The Ohtel building itself is a stunning, contemporary 4 storey concrete structure, embedded into the base of a steep coastal cliff face. While modern urban boutique hotels aren't unique, the 'Mid-Century' furnishings that adorn the interior spaces of Ohtel certainly are. From chairs to ceramics, tables to clocks - I have been collecting these treasures for more than 2 years.
In the 1950's and 60's, designers from other disciplines such as architecture, fine art or graphic design used natural materials such as timber, glass, and leather to create objects whose sculptural & aesthetic qualities were paralleled only by their functional attributes.
New materials emerged from war-time aircraft manufacture such high-strength plywood, fibreglass and plastics. With this now huge palette, designers from all parts of Europe, fled their war-torn homelands to various parts of the globe to 'ply' their trade.
Unpretentious, modern interior styles from Scandanavia took America by storm in a 1954 travelling show. A large number of Hollywood films then fashioned their sets using these timeless, minimalist styles, spreading awareness world-wide, inspiring US, and designers from other countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
Mid-Century design represented an optimistic vision of emerging modern life in post war times. Many iconic pieces are still made under licence today, (as well as cheap imitations), while the originals are destined to become the next generation of antiques.
G-PLAN E. Gomme, High Wycombe, UK, C.1960
A beautifully proportioned teak wall unit designed by Ib Koford Larsen and crafted by G PLAN can be found in our lift lobby. The trademark four-point curved stretcher base and beautifully sculptured door pulls are both favourite G PLAN motifs.
G PLAN recognised that the long, low-slung sideboard design, although stylish, did not suit smaller homes. This piece represents the more upright style G PLAN produced in the early to mid '60s... the perfect storage/display unit for apartments.
This "Danish" range produced at this time was designed by Ib Koford Larsen in teak & afrormosia. As typified in this piece, teak veneer was used for tops & sideboard panels, whilst afrormosia (slightly darker in colour) was used for solid parts, such as the legs, handles & internals.
Contrary to popular belief, OTTO LARSEN was not a fictitious name (like JON JANSEN) created by a local firm to cash in on the 60's craze for Scandinavian modern furniture. He was a Danish immigrant to NZ in the 50's who designed & crafted a wonderful range of mahogany furniture that was distinctively Danish modern in style. He was quite prolific, producing this exact design in Denmark & the UK as well. His designs feature skillful joinery, & can be recognised by his branded mark.
Throughout the sixties and seventies, Schreiber was one of many British manufacturers producing their own versions of the Scandinavian style furniture (in competition with that being imported into Britain in large quantities from Scandinavia). In their own "Danish" range, Schreiber pioneered 'Furniture engineering' - new processes for making quality furniture (such as curvaceous bent ply seats & backrests featured in this design).
Parker Furniture was established in 1935 and still produces quality hand-sanded furniture for the Australian domestic market. In the 50s & 60s the company was at the leading edge of Scandinavian-inspired design, commonly referred to as Danish Modern. The finest craftsmanship and subtle restraint epitomised in PARKER furniture have given this particular company and it's timeless, high-end designs an iconic status among mid-century modern enthusiasts. Great investment appeal.
The exposed timber frame was a favourite PARKER motif - the angular, intersecting lines contrasting with the shapely 3-dimensional curves of the upholstered seat & back. These chairs feature extraordinarily sculptural flowing arms which originate beneath the bulbous top of the rear leg & funnel down seamlessly into the front leg.
Of rectangular form and large proportions, the table is constructed of a richly-figured sapele mahogany veneered top with solid banding and features unusual curved bull-nose ends. Raised on a solid mahogany four-point stretcher base, with tapering legs. Remnants of paper label to underside.
An exquisite centre-piece for your mid-century inspired living room - long, low, clean-lined classic Danish Modern. Sixties coffee tables of this size, quality and condition are becoming harder and harder to find, especially as trendy interior design magazines are hot on showcasing their sleek, stylish, well-proportioned good looks... beautifully useful design!
