A Work in Progress
February 10th, 2012
Throughout the exhibit, alongside the reproductions of some of Ralph Rapson's classic pieces, sat a chair in need of some TLC. This chair is a little different. Its design is a little heavier, less refined. One arm of the chair is made of two pieces of wood spiced together, without matching the grain. Could this chair possibly be one of the first prototypes Rapson made for Knoll in the early 1940s?
The chair was brought to us by the fellas at Rapson-Inc., who were contacted by the owner, Craig Rafferty, FAIA. While Ralph was working as the new head of curriculum at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, he began to experiment with furniture design. Because of the war, materials were scarce. Metal was nearly impossible to come by, and any wood procured was most likely scrap wood. School director, László Moholy-Nagy, the ever-optimist that he was, developed student courses for camouflage techniques and the exploration of materials and ways to substitute wood for metal. Though this model may date from period, the mismatching wooden arm piece is due to a quick fix repair a few years back. Hardwoods were reserved for the war effort, so the early models were built of birch. Today's models are now built of the stronger maple and walnut woods.
The chair is scheduled to be fully restored and recovered at Danish Teak Classics. The joints will need to be cleaned and strengthened with new glue and presses. The lacquer will be removed, the wood cleaned and polished to a soft touch, and then it will be re-lacquered to achieve the original finish. The upholstery could go one of two ways, depending on the client's choice. The original design for Knoll was offered with either cotton strapping or cushions covered in a durable, simple upholstery of bright, modern colors. Below are the pre-restoration photos, with more to follow of the restoration process and the final product. The second to last photo is one from Knoll in the mid-20th c, and the last is a Rapson-Inc. reproduction of the same chair. Enjoy!
Caroline Engel for Danish Teak Classics