DISTINCTIVE DESIGNERS

William Haines: Halcyon Days of Hollywood

Designer William “Billy” Haines (1900-1973) was a classic renaissance man. Beginning his career as an actor in the early days of Hollywood, Haines with his boy-next-door good looks, starred in many films both silent and sound, becoming the number-one box office star of 1930. After leaving the film industry in 1936, he opened an antique store and went on to become one of Hollywood’s premier decorators, working friends and acquaintances from his influential circle of celebrities and bon vivants.

Haines was known for his interest in how people truly live, not just decorating for snob appeal. He and his team of designers created sleek, classic pieces that were low profile, functional yet elegant. His best friend and client Betsy Bloomingdale stated, “he designed all of my pieces low to the floor. That way people were grander, not the furniture.” In a bold move for the time, he dared to create an all-white living room, then took a 360 and generously splashed bright, brilliant colors through the home of Carole Lombard.

Haines designed interiors for the home of Ronald and Nancy Reagan while he was governor of California. In a prized commission, he was chosen as the interior designer (along with Ted Graber) for Walter and Leonore Annenberg’s estate, Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage. This spectacular mid-century modern estate designed by architect A. Quincy Jones was known for its pink roof and has been frequented throughout the years by both political leaders and celebrities alike.

William Haines Malibu Chair and Ottoman

Capturing the essence of California living, The Malibu Chair and Ottoman originally designed in 1950, is the perfect pairing for quintessential outdoor elegance. The powder-coated steel frame is upholstered in a white rayon blend, can be used indoors or out, and has been re-issued through williamhaines.com.

william billy haines sofa

This stunning statement piece, known as The Valentine Sofa, showcases Haines’ mastery of sleek, sexy, functional design. This sofa with a low tufted seat and leather-wrapped arm either in right or left orientation was first introduced in 1950 and lucky for us is currently still in production through williamhaines.com.  

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MARCO ZANUSO: PLUSH PIECES OF JOY

Italian architect and designer, Marco Zanuso (1916-2001) born in Milan, was one of the postwar designers shaping the international idea of “good design.” After receiving his degree in architecture at the Politecnico di Milano, he began his career as an architect, designer and city planner. Additionally, Zanuso was editor-in-chief of Domus magazine, the preeminent publication on architecture and design founded by Gio Ponti in 1928, from 1947-1949. As one of the leaders in the Italian Modern Movement he was a pioneer in furniture design, working with metal tubing and creating a new joining mechanism that allowed a fabric seat to be suspended from a tubular steel frame.

In the late 1940s, Zanuso began collaborating with Arflex, an Italian manufacturing company, to create a furniture collection using a newly developed polyurethane foam and elastic tape. It was for Arflex, he designed a series of pieces that would become icons of the modernist movement, among them, the Lady Armchair (1951) and the Sleep-o-matic sofa (1954). Between 1957-1959, Zanuso began collaborating with German industrial designer Richard Saper. It was with Saper, he created work devoted to the relationship of the user to the object. Together they pioneered a new aesthetic known as techno-functionalism, designing objects such as the Grillo telephone (1966) and the Brionvega (1962), the first fully-transistor television. These pieces were characterized by bright colors, synthetic materials and sculptural shapes. Zanuso’s work can be found in museums throughout the world including MoMA, the Met and the Triennale in Milan.

Marco Zanuso “Lady” lounge chair

One of Zanuso’s iconic pieces, the “Lady” lounge chair (1951), was the first armchair to incorporate expanded polyurethane and foam rubber. The armchair showcased a new system of springing, while the slender brass, slim-line legs suspend the body of the chair in an animated fashion.

Marco Zanuso “Sleep-o-matic” sofa

Forward thinking Zanuso designed this “Sleep-o-matic” sofa (1954) for Arflex with an internal metal mechanism that can easily be opened to become a sofa bed. Tubular metal structure with foam rubber padding.

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Cees Braakman: Aesthetically Functional

Dutch designer Cees Braakman (1917-1995), born in Utrecht is best known for the strong influence he had on furniture design in the Netherlands. Beginning his career at the age of 17, he began working for the furniture manufacturer UMS Pastoe. At the time, his father was the company’s head draftsman and manager. Inspired by the work coming from the Herman Miller Company by Charles and Ray Eames, and by their technical approach to design. Braakman came to the United States to learn more about the process, eventually heading back to his country eager to work with a new material, bent plywood.