A rectangular vase with abstract fish decoration designed by Nils Thorsson for Royal Copenhagen in the 1970s. Royal Copenhagen was established in 1775 and exclusively made porcelain dinner services and figurines until 1895 when stoneware was added to the product lines. Nils Thorsson was Royal Copenhagen's most prolific designer and worked for them for over 60 years.
Børge Mogensen was born in Aalborg, Denmark and studied furniture design at the College of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen from 1936-38, and then at the Furniture School of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts from 1938-41. He worked in the office of Kaare Klint, and as his assistant at the Royal Academy. From his time with Klint Mogensen fostered a deep commitment to producing classical, simple and highly functional furniture. He also became interested in researching people and their trends in order to develop domestic objects that were customized to their specific use.
Continuing Klint's innovative studies in how the size and proportion of objects should influence their design, Mogensen, collaborating with Grethe Meyer, produced a project called the Boligens Byggeskabe in 1954 which introduced the idea of building shelving and storage units as part of a room, rather than purchasing and placing them in the space.
Mogensen was a prolific furniture designer, exhibiting almost every year at the Copenhagen Cabinetmaker's Guild Exhibitions, and was the Head of Furniture Design during the 1940's for the Danish Co-operative Wholesale Society.
Finn Juhl (1912-1989) was first and foremost famous for his furniture. In the 1940s, he broke with the established furniture tradition and designed a number of creations that regenerated Danish furniture design. At the Milan Triennials in the 1950s, he was awarded no fewer than five gold medals and won international acclaim for his furniture. But Finn Juhl was not only an excellent furniture designer: he worked with all aspects of the architect's profession. He gained international recognition as an interior designer for his work on the Trusteeship Council Chamber at United Nations headquarters in New York. As an exhibition architect, he was the man behind the major showings of Danish applied art abroad which created the concept "Danish design" and paved the way for the Danish furniture industry's export triumphs in the 1960s.
Backhouse Ltd, in NZ, crafted many vintage arm and desk chairs in the style of this great Danish designer during the 1960's.
HANS J WEGNER
Hans Wegner was born in 1914 in Tønder, Denmark where he completed his early education and trained as a cabinet maker. In 1936, at the age of 22 he attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen, returning later as a tutor.
He worked as an assistant to Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen until 1943, helping on their design for the Århus Town Hall, and adding some of his own furniture. In 1943 he opened his own office and came out with the "Chinese" chair which, along with his 1949 "Round" chair would provide the basis for many of his later chairs.
Interiors magazine, in America, put the "Round" chair on the cover in 1950 and called it 'the world's most beautiful chair,' catapulting Wegner into international fame and sparking a profitable export market. It became known simply as, "the Chair" and began making high profile appearances like the televised 1961 presidential debates between Nixon and Kennedy.
World renowned for blending a variety of natural material in his classic designs, Hans Wegner has received many international accolades for his work, among them : "the Triennale" 1951, 1954 and 1957; "Royal Society of Arts" London 1959; "Citations of Merit" Pratt Institute, New York 1959 and the "International Design award", New York, 1957.
In June 1997 Wegner was awarded an Honary Doctorate by the The Royal College of Art in London. Hans Wegner celebrated his 90th birthday on April 2nd 2004.
N O MØLLER
N O Møller (Niels Otto Moller, 1920-1981) completed apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker in 1939, and continued his education at the Danish design school in Aarhus. In 1944 he founded J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik A/S and worked as an independent furniture designer and producer. Under his careful tutelage and creative direction, the company has received many awards including the Danish Furniture Prize awards in 1974 and 1981.
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1923. Trained as a cabinetmaker before studies at the Industrial Arts and Crafts College and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. Graduated in furniture design in 1946. In the same year she established her own design studio with Jorgen Ditzel and has since then been working in the design sector.
From the start of her career in the post war years, a period with few women in furniture design, she has been challenged by new materials and new techniques. Has worked in various materials such as fibre glass, wickerwork and foam rubber and in various trades such as cabinet-making, jewellery, tableware, applied art and textiles.
