Nailhead trim. A timeless added detail and enduring element of furniture design that spans interior design. Dating back to the period of 1560-1643 with the arrival of what it referred to as French Country furniture era during the reign of Louis XIII in 17th Century France, nailhead trim on furnishings endures to appeal. Beyond a visual appreciation of the studded design of the nailhead and its embellishment to classically styled furniture, a nod to the past will certainly only broaden historical appreciation for a classic element that remains a constant in interior design today.
Historically, the use of decorative nailheads served as not just decorative form but in function in furniture making. Beyond a mere decorative trim, nailheads were used to hide areas where the upholstery was tacked into the wood frame of the furniture object. Who knew? Form and function. Nailheads would thus aid in holding the upholstery in place attractively. Decorative concealment in craftsmanship, indeed. Since the 15th and 16th centuries trims such as gimp(braided trim) would be used by the upholsterer in conjunction with decorative nailheads traditionally made of brass or copper. 17th century France used nailhead trim on the ornately carved wooden seating with period upholstery coverings such as brocade, velvet, tapestries and leather. A studded pattern of design that has never faded from the world of interior design…
The French Os de Mouton chair is the most well known design from the 17th century. The French word “Mouton” refers to sheep. Thus the shape of the chair legs suggests that they resemble the legs of a lamb. It is interesting to note that the arrival of this chair marked the beginning of upholstered backs and seats using nail head trim.
Beyond the French link to this hidden design of form and function in craftsmanship, designing with nailhead was favored with old Dutch, Spanish and English furnishings. During the 1800’s famed English furniture designer William Morris and the American designers Stickley Brothers during the 1900’s would also favor this medieval-style nailhead trimming with leather and Baroque tapestry. Designs from the past always inspire design through the decades. As with the nailhead trim, classics always endure. Although the use of nailhead trim is commonly linked use with leather-upholstered sofas, chairs and ottomans, the trim has since studded the world of interior design with modern yet timeless appeal. Both classic and modern takes on this timeless trim are certain to inspire…
Consider the patterned distinction of nailhead trim. Patterns in nailheads have gone far in decorating our interior spaces in the decades that have followed since the 15th century. With timeless appeal the decoration of nailhead trim will certainly remain an embellishment in interior design. Timeless style with modern inspirations within the interior, indeed. Accentuating lines of design with sophistication, the nailhead trim design will endure to add visual interest and distinction to the surfaces of our interiors that it embellishes. Onward in enduring classic design.
The “Wishbone Chair”. The name itself provides intrigue. Pair that with the striking design & craftsmanship and it is no wonder that it has become an icon from the 1950’s of Danish Modern style…
In 1944 Danish designer Hans Jorgen Wegner began a series of what are referred to as “China Chairs”. Hans is said to have been inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting upon Ming thrones of Chinese emperors. Who knew? Touching briefly upon this designer’s history…born to a shoemaker, Wegner was trained as a cabinet maker. At the age of 17 Wegner was apprenticed to a carpenter, H. F. Stahlberg, at which time he developed his first design. At the age of 20 he moved to Copenhagen to study at the institution now known as The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design (then known as “The Artisan College”). Beginning his career as an architect, it was as early as 1940 that Wegner began to design for master carpenter Johannes Hansen. The talents of Wegner combined the skills of both and architect and a craftsman produced work that certainly garnered attention. Since 1950, Danish company Carl Hansen & Søn has produced the chair that is known as the “Y”, “CH-24” and iconically, the “Wishbone” chair. It is no surprise that the production of this sculptural chair has never halted.
On the website of Carl Hansen & Søn, it is stated:
“Hans J. Wegner is widely considered to be one of the leading figures in 20th century furniture design – and a driving force in the “Danish Modern” movement that changed the way people looked at furniture in the 1950s and 1960s.” -www.carlhansen.com
“A master carpenter first and a designer second: Perfectly finished joints and exquisite forms. A deep respect for the wood and its character and an everlasting curiosity about good materials. He gave minimalism an organic and natural softness. He is considered as “the master chair-maker” and designed more than 500 chairs during the course of his life”. -www.carlhansen.com
A designer of many chairs, it is perhaps the “Wishbone Chair” of 1949 that has been considered Wegner’s triumph. Clean lines and simplistic design made from natural materials, the chair is certainly striking from all angles. It is perhaps the characteristic “Y”-backed shape that held the strongest reference to this lightweight chair with the steam-bent solid wood frame. A product of skilled wood joinery paired with craftsmanship. Form and function, indeed. A key & unique component to this chair is the seat that is hand woven from paper cord. Of note, paper cord was was a durable material that was developed as a substitute for jute during WWII. Again, who knew? Still used today, it is said that there is over 400 feet of paper cord per chair (120 meters). Imagine! Hand woven style that adds further distinction to a silhouette of great style.
