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Bruno Mathsson: Furniture Designer On The Cutting Edge

Dec 5, 2007
Swedish designer Bruno Mathsson was born in Varnamo in 1907 into a woodworking tradition. His father was a well known cabinetmaker producing well crafted wood furniture as had the four generations of Mathsson's before him. He grew up learning the technical skills to make furniture, the feel and nature of wood and the tradition of excellence.

After Matsson became interested in the technical aspects of making furniture, he began to absorb all the information that he could about furniture making. He borrowed books from designers and museums, and contacted people who would become long-term associates and mentors. He became intrigued by functionalism as a result of his self-education in technical issues and design. He earned a scholarship with a functionalist chair design.

Matsson wasn't content with building only the flat board furniture his family traditionally crafted. His furniture was designed with clean, elegant lines including some chairs with positional adjustments. Some of the chairs he worked on didn't have springs or upholstery. His ideas were revolutionary for his time. Therefore, he put some of his early items into storage until he had become famous in the furniture-making world.

Mathsson was so interested in what he termed "the mechanics of sitting", that he decide to attempt experiments to learn which pattern a human made when they sat down, even going to the extent of sitting in the snow to observe the result. Mathsson received a Grand Prix design award in 1937. By that time, his chairs were being displayed to the world again.

One of his classic designs is the Bruno Mathsson Pernilla chair. It is made in easy chair and lounge chair formats with bentwood and lamination techniques employed as part of the design. It can be upholstered or made with webbing. During war shortages of materials, Mathsson experimented with jute and hemp and anything else he could obtain, and this design can be adapted to nearly any wood or material. Bruno Mathsson Pernilla chairs typically have an attached pillow.

Another of Mathsson's famous designs is the Bruno Mathsson Fällbord table, which was a modular table design allowing folding and reconfiguration in many different layouts. Designed in 1935, it remains to this day a strikingly modern piece of furniture. Its timelessness is similar to many of his other works, which are highly sought after even today.

One more table that deserves a mention here is the superellips. It comes in many different models and as with much of his furniture are still highly sought after and continue to increase in value. Mathsson passed away in 1988 after a long illness, passing a legacy of modern furniture design down to his family.
About the Author
Richard Guilfoyle is a connoisseur of fine Swedish furniture ( möbler ). You can get more info about the designers he appreciates most such as Bruno Mathsson at his website.
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