When I first saw this chair, It was something that just resonated with me. Like see Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water” for the first time, or LeCorbusier’s Chapel at Ronchamp. It was 2008, during my carpenter’s apprenticeship and I was eager (as always) for cool projects. I stumbled on the Red and Blue Chair while surfing the web. I learned that it was designed in 1917 by Gerrit Rietveld, a Dutch architect and an important member of Destijl, an influential artists collective which was active at that time. I was looking for a few details concerning the dimensions and construction of the chair, just to get me started. Little did I know that my understanding of furniture design was about to take a quantum leap.
A subsequent Google search rendered an exhaustive list of results. Clearly, more results than I needed. As I sifted through the first several pages, something jumped out at me. Time stopped for a few seconds as I scanned the bold text: “How to Construct Rietveld Furniture”. It was a Amazon.com listing a book complete with a cover photo and a brief description. The of this paperback edition are Peter Drijver and Johannes Niemeijer. I was’nt too keen about shopping online then, but I was able to quickly locate the book at the, now defunct, Prairie Avenue Bookstore.
Getting the book home and flipping through the pages was a pure delight. The sparse text is written in Dutch and English, but all the measurements are in centimeters. In this 128- page gem, published in 2002 (expanded from the 1986 version), I got a lot more than I bargained for. According to Amazon’s product description: “This volume documents the best-known and most typical furniture designs by Gerrit Rietveld down to the smallest detail. The book contains working plans, measurements, detail drawings, lists of materials, and instructions for assembly of each one”. So, not only did have plans for the Red and Blue Chair, but I also had plans for a diverse array of furniture designs that were equally cool: the Zig-Zag Chair, the Buffet, and the Berlin Chair, just to name a few.
In my next posting, I will cover the anatomy of the Red and Blue Chair. I’ll take it apart and re-assemble it step-by-step.