Barcelona Chair

There's something about the Barcelona chair...

The History of the Barcelona Chair

How come a chair designed 80 years ago has become an icon of modern living?

Believe it or not but the world famous Barcelona chair was originally designed for Spanish royals but they never used it.

barcelona chairs

History tells us that Mies van der Rohe, the architect of the German Pavillion at the World Exhibition of 1929 held in Barcelona (Spain), included two chairs in his design to offer King Alfonso XIII and his wife Ena the possibility for a comfortable rest on a nice piece of furniture when visiting the Pavillion. At that time only two chairs were produced: one for each member of the royal couple.

Barcelona Chair Designer

The chair was in reality designed by two artists: Lily Reich, Mies Van der Rohe's (business) partner, was also involved. They based their design on the popular folding chairs of that time and they were just not anybody. Mies Van der Rohe has also been architect-director of the Bauhaus school, famous for combining craft with fine art in affordable furnishings and well-designed homes. Lily Reich was an interior designer, responsible for designing and organising many of the Deutscher Werkbund's international exhibitions. The Deutscher Werkbund was a German government organisation promoting German art education and high quality consumer products.

What is the Barcelona Chair made from?

white barcelona chair

Now back to the Barcelona chair itself. It combines leather with a chrome or stainless steel frame. The original frame had bolts but in 1950 it got its current look with the seamless metal frame. Furthermore, the original ivory pigskin was also replaced by black leather.

The Barcelona chair was manufactured in the United States, Spain and Germany between 1930 and 1950. After Lily Reich's death, van der Rohe ceded his rights to Knoll.

In the sixties, the Barcelona chair easily found its way to banks and big companies reception halls and it became an exciting style object.

In 2004 Knoll received trademarks from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Despite Knoll's trademarks, a large replica market is flourishing, even for the second hand items.

Barcelona Chair Prices?

burgundy barcelona chair

An original Barcelona chair and its matching stool manufactured by Knoll retail around 7,200 GBP (2009). Owners of a real Barcelona chair often save for years for it and buy it because they are design or culture lovers. The chair and stool are so expensive because of the materials and the hand work involved. The seating is made out of individual leather panels, which are hand-welted and tufted. The welding and the polishing of the frame is also time consuming. Even today it takes about 45 hours to finalise a Knoll Barcelona chair.

Evolution of the Chair

There's also a Belgian element to the Barcelona chair (Belgium of all places...). In 1952 a company called De Coene obtained the licence to produce Knoll furniture for the Benelux. De Coene were known for their craftsmanship in art nouveau, art deco and design. To manufacture the Knoll Barcelona chair they worked together with the Belgian luxury leatherware house Delvaux who made the cushions. De Coene and Knoll learnt a lot from each other: the design department in Knoll was state of the art avant garde and Knoll learnt a lot from the Belgian way of manufacturing and finessing the cushions. Unfortunately, "kunstwerkstede" ("art company" in old Dutch) De Coene closed down in 1977.

Replica Barcelona Chairs | Barcelona Chairs Reproductions

black barcelona chair

It is often hard to tell the difference between a Barcelona Chair reproduction and a real Barcelona chair. However, since 1996 the signature of Mies Van der Rohe is engraved in the chair (but it sometimes comes along in the replica's as well). The Barcelona chair is not really a very comfortable lounge chair on which you would watch television for hours. It feels like a throne, as it was originally designed.