The Ergonomic furniture design was one that astounded the world. In the days of wealth and titles, heavy furniture meant solidity. Most likely a cabinet or armor was descended from great grandparents, complete with the family seal. This was similar to the idea of fashion, where the larger the fabric the richer the adjustable standing desk client. Solid colors signified wealth, while patterns, littered with patches and mending, were for the lower or middle class. Up until the early 20th century, most furniture required a minimum of two strong men to move.
Ergonomic furniture designers thumbed their noses at such heavy, obsolete and archaic trends. These innovative designers wanted something lighter, portable, fashionable, and perhaps even gravity defying.
The colors were warm and distinctive. Pale colors, earth tones and strange shapes were used. The idea was to utilize function, not form and certainly not status or reputation.
Many of these crossover designer furniture pieces were designed by masters who were artistically inclined in other areas as well. Isamu Noguchi was known for his world famous Noguchi coffee table, which remains in production today. Smart lines and functionality replaced the old, boxy and heavy carcasses of the past. Noguchi was known as an architect, set designer and lamp creator, some of his works are on display at the Noguchi museum in New York City.
Eileen Gray was another influential designer in the 1920s. Born and raised in Ireland, she designed the Eileen Gray side table with her sister in mind. The sister had a habit of reading at night before drifting off to sleep. The phenomenal success of this side table was something that no one could have imagined. Her style has been noted as one of the most important in all the 20th century, having created pieces that fit within the parameters of both the Art Deco and Ergonomic Furniture distinctions.
The Barcelona chair is perhaps the most famous of all. It was designed for the German Pavilion by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich during the 1929 International Expedition held in Barcelona, Spain. This slightly angled lounge chair with the inverted arch steel bar support system was both attractive and functional. The quilted back cushions were something relatively new. Leather was used but production of this chair was soon copied using poly vinyl and other synthetic materials that were easily cared for and became sensational conversation pieces as well as collectors’ items.