photo home-76.png photo about-71.png photo contact-65.png photo press-19.png photo LDV.png photo services-7.png

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Design Under the Influence: Bertoia

"If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes right through them." - Harry Bertoia

Hello, it's Erika from small shop with our 14th edition of "Design Under the Influence"! Today I wanted to share a little bit about the man behind one of the most iconic chairs around: the Bertoia chair.

Like Saarinen, Bertoia was a sculptor by trade. It comes as no surprise that he taught metal working and industrial design at an art college in Michigan. He was often brought in to collaborate with Eames and Saarinen on their projects as well. And you probably didn't know that he also was a jewelry designer, even creating the wedding rings worn by Charles and Ray Eames.

But he struck designer gold with his introduction of industrial wire mesh in his collection for Knoll in 1952. So much so, his commissions allowed him to devote himself fully to his first love: sculpture. He eventually went on to explore how metal can affect and produce sound, creating "sounding sculptures" like large wind chimes. His pieces can be found at museums and sculpture galleries in Chicago, Brooklyn, Honolulu, Philadelphia, Dallas, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, and the Smithsonian American Museum of Art in Washington D.C. Go check them out for yourself — I hear the installations at Chicago's Aon Center and the Chicago Botanic Garden are supposed to be quite an experience!

Bertoia received awards from the American Institute of Architects in 1973 and the American Academy of Letters in 1975. Yet even today, we are still using his innovative forms in so many types of rooms. Like the Platner and Saarinen collections, these iconic pieces can stand alone or be paired with just about any furniture style, creating an instantly eclectic space:

via wit and delight

JL Designs for 944

JL Designs for 944


Marie Olsson Nylander

Stephan Jaklitsch

via Mid-Century Modern

Peter Pawlak via Elle Decor

Photographed by Douglas Friedman

Alexandra Angle

small shop* for the Glitter Guide

via Marie Claire Maison

via Martha Stewart Living


Photographed by Pierre-Jean Verger

Jenna Lyons

Atlanta Bartlett

Don't you love the kids' chair version too? Easy way to add this chic piece of design history to your space (*like I did!).

For more on the man and the legacy he leaves behind, please visit:

Top image: Mikel Irastorza via Nuevo Estilo


{The Design Daredevil} Jessie D. Miller said...

Erika you have schooled me! I never knew what that these chairs were referred to and I've never heard of Bertoia. I love Design under the Influence! They are like mini design lessons that I cherish...!


Paloma, Great post on the Bertoia chairs, love it.
-Chris Bentley

viv said...

Loved learning the background of these beauties!

Elizabeth said...

I had two of these barstools with black sheepskins in them a few years ago - they add a gorgeous sculptural quality to any space. Great pics, as usual, Erika!
xoxo -e (

Madelyn said...

LOVE this series! I am going to submit requests. :-)

Naomi@DesignManifest said...

I would love to have a white arm chair and drape it with a sheepskin. It's just so versatile and truly adds a sculpture-like quality to any room.

Albertina said...

I love this series. Thank you so informative.

Hena Tayeb said...

gorgeous.. inspiring rooms

Anonymous said...

Nice post, grat imagery, but as someone who was subjected to sitting on this chair for 8 hours a day, I come to tell you: after the first 30 mins it is uncomfortable.
just an FYI

Anonymous said...

Nice pics! Where can I find the round lacquered table?