Okay, so the title of this post is super cheesy, because Eero Saarinen was a Finnish-American, and this post is about reviving three of his chairs from “start to finish.” I guess I just couldn’t help myself…
Goofy humour aside, I was lucky enough to acquire not just one, but *three* of Saarinen’s Executive Arm Chairs, with coveted and rare bent wood legs! Oh boy oh boy oh boy! What’s a girl to do?!
Well, for starters, agonize for hours over which fabric to choose, while your upholsterer rolls his eyes every time you say “I’ve *almost* decided!” for the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth time. Fabric choice is super critical when dealing with chairs like these, which are super, uber, special. Why so special, you say? I’m glad you asked!
Plain and simple, Saarinen was an architect and furniture designer of epic proportions. After leaving Finland, he met Charles Eames in the 1930s, and the two became fast friends and designer compatriots. Together, they created molded plywood chairs for an organic furniture design competition in 1940 – and of course, they won first prize. Indeed, an organic feel would characterize Saarinen’s entire body of work, from buildings to coffee tables. He drew his inspiration from his peers, the landscape around him, and old fashioned geometry, all while creating furniture that was utterly beautiful and sublimely comfortable at the same time.
Throughout the 1940s, Saarinen continued to collaborate with Eames, as well as developing his own designs, and during that time he also met Florence Knoll of Knoll International. FloKno (can I call her that? Let’s just go with it, shall we?) invited Saarinen to join Knoll and over the next decade or so, created some of the most iconic chair designs ever made, including the 70 series collection, of which the Executive Arm Chair is a prestigious member. The 70 series also included an Executive Chair without arms, additionally both chairs had the option for chrome legs, and later, chrome legs with caster wheels. The bent wood legs were less common than the chrome legs (for reasons unknown) which makes the ones here at The Fab Pad more valuable. 😉
While the Executive Arm Chair is perhaps not Saarinen’s most famous design (that distinction would be shared between the “Womb” chair and the “Tulip” chair/table) it is extra super special for a couple of reasons. One, it was designed by Saarinen (duh! Isn’t that enough? Yes, but wait – there’s more!) Two, it was the first chair ever made out of fiberglass. Like, ever. In the world. Maybe even in the universe. Saarinen chose to use a molded fiberglass shell for the back/arms to allow for greater flexibility and comfort. Sometime later (some research says late 1960s?) Knoll switched to a molded polyurethane shell instead of the fiberglass. Guess which ones we have here at The Fab Pad? If you guessed the original fiberglass version, you get a gold star!
This brings us full circle back to the revival of these gorgeous, iconic chairs. For starters, 65-year-old rubber foam and long term exposure to air don’t mix, and the foam had changed to the consistency of
cement astronaut ice cream dinosaur fossils – it was as hard as a damn rock. Clearly this was not suitable for sitting on, so this gal decided to take on a bit of the work herself and scraped off all that nasty foam. After the first one I was highly regretting this decision (surprise! It wasn’t as easy as I’d anticipated) but persevered and eventually emerged victorious in the epic struggle of Girl vs. Foam.
After scraping the shells clean, I returned them to Upholsterer God Gary at Brighouse Upholstery and thus began the fabric selection. After much anxiety and nervous cold sweats, I committed to a high quality, lightly textured fabric, somewhere between a slub linen and soft denim in feel, in three complimentary colours: sky blue, steel blue, and…lime? mustard? celadon? Uh, greeny-yellow. You get the idea.
In a process that I can only assume involved spells, magic, and fairy dust, Gary transformed my chairs into works of art with curved and sculpted foam, piping, and top stitching awesomeness. Behold, a masterpiece lives again.
These chairs are the perfect option for lounging, dining, or just for sitting in to make you look super cool. (Look at Eero in this pic, he was one slick dude). You can have your very own Executive Arm Chair for $1295, or buy two for $2395, or heck, get all three for $3495.