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What is a Barcelona&Reg; Chair?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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A Barcelona® chair is a sleek, armless living room seat created in Germany in 1929. Its designers, Ludwig van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, made the piece as Germany's entry in a design exposition. The overall look of the Barcelona® chair design is of two square, black, tufted-leather cushions on top of a lower silver-colored metal frame that forms an X-shape on each side. The two metal X-shapes aren't merely decorative, but are designed to allow the chair frame to fold for convenience.

The modernist style of the piece is timeless. Although van der Rohe and Reich designed the Barcelona® chair in 1929, it won the 1977 Museum of Modern Art Award. The armless, clean-lined industrial look of the piece makes it ideal for today's lofts and other modern interiors. The chair is mainly hand-made, including the cutting and tufting of the leather.

Barcelona® chairs were made and sold in the United States and Europe through the 1950s. In 1950, the chrome frame was redone in stainless steel. The Knoll furniture company was given the rights to the manufacture and sale of the piece, but it stamps van der Rohe's signature into the metal of each Barcelona® chair frame.

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Knoll offers most Barcelona® pieces in a choice of chrome or stainless steel. The stainless steel option is shinier and in a durable one-piece construction. Knoll's children's Barcelona® chair and footstool set is available with a chrome base; it's a miniature version of the original design.

Coordinating Barcelona® furniture pieces are manufactured and sold by the Knoll company. For example, its chaise lounger has a long, rectangular, hand-tufted leather cushion. Although this cylindrical cushion that sits on one end of the chaise isn't angular and the legs are straight metal posts that aren't X-shaped or folding, the design is still in keeping with the geometric, clean-lined look of the original Barcelona® chair. Knoll also offers a Barcelona® coffee table with legs similar to the chaise's and a metal X-shaped top frame that shows under a piece of smoked glass.

The table's X motif and smokey black square glass top allude to the original Barcelona&reg chair's features. It's designed to work with the chair and footstool as well as the chaise. The black and silver-colored metal of the furniture can be combined with other neutral colors in a room or with virtually any decorator color from pastels to brights.

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