Part II of our blog series is on the Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum – the Modern and Contemporary Galleries. These Galleries feature furniture, fashion, and interesting objects from the early twentieth century and they showcase Rhode Island emerging as “the most heavily industrialized state of the Union.” The state’s success and affluence, due in large part to the production of leading manufacturers led the way for conception of a design school and arts education.

While visiting the Modern and Contemporary Galleries, naturally our focus turned to furniture specifically. Interestingly, these displays featured designers from around the middle twentieth century who were pioneers exploring new materials and took risks in the field of furniture design. These exhibits resonated with us because we benefit from these designers in our work today. The following images are the furniture pieces that inspired us and how we discovered them influencing our designs.

Cantilevered armchair by Finnish designer Alva Aalto, (1898 – 1976), designed 1931-1932, produced in 1935, using laminated birch, paint – a warmer more welcoming version of the bent steel cantilevered chairs made by designers in the Bauhaus school in Germany at the time


Our take on cantilevered design, the Kinetic chair (bottom right)


Diamond chair, by American designer (born in Italy 1915-1978) Harry Bertoia, designed in 1952 using steel, lacquered, fiber glass, cotton tweed – this welded steel lattice chair is a study in functional sculptural forms


MR chair by American designer (born in Germany 1886-1969) Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, designed in 1927 using steel tubing, chrome-plated, cane (rattan) – the materials used here introduced flexibility and stainless steel


Heart cone chair by Danish designer Verner Panton (1926-1998), designed in 1959 using aluminum, chrome steel, plastic, wool – a humorous take on 18th-century wingback chairs


Tulip armchair by American designer (born in Finland 1910-1961) Eero Saarinen, designed in 1956 produced 1970 – Saarinen hated the “ugly, confusing, unrestful…slum legs underneath  typical chairs and tables.” He designed a legless chair strong enough to be supported by the weight from a single pedestal.


Our take on the pedestal chair, the Imagin chair (bottom right)


Architect’s valet chair by American designer Alphonse Mattia (b. 1947), designed in 1989 using ebonized walnut, poa amarelo, wenge, ebony, Delron, paint – This chair was so much fun to see; whimsical and lifelike…


We hope you enjoyed our visit to RISD as much as we did. There is so much more to see we strongly suggest you visit soon!