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STYLE: DESIGN : Shifting Into Neutra

March 07, 1993|MICHAEL WEBB

If you like the cool geometry of classic modern furniture and want something fresher than the European standards, check out some newly reissued designs by architect Richard Neutra, who came to Los Angeles from Vienna in 1925 and worked here until his death in 1970. The revival was sparked by designer Terry Phipps, who rented the Neutra family's guest house in Silver Lake eight years ago and furnished it with a few of the architect's own chairs and tables. Frustrated by the difficulty of finding originals, he unearthed patent drawings in the UCLA archives and put Neutra's son Dion in touch with Prospettive, an Italian furniture company. Four chairs, a sofa and table will be launched by ICF, the American distributor, at the Pacific Design Center's annual conference, Westweek, which runs March 17-19.

Each of these pieces, designed for a specific home, is innovative and enduring. The spring-supported, steel-framed "Cantilever" chair and an early version of the wood-framed "Alpha" sofa are still in use in the 1929 Lovell Health house in the Hollywood Hills. The "Camel" table, with hinged legs that fold like a camel's, was designed as a space-saving dining/coffee table for the 1940 Kahn house in San Francisco. And the indoor-outdoor "Boomerang" chair of 1942 made its debut in the low-cost Nesbitt house in Brentwood and the Channel Heights housing in San Pedro.

Where many avant-garde designers sacrifice comfort for looks, Neutra made pieces that are as easy on the body as they are on the eye.

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