I was recently asked to name my favourite piece of 20th Century design. It could be anything, from an item of furniture to a tiny gadget or even something I’d made myself (hmmn, not sure my origami cranes from last December’s post would quite cut the mustard!).
The problem is, the last Century produced so many amazing designs and designers, how on earth do you choose? I feature at least one every blog post -and that’s just the small-fry, available-on-the-high-street stuff.
There are national treasures like the traditional K2 phone booth (designed in 1920 for la-di-dah Londoners who rejected the concrete versions elsewhere); iconic pieces of furniture such as the Mae West Lips Sofa; and of course, the smaller bits and bobs that not only look good but make our lives easier, from the first iMac G3 to Ikea’s clever Chosigt cheese grater.
But I was told I had to pick one, so I decided to impose my own criteria. It had to be something good-looking, useful, instantly recognisable, durable, colourful, fun, covetable and above all, something that if you owned it, it’d stop people in their tracks, make them smile, and say, “Wow”.
And that’s why I picked the Ball chair (above). Dreamed up by Finnish designer Eero Aarnio in 1966 who made the first prototype himself out of wood and fibreglass so that he and his wife had somewhere to sit in their new home (you can read more about it at www.eero-aarnio.com), it’s still one of the coolest bits of furniture anyone could own.
Aarnio described the ball chair as “a room within a room” and that’s exactly what I love most about it – when you’re sitting in one, you’re in your own private little world. Whether you’re curled up to read, listen to music, make a phone call, tap away on your computer or watch television, you can do so uninterrupted. And if you’ve got a hectic house like I have, that would be amazing.
I say “would be” because sadly, such an amazing design classic comes at a price. A £6,900 price, to be exact (check it out at www.designshopuk.com). Gulp. But a girl can dream.
If you love the ball chair as much as I do, there is one other solution – buy a reproduction. Now normally, I’d always say you should buy an original, but not many of us have a spare £7k knocking around… however, for something this special, you might be willing to splash out a few hundred.
That’s how much good quality copies cost from brilliant reproduction company Blue Sun Tree (www.bluesuntree.co.uk). For £425, you can choose the colour of the fibreglass shell (including pink, pistachio, silver, black and yellow); the colour of the seat upholstery (including dark green, red and purple); and even the size of your ball chair (83cm, the diameter of the original; or 72cm to fit through standard doorways), which will then be made to your specifications.
Then, once you’re the proud owner of a ball chair, you can just sit back and enjoy the compliments. Um, well actually maybe you won’t hear them, cos you’ll be snuggled up inside your own private nest!
This is my entry into Little Greene’s 20th Century Design competition. Find out more at: http://www.littlegreene.com/retro