Design Moment: Grasshopper chair, 1931

Grasshopper chair, 1931

Grasshopper chair, 1931

 

Lounge chairs made of fabric webbing and bent wood are so familiar there’s a tendency to see them as being pretty much all the same – and that’s probably because they take inspiration from the work of key 20th-century designers. Bruno Mathsson, the Swedish furniture designer is one such figure.

In the 1930s, while working in the family carpentry firm, he studied ergonomics including the mechanics of sitting down, famously plonking himself in snowdrifts to see the shape his body left behind. He came to international attention in 1937 at the World Exhibition in Paris, where he won a Grand Prix for a bed design, but it is his Grasshopper Chair that he is probably now most known for.

Not everyone understood what he was trying to do with his ergonomic approach and his rejection of padded and sprung upholstery. He designed the Grasshopper Chair in 1931, with linen webbing and laminated beech bent wood, for the waiting room at Värnamo Hospital. The name was an inspired nickname but the chairs were so disliked by the staff for being ugly that, after a while, they put them in the attic.

While the chair is in design museums worldwide, it is also a feature of contemporary Swedish homes - it has stayed desirable and relevant, the holy grail of furniture design.

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