In the 50's she experimented with split-level floor seating. From 1968 to '86 she has lived in London, establishing the international furniture house Interspace in Hampstead with Kurt Heide. Among her designs in continuous production are jewellery for Georg Jensen, textiles for Kvadrat and furniture for Fredericia.
Wanscher studied furniture design on trips through Egypt and Europe with his father who was researching the history of fine arts & studied at the Copenhagen Advanced College of Building Technology and at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1929.
He had opened his own office a year earlier. In 1955, when Klint died, Wanscher took his much-coveted position teaching architecture at the Royal Academy and remained there until 1973. Wanscher considered construction and form to be vastly important, treating furniture design as if it was a branch of architecture. In addition to the Egyptian furniture, Wanscher was heavily inspired by English period furniture, Greek and Chinese furniture.
His best known pieces were created between the late forties and early sixties, modernism's hey-day. Wanscher worked on the more conservative end of the spectrum, devoting his energy to the poetry of the classic forms rather than to innovating new forms. A 1949 armchair, for example, assumed a square, ladder-back shape and had leather upholstery filled with feathers.
Along with other designers, like Finn Juhl and Børge Mogensen, Wanscher was developing the technique of the 'unsupported arm,' which gave the seat and back a somewhat unhinged and even animated quality and was used on this chair. He also designed a 1951 rocking chair for France and Søn with a curved, organic profile and a square rocking base. A 1960 folding 'Egyptian Stool,' mimicked the shape of a 3,000 year old stool, a form he probably came across on his early travels.
It is fair to say that very few people has had as much influence on Danish Design as this world renowned Danish architect Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971). In 1925, he designed a chair that won the Silver Medal at the World Exhibition in Paris the same year, and in 1927, he had the honour of having a house - his first - built after his designs. Jacobsen is responsible for giving us The Egg, The Swan and probably the most famous chair in the world today: The Ant. Originally designed for the company Fritz Hansens Eftf, The Ant is still in production today. The legacy of Arne Jacobson is still be seen in many countries around the world today.
Beginning with his childhood in Germany and his family's escape from Nazi power, Kagan chronicles his rise to become one of America's most celebrated designers. Comfort, practicality, and an often-idiosyncratic modernist sensibility are the hallmarks of his enduring career. Innovative design and superior craftsmanship come together in Kagan's work so that it continues to look original. Noted for his organic, sometimes modular and always stylish pieces, Kagan's work has experienced a major renaissance in the last decade. In the 1950's, his timeless designs appealed to such celebrity clients as Marilyn Monroe and today are sought after by such stars as Jennifer Lopez and Tom Cruise. He has been commissioned by arbiters of 1990's style Giorgio Armani and Tom Ford, who used Kagan's Omnibus sofa as the anchor of his design for 360 Gucci Boutiques worldwide.
Born in Germany in 1919 Fred escaped to Belgium in 1938 after Crystal Night. He entered England in 1940 via the Dunkirk evacuation and was interned and transported in 'true convict style' on the Dunera to Australia where he was interned in Hay and Tatura.
In 1942 Fred was reclassified as a 'friendly' enemy alien and was released for work as a fitter and turner. By 1945 he had started a small business as a wood turner selling salad bowls, platters and other items to gift shops.
A partnership with Ernest Rodeck saw the opening of FLER (a combination of the two partners' initials). An interesting start to a business as Fred made woodware and Ernest made propelling pencils! But the partnership led to much bigger things and by 1948 FLER had entered the furniture market.
Fred completed a basic course in Furniture Design & Construction at Melbourne Technical College (RMIT) from 1949-50. He was joint managing director and chief designer of FLER and from mid 1964 took a sabbatical year to undertake Design Studies with Professor Herbert Hirche at Stuttgart Academy.
In 1966 FLER was taken over by Australian Controls and for two years Fred continued as Design Director of the company. Selected by Robin Boyd, Fred was one of three designers who contributed special designs for the Australian Pavilion, Expo Montreal, Canada in 1967. In 1968 he left FLER to start up TWEN with Howard Lindsey. Known to us today as TESSA, the company has exported to many countries throughout the world since 1969.
