It’s easy to plop down in a chair without pondering its long evolution or the merits of its ergonomic construction.
And yet furniture shapes our lives, even our bodies. What we put under us affects our mood, our posture, and possibly our life span. Value is in the eye of the beholder, but a decent chair is priceless.
We spoke with three expert sources to honor a month in which modernism, brilliant design, and timeless furnishings are top-of-mind. When it comes to chair appeal, one era may last forever.
Owner, Dahlstrom Designs, Palm Springs
This one-man brand crafts custom pieces in steel and wood and fabricates upholstery. Dahlstrom also designs full environments, from fireplace surrounds and kitchen shelving to Ping-Pong tables and the poolside chairs at Arrive Palm Springs.
Charles Pearson and Thomas Sharkey
These gentlemen own everything in their furniture gallery and are generous with their knowledge. Vintage retailers on Perez Road for 12 years, they have helped cultivate “the design hood” (as mentioned in Elle Decor and Vogue). Hedge has underwritten two Modernism Week lectures as their way of giving back. “It’s a lively, fun time of year. But it’s a hard 10 days, too,” Pearson says. “We’ll come in at 6 a.m. to take out all the sold stuff and bring in more merchandise. People have learned we do that, so they come back every day.”
Chief Energizing Officer, Rapport International Furniture, Palm Desert
With showrooms in Palm Desert and Los Angeles, Rapport is among the first in Southern California to debut 3,000 square feet of exclusive furniture collections in collaboration with three automotive brands: Mercedes-Benz, Aston Martin, and Lamborghini.
What makes a great piece of furniture?
Skaaning: Great design, top-quality materials, functionality, and comfort.
Dahlstrom: It’s gotta look good. If it doesn’t look good, then forget it. I’ll throw it away. Lines, balance, flow, and quality are extremely important to me. And it has to fit where it lives.
Sharkey: It hits the brain, the heart, and the soul at the same time. You know it when you see it, because it stirs a part of you. When one vintage piece can change the whole room, that’s a great piece of furniture.
Pearson: I’m into clean, simple, functional, and beautifully designed. I’d rather have one beautiful chair than a whole living room set that is so-so. The Brno chair is a classic. You see it all the time now, yet it was designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1930. It’s super current and has stood the test of time.
PHOTO COURTESY OF RAPPORT INTERNATIONAL FURNITURE
A shapely orange leather lounge chair pairs up with a coordinating ottoman for optimal comfort at the Rapport International Showroom in Palm Desert.
Is furniture still evolving?
Skaaning: Furniture and furniture design continues to evolve all the time. An example of this is the new Natuzzi Italia Gallery at the Rapport Palm Desert Showroom. It boasts the sophistication and beauty of this Italian manufacturer’s aesthetic for “Living With Harmony” where leathers and fabrics, wood and stone, lacquers and glass all merge seamlessly to blend design, function, materials, and colors to create harmonious living.
Dahlstrom: The great part about furniture is that it’s art. I like the fact that there are no rules. It’s great to see pieces you envisioned in your head come to life. That’s the best part. As I create it, it’s constantly evolving.
Sharkey: It’s evolving through how it’s made, through materials, and through reinterpretation. When you touch an old piece of furniture from the 1950s, it has a completely different vibe to it. It was made differently. The corners of the doors are often dovetailed instead of glued together. We love pairs, which are very difficult to find these days. We’re reinterpreting some end tables and side tables, so you have a pair based on a midcentury design that’s been updated. Instead of wood, we might use iron, powder-coated steel, or glass and metal. If you reupholstered a 1950s chair in a super hot Trina Turk fabric — even if it’s perceived as a typical or boring chair — that’s another evolution of design. Your own personal interpretation, how you arrange a piece in a room, also makes it evolve.
What do you make of the catalogs of midcentury-inspired furniture that some might call evolution?
Sharkey: What greater compliment can great design have than to be copied and copied and copied? But much of it is as expensive as the vintage stuff — if you can find it. In some cases, new designers are making the pieces more comfortable.
Pearson: One who buys a new product has to understand the rules have changed. Vintage pieces are made better. They’re heavier. Stores make furniture that can be shipped easily and cheaply. Even though some of it has a great look, it’s a different quality.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DAHLSTROM DESIGNS
Tilt-back lounge chairs at Arrive Palm Springs are the work of Calvin Dahlstrom.
Do you find any client misconceptions about furniture and/or how to purchase it?
Skaaning: Furniture is fashion. Just like any material in fashion, there are materials that work well and materials where you have to be very careful and maintenance has to be given. Also, there are people who believe furniture should be purchased online just like electronics. It’s wrong — and most people who take on that challenge quickly find out they were wrong. Fortunately, we see a trend of people who want a touch-and-feel experience.
Pearson: We deal with misconceptions about vintage furniture. At 60 years old, it has lived a whole life. There’s a lot of work that goes into getting each piece floor-ready and house-ready. When clients buy something and take it home, we want them to be proud of it. So we put a great deal into bringing it on par with our standards and aesthetics.
What do your clients value most?
Skaaning: The largest selection of quality contemporary furniture styles and collections in Southern California; premier delivery service within a 24- to 48-hour window from time of purchase; design consultation; and top-notch personal service. With our on-site distribution center, most styles are available. We travel the world to find the best and the sturdiest materials for every piece we offer in a wide variety of styles, all to the benefit of Rapport customers.
Dahlstrom: The process of creating a one-of-a-kind piece and seeing it transform and grow every step of the way. They understand the value of having something that’s custom-made.
Pearson: There’s a certain experience when you come into Hedge. No matter when you come in, you meet with the owners. Nothing is on consignment. We know the story of each piece, the fabric, the construction. We can give an instant answer. We’ll make you a cappuccino. We have people who come in every Sunday just to say hello and see new items. We enjoy hearing about their children and grandchildren. They value that experience and their relationship with us above all.
PHOTO BY DAN CHAVKIN FOR HEDGE
A herd of vintage Eames chairs basks in natural light at Hedge, a furniture and art gallery on Perez Road in Cathedral City.