“Many foreigners have asked me how we made the Danish style. And I’ve answered that it…was rather a continuous process of purification, and for me of simplification, to cut down to the simplest possible elements of four legs, a seat and a combined top rail and arm rest”
-Hans Jorgen Wegner
Whether found in a solid oak, walnut or beech frame or renditions with painted or clear lacquer or an oiled finish, consider with appreciation the classic lines and simplistic style of the “Wishbone” chair. Distinctive style that stands the test of time. For certain, beyond its Modern Danish style, this chair can fit within a multitude of interior spaces. Iconically. A chair of comfort and style. Form and function at its best. Sculptural form of enduring appeal, indeed…
“A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles”
“A chair is only finished when someone sits in it”
The “Parsons Chair”. Streamlined versatility of function and comfort. A classic chair of timeless design, the upholstered or slipcovered chair is typically crafted of hardwoods and features a slightly curving, squared backrest and legs. A visually solid chair iconically embellished in fabric. The Parsons Chair provides simplicity with distinctive style. Perhaps, to deepen one’s appreciation for this unique and timeless design, an appreciation of its past is in order…
The “Parsons Chair” was created in Paris in the 1930’s by the Parsons School of Design. Of interest, what is known as the Parsons school was begun as the Chase School in 1896 by renowned American Impressionist painter William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). Chase founded the New York school and led a small group of students who withdrew from the Art Students League of New York in search of individualistic expression. The Chase School and the icons of early American Modernism perhaps is what brought to the school in 1904 the vision of Arts educator Frank Alvah Parsons. In 1921, with a vision of art and design’s link to industry, Parson would initiate a satellite school in Paris, France. This satellite school is said to have been the first art and design school founded abroad by an American school. Who knew? In 1941, the school would be named in his honor. Parsons would soon become the sole director of the New York School of Fine and Applied Art and continue to provide vision for the future. A vision that would continue to inspire the world of art and design, indeed…
And of this chair of simplistic and linear design from the 1930’s? The Parsons School designers are said have streamlined “excess ornamentation” and the historical influences that reflected the periods of Arts & Crafts (1880-1910), Art Nouveau (1890-1905) and of course, the era that the 1930’s was layered within: the Art Deco period (1910-1940). The styles that dominated furniture designs of the time would certainly inspire the design of this enduringly modern, yet timeless chair. Function and comfort were also a focus in addition to the classic and modern influences resulting in a chair of distinction. Said to present “Classic Modernists traits of natural, simplistic and linear design” the enduring traits follow this stylish object of purpose and function within the interior, for certain. Of note, the original Parsons design is said to have been upholstered in leather. Again, who knew?
However the chair is covered over its linear form, the chair itself was historically considered to be a transitional piece of furniture. Of additional interest, the Parsons Chair was first designed as a part of a matched set of furnishings. Designed for use in a dining table suite with 4 chairs and a table, both were intended to reflect a similar aesthetic. The linear and simple design of both provided a contrast to the heavier dining furniture of the early 20th century that tended to visually dominate a room. The light and airy appeal of the sleek variation to interior style provided a versatile and functional appeal. The Parsons Table and Parsons Chair were created as companion pieces yet perhaps due to the simplicity and versatility of both has led them to be incorporated separately into many interior styles. Parting ways within the interior, the adaptable style certainly provides a striking appeal in any setting. Certainly, an evolution in design. Both, perhaps, integrate historical influences while presenting a modern edge that still stand the test of time today. The table, like the chair, holds a simple elegance that endures. (Alas, perhaps the iconic Parsons Table is another topic to dwell upon…)
Consider the versatility and timeless appeal of the Parsons Chair. Choices and stylistic preferences abound, for certain. Incorporated into the interior, this stylish chair blends in any setting while standing out in distinctive style. Although there are variations of this classic chair that are absent of the adornment of fabric, perhaps it is the classic beauty of this chair is the fabric that swathes its upholstered form. Although there is an almost regal elegance when covered in upholstered or slipcovered fabric, there are certainly variations that retain no layering in upholstered style but rather the linear form itself. Options absent of the adornment of fabric yet options of great design. For certain, the design has evolved. But what remains consistent is the elegant simplicity of design. Enduring style. Whether wrapped in leather, tailored coverings of slipcovered style or even smaller and shorter designed chairs with or without armrests, the classic “Parsons Chair” holds a timeless appeal that endures, indeed….
“Industry is the nation’s life, art is the quality of beauty in expression, and industrial art is the cornerstone of our national art” – Frank Alvah Parsons, 1920
An appreciation of the beauty of the woven artistry and craftsmanship of cane weaving. Laced straps of cane in a pattern of distinction. Natural appeal, for certain.