In 1920 a young designer called Lucian Ercolani started his own business in High Wycombe, the chair making capital of England. Here he perfected the technique of steam-bending wood in large quantities to form the famous Windsor Bow, and discovered how to 'tame' elm; a beautifully grained hardwood other furniture makers considered impossible to work with. Design and people were the cornerstones of his company. This remains true of the family owned private company that continues his beliefs in the 21st century.
Their passion for innovation in design and manufacturing is as strong today as it was then. The Ercol factory combines the very latest technology with time-honoured craftsmanship to create a range of unique pieces.
Royal Copenhagen is now the porcelain division of Royal Scandinavia which was formed with the merger of Royal Copenhagen and the he Swedish glass works Orreefors Kosta Boda. Royal Copenhagen had already bought Georg Jensen Silversmithy in 1972, and incorporated with Holmegaards Glassworks in 1985 and with Bing & Grøndahl in 1987. The intention was to secure a strong position for the Danish art industry globally. The latest merger, Royal Scandinavia, now sees the best of Danish and Swedish art industry combined.
Rörstrand has a fascinating history dating from 1726. Its interest in colors, form and style grew in importance, and is one of Sweden's oldest manufacturing. Rörstrand founded Arabia in 1873 to facilitate trade in Russia. In 1914, Göteborgs porslinfabrik (Gothenborgs porcelain factory) was bought and Rörstrand moved operations there in 1926 when the factory in Stockholm was closed down. After the merger with Lidköpings porslinsfabrik in 1929, Rörstrand's relocation from Gothenborg to Lidköping began. The move was completed in 1936 and Lidköping became Rörstrand's headquarters. Rörstrand became part of the Uppsala-Ekeby Group between 1963 and 1984 and was then bought by the Finnish company Wärtsilä Oy in 1984. In 1987 Wärtsilä Oy bought Gustavsbergs porslinsfabrik and the Finnish Hackman Group acquired the company in 1990.
In the late 1930s Tom Clark, barely in his early 20s, began making porcelain tiles and electrical fittings alongside his family's brick and pipe works in New Lynn. By 1970 Crown Lynn was the biggest pottery in the southern hemisphere, with 500 staff turning out 15 million pieces of china - cups and saucers, plates, bowls, mugs, jugs and vases - each year. Most New Zealand families used Crow Lynn dinner sets everyday, and excess production was exported, mainly to Australia, Canada and the Pacific Islands. Then in the 1980s the changing economic conditions undermined profitability and the factory was shut down in 1989.
GRANT & MARY FEATHERSTON
Grant Featherston (1922-1995) was born in Geelong, Victoria, Australia. Self-taught, he designed lighting and glass panels before serving in the army from 1940-1944. Returning to Melbourne he produced the first of his famous plywood shell Contour chairs in 1951.
Featherston Contract Interiors furniture showroom opened in 1956, and in 1957 he became a consultant to Aristoc Industries for 13 years. His design partnership with his wife Mary was formed in 1966 and they worked on major projects in the ensuing years, including the Expo 67 Talking Chair and the Numero range for Uniroyal.
Grant was a foundation member of the Society of Designers for Industry, the forerunner to the Design Institute of Australia. Mary Featherston (nee Curry) was born in Shirley, Surrey England and arrived in Australia in 1953. She trained in Interior Design at RMIT and worked as a designer for Mockridge, Stahle and Mitchell Architects in the mid sixties, until she formed her lifetime partnership with Grant.
Danish owners and designers, Ken and Bente Winter, were born in Denmark and immigrated to New Zealand in the 1950's. From modest beginnings in 1958 to an international family company employing over 100 people, Danske Møbler has evolved to become one of the leading home furniture companies in New Zealand, expanding to cover all of the country's major centres through its own retail stores and with carefully chosen and appointed family owner dealers.
