Poliform London

The showroom, located at the heart of Marylebone’s design district, has been officially inaugurated following an extensive renovation.

Spread over two floors, Poliform London Wigmore Street showroom allows clients to immerse themselves in the world of Poliform and admire the varied collection in its entirety, including kitchens, finely crafted furniture, storage systems, bookcases, beds: a range of unique, stylishly designed products perfect for all kinds of lifestyles and living spaces. The renovation, which included both floors, is designed in sequence to allow clients to walk through the space as if in a home, with a complete and coherent design story where every furnishing interacts and dialogues using materials and colours.

The showroom renovation was celebrated on Thursday 29th June evening, during a cocktail party, where clients, press, architects, and interior designers were invited to the showroom. The windows of which were decorated by a selection of light-up boxes with Paolo Roversi’s most significant images from the recent Incontri project, where the famed photographer enters the world of Poliform and reinterprets it through his camera lens.

VITRA – The Chair Whisperer

A Visit to the Workshop of Stefan Thoma

Stefan Thoma has a passion for restoring furniture classics by Charles and Ray Eames. He took apart a Lounge Chair for us and explained what makes this original design so unique.

In the early ’90s, Stefan Thoma found his first Eames chair – in a pile of rubbish. ‘That sounds like a cliché, but it’s how it all started. I repaired that old fibreglass side chair in my father’s workshop.’ Thoma’s admiration for the work of the American designer couple Charles and Ray Eames was immediate, and his interest quickly grew. The autodidact studied old sales brochures, scholarly literature and catalogues, exchanged information with other Eames fans, and began to repair pieces that had been manufactured by Herman Miller and by Vitra in Europe since 1959. His Breisgau workshop quickly evolved into an insider’s tip for the vintage furniture scene. Today the 44-year-old is a recognised expert and appraiser for classic designs, and one of the few conservators in all of Germany to be authorised by Vitra.

Located in the idyllic town of Breisach, about one hour’s drive north of Basel, the workshop of the family-owned business is filled with seat shells, chair bases, cushions, spare parts and reassembled furnishings. A racing bicycle is casually propped against a wall, but the busy tinkerer found little time to use it during the past summer. ‘Too much to do!’ While his employee Gerd Zimmermann devotedly tends to the cracked moulded wooden shell of a disassembled Lounge Chair that has just arrived, Thoma examines the new ‘patient’ piece by piece. To the layman, it looks like a hopeless case: a crack runs right across the thin wooden shell. How could that occur? And above all: How can it be repaired?

‘Sometimes we are surprised by all the things that can happen to a chair. Some owners leave their furniture standing out in the blazing sunlight, for example. We often see damage that is hard to explain. Especially since the Lounge Chair has a very sturdy construction and Vitra still continues to perfect it. If you take good care of this chair, it really is impossible for it to break!’ Thoma shakes his head. ‘The flexibility of the moulded wood shells and their rubber-and-metal connectors, the so-called shock mounts, make the chair very strong and also extremely comfortable. The wooden shells used to be made with five laminated plies; now they consist of seven. The seven-ply veneer shells are one millimetre thinner, which makes them more flexible. The flexing construction is necessary for the chair’s stability and comfort. Only 18 screws hold the chair together, which has a total of 160 individual components and is assembled in 47 separate steps.’ Thoma has all of these numbers in his head. Envisioned by the Eameses as an elegant, modern club chair, the Lounge Chair was launched on the market in 1956. ‘Back then, the Lounge Chair weighed about 25 kilogrammes and cost about 1200 dollars. That was a lot of money at the time!’

In its classic dimensions, the piece is 84 centimetres high, with a seat depth of 56.5 centimetres and a seat height of 38 centimetres. ‘But as people are now some 10 centimetres taller on average, a somewhat larger version with a height of 89 centimetres was more recently introduced.’ Which measurements does Thoma personally prefer? ‘The classic dimensions. The original size fits me better, even though I’m quite tall at 1.85 metres. Everyone should definitely try out both models to see which seat depth and backrest height suits them best’, advises the expert. Anyone that doesn’t purchase a chair directly from Vitra should make sure they are getting a genuine Eames product.

Sometimes I sit down in the evening in front of a Lounge Chair,
reward myself with a glass of wine, and just enjoy looking at it.

Thoma can reliably spot a counterfeit Lounge Chair due to the incorrect proportions of the cushions – for example, armrests that are too thick – or the thickness of other materials, the type of wood used for the shells, the position of the buttons on the cushions, or the fake label underneath the seat shell. ‘At the moment, there are a lot of copies in circulation with the Herman Miller label. They are sometimes such good counterfeits that even I can only distinguish them from an original with a stitch-counter. For a layperson without this level of experience, it is difficult to differentiate an original from a plagiarised product. There are so many Eames designs on the market that you really have to look closely. But sometimes the fakes are of such inferior quality, I can’t figure out how customers don’t notice that the wrong legs are stuck on their Plastic Side Chair – until the legs suddenly break off and they land on the floor!’

