Future Classic | Groovy Chair

  • Pierre Paulin’s Groovy chair is the next instalment in our Future Classic series, and it’s just, well, ‘groovy’.

    Released by Dutch company Artifort in 1973, the Groovy chair’s gently curved backrest and seat, often covered in wild colours, is experiencing a resurgence. Often covered in boucle wool, the Groovy chair features aluminium sliders at the base rather than traditional legs. Many of Pierre Paulin’s chairs from this period were not only legless but seen more as ‘sculptures in the round’.

    While some may attribute renewed interest in Pierre Paulin’s work to the popularity of architecture and design, including fashion, others respond to his use of curves, something that also took hold with contemporary architects and designers keen to create a sense of cocooning. Pierre, who was raised in Paris, initially studied design at the Ecole Camondo Musee des Arts Decoratifs before transferring to the workshop of Marcel Gascoin, one of the founders of the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM). When you are endowed with enormous talent and impressive design lineage, including his great uncle Freddy Balthazar Stoll, a sculptor and student of the great sculptor Auguste Rodin, the DNA was already there.

    By the early 1950s, Pierre had already decided that he wanted to design furniture, showing his early prototypes at the Salon des Arts Menages. With luck and his talent, he was then engaged to design desks and chairs for Thonet in France. Fast forward a decade or so, Pierre’s distinctive signature, both as furniture and an interior designer, was taken up by France’s highest officials, designing interiors and furniture for President Georges Pompidou’s office in the early 1970s and later for Francois Mitterrand. Many dignitaries would have seen this work, so it’s not surprising that Prime Minister and later, President Jacques Chirac commissioned Pierre to remove his private dining room. When other government officials would have opted for safe traditional (read ‘conservative’) interiors, the French government was keen to show its strong sense of modernity.

    Interior designer Andrew Parr, director of SJB, has always been ahead of the pack. He purchased two Groovy chairs more than 10 years ago from Leonard Joel Auctioneers. His chairs, covered in their original aubergine wool, joins the company of contemporary pieces in his living area at home. The living room’s deep bay window allows generous light into the room, which has a comfortable lounge and a glass coffee table laden with books. “I appreciate the Groovy chair’s simple and clean lines and sculptural form,” Andrew says, who also likes its relatively small footprint. “And it’s also extremely comfortable,” Andrew says, who has seen a move to upholstered furniture in the past few years.

    For those who weren’t around in the early 1970s, Pierre Paulin’s chairs remain a ‘Groovy’ design, a future classic that will continue to be enjoyed for years to come.

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