AUSTRALIAN MID-CENTURY FURNITURE
A piece of Australian history - interior stamped with "R. Brownum FD. Co. Pty, Ltd. 141-9 Nicholson Street, East Brunswick, Victoria. Strictly Wholesale. EUROPEAN LABOUR ONLY".
Stamps like this were common on furniture made in Australia in the 1st half of last century when there were a number of immigrant Chinese furniture makers who were seen as competition to 'European Australian' makers (Australians were known as European back then, go figure). To indicate the depth of anti-Chinese/Asian/Islander feeling (particularly at the time of the Great Depression), even in the 1950s the leader of the Labour Party, speaking publicly about "white Australia" said "Two wongs don't make a white."
Essentially then, stickering furniture with ethnicity of the manufacturer was a stipulated requirement of the White Australia Policy - a protective measure to ensure that the public would be aware of who manufactured the purchased item, ie, to protect the consumer from the rabid cheap yellow peril & to protect good white folks jobs! Never mind that these poor Chinese immigrants were paid a pitance & produced some outstanding furniture that was far superior to white folks work. As it happened, the marking of the furniture didn't seem to slow down your average Aussie punters who went out & bought the Chinese migrant furniture in equal amounts to the "European labour only" furniture.
Cool piece... a genuine example of Australian racist history, reminding us that we live in a community, not an economy.
EAMES - Chairs
Recognising the need, Charles Eames said, is the primary condition for design. Early in their careers together, Charles and Ray identified the need for affordable, yet high-quality furniture for the average consumer furniture that could serve a variety of uses. For forty years the Eames' experimented with ways to meet this challenge, designing flexibility into their compact storage units and collapsible sofas for the home; seating for stadiums, airports, and schools; and chairs for virtually anywhere. Their chairs were designed for Herman Miller in four materials -- moulded plywood, fibreglass-reinforced plastic, bent and welded wire mesh, and cast aluminium. The conceptual backbone of this diverse work was the search for seat and back forms that comfortably support the human body, using three dimensionally shaped surfaces or flexible materials instead of cushioned upholstery. An ethos of functionalism informed all of their furniture designs. "What works is better than what looks good," Ray said. "The looks good can change, but what works, works."
La Chaise was created for the 1948 "International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design." The name "La Chaise" was both a reference to sculptor Gaston Lachaise and a pun on his name. Vitra AG has produced the chair since 1990.
The Eames' moulded-plywood chair was their first attempt to create a single shell that would be comfortable without padding and could be quickly mass-produced. Throughout the early 1940s, the Eames' and their colleagues experimented with this concept. Discovering that plywood did not withstand the stresses produced at the intersection of the chair's seat and back, they abandoned the single-shell idea in favour of a two-piece chair with separate moulded-plywood panels for the back and seat. The chairs -- plus moulded-plywood tables and wall screens -- were unveiled to the public in 1946. Variations of these designs are still in production.
J & G MEAKIN
Where Midwinter was the leader of the contemporary market for fashionable tableware in the 'fiftiies, J & G Meakin took over in the 'sixties. They literally took over Midwinter in 1968. Meakin's staple shape was Studio, designed by Tom Arnold in 1964. It became the vehicle for a vast number of patterns. They ranged from restrained, almost austere modernism , to geometric with circles (middle), to abstract, possibly inspired by psychedelia.
The symbol of the sixties was the flower. It featured strongly on Meakin's products. Not everyone in the 60s took LSD or smoked pot, but everyone could adopt the style of the Flower Children, even if it only meant having coffee pots decorated with stylised flowers!
The Studio shape drew heavily from Midwinter's Fine. It was also influenced by the pioneering Cylinder coffee pot designed by Susan Williams-Ellis for Portmeirion Pottery in 1962. It was exaggeratedly tall and topped by a conical lid. The spout and handle were curved and elegant. This design, more than any other, defined the shape of the 'sixties coffee pot. The raised Totem pattern is perhaps the most famous application of this shape, but the Greek Key was probably the biggest seller for Portmeiron.