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Seats of Power for a New Millennium

With All the Style Permutations of This Century, What Might the 21st Century Chair Be Like? Some Leading Southern California Designers Offer Their Visions.

May 16, 1999


Rose Tarlow-Melrose House, West Hollywood

My minimalistic, millennium, multipurpose mat can be rolled away, and rolled out in any form--a chair, table, chaise, bench, and designed by affixing the pinion construction to the desired shape. (I have 50 years to perfect the mechanism.) I see it being made in a clear plastic material so the pieces will almost disappear and give a clean, uncluttered effect. Other options are wood, metal or moonbeams, which are man-made, long bendable poles that are soon to be manufactured on Mars. (Patent pending.)


Madeline Stuart & Associates, Los Angeles

As a traditionalist, I believe historical precedents and proportions will reign far into the new millennium. Like the resonant beauty of a Bach concerto, the lines of the Louis XVI bergere are timeless. Its elegant form was considered a standard of furniture design in 1750, 1850 and 1950. So will it be in 2050. Characteristically, these upholstered chairs have been made of wood that was stained or painted. In the future, artisans will craft them from man-made wood substitutes and cover them with factory-made, ecologically correct fibers with the look and feel of cottons and silks. To sit in a down-filled bergere, listening to the music of Bach, is my idea of Tomorrowland.


Frank & Frisch, Burbank

Passive branding is not enough. Market forces demand that all products must themselves be media, projecting a constant stream of imagery to enhance consumption. In form, our 2050 chair is a whimsical allusion to the antiquated billboards of our own time. The seat is a flexible grid controlled by millions of tiny servo-motors linked to pressure sensors, which conform the seat to the precise contours of the user. Covered with a luminous emulsion, the chair employs a battery of observant monitors to tailor its visual displays to the user's mood and lifestyle.


Zuckerman/Lawton for In House, Los Angeles

Like man's never-ending search for the fountain of youth, the need to combine comfort and aesthetics in a chair will continue to be a constant in furniture design. What will change, however, is the materials, which will become lighter, stronger and "smarter." The 21st century chair will have a frame and upholstery skin made of such thin material as to be nearly nonexistent. It will have an "intelligence" to enable it to support any body type, be it the lithe and dandy Sun King or the corpulent, bullish Henry VIII. Sitting in the Great Hall at Versailles, both would say that the chair "fits like a glove." Life is sublime in "The Line" chair.


Jarrett Hedborg Interior Design, Los Angeles

In 2050, Scandinavian furniture from the 1950s will be considered as classic and timeless as we now regard French Louis XVI. With that in mind, let me be the first to predict that in May 2050, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs will mount an exhibition called "Scandinavia 1950." The exhibition will inspire a new generation of designers in the Scandinavian aesthetic. Hopefully, the wood, canvas and steel chair I have drawn of 20th century materials will fit in with this new wave of Scandinavian-inspired design, and by then, someone would have figured out how to stick the thing together.


Kerry Joyce Associates, Los Angeles

Fifty years from now I would still be a traditionalist in my use of materials. The chair would be of the finest plantation-grown mahogany and finished with the best environmental-friendly materials to bring out the innate beauty of the wood, then hand rubbed and waxed. The seat cushion would be filled with the finest goose down (they will still have geese in 2050), then covered in a finely detailed dressmaker slipcover with French stitching on the seams. The clean, geometric form of the chair recalls the past (nods to George III and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann) but is, at the same time, contemporary and timeless.


Vance Burke Design, Los Angeles

What's new in the year 1999? The 1950s. What's new in the year 2050? The late 1990s. In the home, everyone fantasizes about the allure of the past to give them a sense of stability and quality. So in 2050, nothing will change. Just like today, everything that's old will be new again. People will covet a special millennium edition chair--say a stylized club chair covered in a woven suede on a cast bronze base from the turn of the 20th century. It will be like having a souvenir from the 1930s World's Fair--recalling fond memories of the past and optimism for the future.

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