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September 20, 2023

Pre-Charles Eames Bentwood Furniture

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The chair pictured above and below, made from a single piece of plywood, was designed in 1934 by Gerald Summers and manufactured during the years 1934-1940 by his London company The Makers of Simple Furniture.

At the same time, Alvar Aalto was experimenting with plywood in Helsinki.

Summers' company closed in 1940 after the start of Second World War meant that supplies of specialist airplane plywood became unavailable.

Only 120 examples of this chair were made.

Production costs of Summers' predominantly made to order furniture designs and subsequently the sales prices were "quite high, higher than the then popular Scandinavian designs."

At the time 27-year-old Charles Eames, whose name would later become synonymous with bentwood furniture, was beginning his architectural practice in St. Louis, Missouri.

Eames began designing furniture with Eero Saarinen in the early 1940s; the iconic Eames chair was released in 1956.

Screenshot 2023-08-28 at 1.56.23 PM

From Core77:

The chair is made from a birch plywood sheet consisting of 13 layers of cross-grained veneer.

The veneers are either 1mm or 2mm thick, with the thickness alternating at each layer.

The sheet was first cut with four straight lines, which outlined the position and width of the arms and back legs.

While the glue between the plys was still wet, the sheet was then pressed in a wooden mold for eight hours.

The mold articulated the curve of the chair's legs and arms, leaving only the front legs to be cut out after the molding process was finished.

Screenshot 2023-08-28 at 1.24.11 PM

The Summers armchair pictured above is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum South Kensington, where it is on display in the Furniture Department, Room 135, The Dr. Susan Weber Gallery.

A Summers armchair brought £31,250 at a Christie's auction on October 17, 2018.

My Crack Financial Team©®™ tells me that an English pound in 2018 is worth 1.2221 pounds today.

Thus, £31,250 in 2018 is the equivalent of £38,191 today, which converts to $48,101.

September 20, 2023 at 04:20 PM | Permalink


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