Bruno Mathsson: Practical And Elegant Furniture Designs

Bruno Mathsson was a famous Swedish furniture designer. Five generations of his family were cabinetmakers, including Bruno’s father. Bruno, who was born in 1907, grew up in Varnamo learning how to make well crafted wood furniture. He developed the skills needed to become a woodworker and furniture designer.

Mathsson was fascinated with the technical issues in furniture design and began reading everything he could obtain, borrowing books from museums and design centers and making contacts that would prove to be lifelong mentors and associates. Largely self-educated in the technical issues and design styles, he became fascinated with functionalism. One of his functionalist designs for a chair eventually gained him a scholarship.

Not content with the limitations of traditional flat board furniture, Mathsson experimented with chairs without the springs and heavy upholstery, some that could be adjusted in position, and all with clean, elegant line. Some were so controversial that they were hidden in storage until he became a famous name.

Mathsson was worried about the “mechanics of sitting”. He did tests to see what kind of pattern a human being made when sitting. He even sat in the snow to see what effect it would have. Mathsson won the Grand Prix design award in 1937 at the Paris Expo. Bruno was finally able to get his once hidden chairs out for the world to see once he obtained some recognition.

One of his classic designs is the Mathsson Pernilla chair. It’s made in various formats with bentwood, incorporating lamination into the design itself. It can be made with webbing or upholstered. During the war, material shortages forced Mathsson to experiment with alternate fibers like jute and hemp, and thus this design can easily be adapted to other materials. These chairs traditionally include an attached pillow.

Another of Mathsson’s famous designs is the 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 (Bruno Mathsson bord) that deserves a mention here is the superellips. It comes in many different models and as with much of his furniture (Mathsson mobler) 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.

Bruno Mathsson was a Swedish designer famous for his furniture designs. Much of his design education was self-administered and over time he learned to branch out from traditional designs and incorporate a more functional feel to contemporary furniture. By studying the mechanics and variations in sitting styles, he was able to design one of his most famous designs, the Pernilla chair. Another of his many timeless pieces of furniture is the modular fällbord table. His classic designs are well suited to anyone looking for something a little different (annorlunda mobler) to much of the mass market furniture available today.

- Richard Guilfoyle

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