While at Pastoe, Cees Braakman developed several lines of popular furniture, clean, elegant lines and a wonderful sense of proportion highlighted his work. Braakman placed particular attention on his modular storage solutions, launching in 1955, these Made-to-Measure cabinets, constructed of a variety of woods, some of which were to be assembled by the end-user, earned him a silver medal at the 1957 Triennale in Milan. He would eventually follow in his father’s footsteps, taking on the role of manager at Pastoe until 1978.              

Mid-Century Chair c.1950s, Model FM08 for Pastoe, boasts a shell covered in black vinyl, perfectly perched over four elegant, yet spider-like black steel legs. With comfort in mind, Braakman added two loose cushions to the design.

Classic cabinet from his “Japanese Series,” manufactured by Pastoe in the 1960s. The cabinet is made of teak, with one white laminated door on a black steel base. The black inset handles make a strong design statement and are a highly recognizable element from this series.

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MARIO BELLINI: Sleek and Sophisticated

Mario Bellini, born in Milan in 1935 is one of the leading designers in postwar Italian style, his furniture is considered in the postmodern genre. He attended the Politecnico di Milano for a degree in architecture and graduated in 1959. In 1963, he began his own practice, Studio Bellini. That same year, Bellini was hired as chief design consultant for Olivetti, a role that he held until 1993. Working with Olivetti and Cassina, he gained knowledge of synthetic resins and polyurethanes. As an independent consultant, Bellini has also designed important furniture pieces for Cassina, B&B Italia and Vitra, as well as electronic equipment for Brionvega and Yamaha and lighting for Artemide, Flos and Erco. He notably worked as Editor-in-Chief from 1985-1991 for one of the most important and influential architecture and design magazines, Domus. Mario Bellini does not believe in precise boundaries of design, instead, he designs for the relationship of man and environment. His work has ranged from urban planning and architecture to furniture and product design. Additionally, he has worked for Fiat, Lancia, Natuzzi and Poltrona Frau. Mr. Bellini is still working today as well as leading seminars and workshops at universities and academic institutions around the world.

Mario Bellini Camaleonda Sofa

The Camaleonda Sofa (circa early 1970s), shown here with matching ottomans in an original caramel leather is one of Bellini’s most collectible pieces. This modular reconfigurable sofa with an overstuffed profile is on trend with the current wave of curvilinear furniture pieces.

Mario Bellini Table lamp

Table lamp, Model Area 20 for Artemide, has earned a place in the permanent exhibition of New York’s MoMA and at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Constructed of a ceramic base with a fabric lampshade embellished with the creators’ photo printed on canvas by photographer Conti Simone, this icon of design is elegant and simple.

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SERGIO RODRIGUES : Beautifully Brazilian Seating

Born in Rio de Janeiro into a family of prominent Brazilian artists and intellectuals, Architect / Designer Sergio Rodrigues (1927-2014) is considered one of the most important influential Brazilian designers. As a contemporary of modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, with whom he also worked, he pioneered Brazilian industrial design, making his work known worldwide. With Bauhaus principles in mind he created pieces of furniture from a strictly Brazilian context. Rodrigues’ materials of choice were rich tropical woods- jacaranda, peroba and imbuia, along with leather and rattan, combining these luxe raw materials to create designs celebrating the culture of his birth.

After graduating in 1952 from the Faculdade Nacional de Arquitectura, Sergio Rodrigues opened the first modern art and furniture store in Curitiba, Brazil. Shortly thereafter in 1955, he founded Oca, which he referred to as ‘a laboratory for Brazilian furniture and handicrafts’ and became one of the most critical components in the evolution of furniture in Brazil. His furniture pieces were utilized in a large scale throughout the construction of Brazil’s capital Brasilia. Rodrigues designed many pieces of furniture, hotels, residences and prefabricated dwelling systems. His work represents the Brazilian spirit and a relaxed attitude – comfortable, sensual and humorous, yet smart and sophisticated. His pieces are highly sought after today in the auction circuit and with collectors.

Sergio Rodrigues Kilin chair

The “Kilin” chair, designed in 1973 consists of a solid tauari wood frame with a leather back and seat. Known for its comfort, as one sits suspended in air. Available in several colors of leather, the chair can be easily disassembled for easy transport.

Sergio Rodrigues Mole chair

One of Rodrigues’ most well-known pieces, the “Mole” (soft in Portuguese) chair, designed in 1961, this chair sparked an international design trend that favored comfort and a new attention to scale. The “Mole” is an inviting easy chair, with a floppy overstuffed leather cushion that offers comfort reminiscent of a hammock. The piece was awarded first prize at the IV Furniture Biennale in Italy.

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