The artistry that is entwined in a woven seat or panels of a chair is worthy to be appreciated. Woven in what is referred to as the “Seven-Step Caning” (producing the the pattern of octagonal holes), the caned chair gains appreciation within interiors, laced with its history. Crafted from peeled off bark/outer skin from the flexible, woody rattan stalks (a climbing vine plant in the palm family and commonly found in Indonesia), the natural cane that laces a distinctive pattern assumes a glorious yellow coloring during the drying process. Durable and light, the added benefit beyond its design is the ability to not warp or crack from high heat or humidity. Interior bliss in warmer climates, for certain. Of interest, the “skin” of the bark is cut into “cane strips” of uniform width and depth. The strips are referred to as the “peel”. Processed into thin strands, the “cane” is used for not only weaving seats and backs for chairs, but is also used as a “Binding Cane” to “wrap” the arms and legs of furniture. Stylistic designs within history, for certain. To summarize, the material is referred to as “Cane”, the process (or art) is referred to as “Caning” and the product is referred to as “Caned Furniture”. However it is referred, the artistry of the craft of caning is certain to be appreciated. A design element of ancient style.
“Caning” is an ancient technique of weaving that originated as basket material that Egyptian Pharaohs would possess and utilize. The art of “caning” has certainly withstood the test of time as an art form of distinction. Of note, the art of the cane bottom chairs is believed to have originated in China. Lightweight and airy, it is perhaps the European inclusion of this natural element that brings forth historical distinction even today. Cane furniture first appeared in Holland, England and France during the 1600’s due to trade with Asia. As a style that remained popular during the 17th century Jacobean period, American and European craftsmen hand constructed and incorporated woven cane into the furniture that adorned the interior. Alas, it is even said that Marie-Antoinette coiffed her hair (with assistance, that is) while perched on a lightly covered caned chair. Who knew? In 18th century England’s Regency period caned chairs (often referred to as “faux bamboo”) were designed with finely crafted cane seats. It is no wonder that the “caned” furniture would continue with its lightweight appeal. At the turn of the century a revival of the Regency style brought forth an increase in the number of pieces of furniture using cane. Bergere chairs would also became popular with cane back and side panels. Classic and elegant elements of interior design. In the 19th century, it is said that “Cane” furniture became associated with Dutch and English Colonial furniture as both countries had colonies within Indonesia and India. Supply and demand. A direct source for rattan that was easily accessed. Of course, one must mention the gift in cane that was presented during the mid 19th century- Thonet’s cafe chair (Chair No.14) (A previous post: Unchanging Style & Design: The Bentwood Chair, N. 14). In 1859, Thonet revolutionized the furniture industry with the simplicity of the cafe chair and its “caned” seat version. Considered a modernist endorsement, the chair of “caned” style has continued to represent timeless design with extraordinary lightness.
As a side note, it is said that during the 18th century the decline of seats in woven cane resulted as the affluent began to request period chairs (such as Chippendale and Sheridan) with leather or tapestry seats. Who knew that during this time the “caned” bottom chairs would eventually be found primarily within “Common” interiors? Yet there is nothing common about a “caned” chair. It is timeless within the interior. Whether found as a seat base or lining the panels of a chair in a stylized manner, the cane pattern is appealing with its textural interest and open woven style. Classic design, indeed…
And to provide additional insights into the arrival of woven cane embellished chairs in American interiors? Cane bottom chairs gained popularity in America around 1820 with the arrival of industrialization and the dawn of factory built furniture. The beginning of the American expansion post the war of 1812 paired with economic independence from Great Britain was met with a rapidly growing population. In addition, new technologies and industrialization created wealth and a widespread middle class. To meet the supply and demand, it is believed that the ease of production of the spindle and dowel chair with a caned bottom (requiring less wood) provided a solution. “Cane” was the perfect natural element. Mass production resulted with the creation of a seat weaving “cottage industry” in which the seat frames would be constructed in the factory and then distributed to the local weavers to cane the seat at their private residences. Imagine! The completed seats would be collected and quickly assembled with the chairs in the factory. Artistry paired with industrialization, indeed. Of note, cane bottom chairs are said to have reached the peak of popularity between 1860-1890. After 1890, the decline it is thought to be a direct result of the increasing expense of the weaving. Manufacturers replaced the hand crafted weaving with machines. Alas, the artisan demise at the hands of industrialization. Producing the machine woven cane in sheets, like woven cloth, the sheets of cane would be glued into a groove around the edge of a seat rather than the peg system that supported the hand woven cane. By 1900, all American furniture manufacturers began using machine woven cane for chair bottoms in the full range of their furniture styles. It’s distinctive pattern of woven style has never left the interior world. Perhaps, with an appreciation of its appeal within our modern world proves that the octagonal patterns will remain in enduring style…
Consider the “caned” chair. Whether a chair that is an original classic example of woven artistry or a completely restored and rewoven cane chair, whether paired with walnut or mahogany wood with distinctive inlays or simple in form, the “caned” chair earns distinction within our interiors. Classic and timeless appeal within any space. Woven craftsmanship. Natural laced straps of octagonal pattern of distinction, indeed…