How can people protect themselves from inadvertently purchasing a counterfeit? ‘Be vigilant when you see dumping prices! Only dubious dealers offer so-called originals with inexplicable discounts. You should always buy new pieces from an authorised Vitra dealer, and vintage objects from well-reputed auction houses or galleries, or at an established trade fair. Because the trading of vintage furniture is experiencing such a boom, it’s important to be cautious.’

In the meantime, Thoma and his assistant have taken a closer look at the cracked shell of the Lounge Chair. ‘The chair was probably exposed to excessive fluctuations in temperature, as well as too much mechanical stress. Trapped heat, generated by antiquated floor heating, eventually causes the glue between the layers of veneer to pulverise, and the shell becomes brittle and breaks. We are going to rebuild it by restoring the veneer plies and injecting an adhesive in several places.’ Thoma also fixes the loose brass fittings on the swivel base, replacing them with precisely tooled components made individually on his lathe. No matter if the problem has to do with torn off shock mounts, defective legs or scratched upholstery covers: the conservator realigns, smooths and renews wood, rubber, metal and leather – and after completing his work, he adds a seal with the job number and his name. This provides a traceable record of the work he has done.

What fascinates him so much about the Lounge Chair? ‘The chair’s lightness and comfort! Its construction and the ingenious technical interplay of different materials! The more difficult a restoration job, the more I look forward to presenting the finished result. Sometimes I sit down in the evening in front of a Lounge Chair, reward myself with a glass of wine, and just enjoy looking at it.’

Publication date: 14.11.2019, first published in ‘Schöner Wohnen’
Author: Gunda Siebke
Images: © Martin Wagenhan

FLOS – Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni

Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni

Achille Castiglioni was born in Milan in 1918.He and brothers Livio (1911-1979) and
Pier Giacomo (1913-1968) showed an early interest in industrial production.
Achille went on to study architecture and became interested in the idea of developing a complete design process after graduating in 1944. Achille later joined the design practice founded by his brothers. Livio Castiglioni left the practice in 1952 and the remaining two brothers worked as a team until Pier Giacomo died in 1968. Designs by the creative duo were instrumental in defining the playful intelligence for which Italian design was known in the latter half of the 20th century. The Castiglioni Brothers were also renowned for their lighting design, most famously for the Arco lamp which is still in production 60 years later.

In 1956, Achille was among the founders of the ADI (Association for Industrial Design).
Later, in 1969, he was authorised by the Ministry of Education to teach Artistic Design for Industry. He taught at Turin´s Faculty of Architecture until 1980 and then took a fulltime position as Professor of Industrial Design at the Politecnico di Milano until 1993.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art owns 14 of his pieces. Other works can be found in important museums around the world. Achille Castiglioni received 9 Compasso d’Oro awards. Achille Castiglioni died in Milan in 2002.

“If you are not curious forget it”
Achille Castiglioni

Pier Giacomo Castiglioni was born in Milan in 1913. He studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano and graduated in 1937. In 1944, he would design the university’s official signet. After graduation, he established an architectural practice with his brother Livio. Youngest brother Achille joined in 1944. The practice focused predominantly on exhibition and product design as well as a number of architectural projects. The three brothers worked together until Livio left the practice in 1952. Pier Giacomo and Achille would collaborate for the rest of Pier Giacomo’s life and were internationally recognised as pioneers of Italian design. Dino Gavina, founder of Flos, described Pier Giacomo as one of the ten best designers in the world. Pier Giacomo was extremely proactive. He was Professor in Drawing and Relief Work at the Faculty of Architecture of the Politecnico di Milano. Founding member of the Movement for Architectural Studies (MSA – Movimenti Studi Architetti) in 1954 and of the ADI (Association for Industrial Design) along with brother Achille in 1956 and member of the Board at the Association of Architects and at the Milan City Council Building Commission. He was also a member of the executive committee for the 13th Triennale in 1964. He was a member of numerous juries and was also particularly active as the curator of exhibition installations. He exhibited at every Milan Triennale from 1940 onwards and won numerous prizes including five Compasso d’Oro awards. His work is displayed in leading museums around the world.

Pier Giacomo Castiglioni died in 1968.

Pier Giacomo Castiglioni showing the new cocoon lamps Viscontea and Taraxacum to Marcel Breuer, Milan 1962 – ph. © Franco Cotti