Author: Andreas, designer furniture enthusiast for many years
In this article, you will find
Barcelona Chair: from royal throne to design classic
If you decide to buy a Barcelona Chair, you will be able to call your own an absolute design classic. The Barcelona chair’s timeless, open design and perfect proportions can be mixed with all interior styles. It can be found in representative entrance areas of large institutions or companies. Even in the private sphere, the Barcelona chair can enrich every home and provide a touch of royal flair. Why royal flair? Read more about it in the article.
More than just a recliner
No matter how comfortable it is, the Barcelona Chair is not just a recliner. In fact, it still fulfills its original purpose today: its unique design offers a stylish seat. Through its history, the myth of the royalty still surrounds the Chair. Indeed, the Chair was originally conceived as a seat for the Spanish royal couple visit at the 1929 World Fair in Barcelona. The Barcelona Chair has already been shown several times on the silver screen: in the James Bond film Casino Royale, for instance.
Design and manufacturing of the Barcelona Chair
The highly polished stainless steel shapes the basis of the Barcelona Chair and consists of a single piece. However, this was not always the case. The first series production of the Chair was ordered by the company “Berliner Metallgewerbe Josef Müller”.
In the first designs, the frame was not made of polished stainless steel, but of chrome-plated steel strip. Chroming the frame in one piece was a problem. Since chrome plating was a relatively new technique in furniture production, the chrome barrels were not large enough for this purpose. Thus first the individual parts were chrome-plated and later screwed together. However, the illusion that the frame was made of one piece had to be maintained. All transition points were filed away and the screws were covered with the leather straps of the seat upholstery.
The large seat and back cushions consist of 40 individual pieces of leather, which are frame-sewn by hand. The leather used is cut from a single piece of cowhide! A total of 20 pieces of leather are used for the seat and back upholstery. The cushions are filled with special foam. In the beginning, horse hair was used to fill the cushions.
The characteristic look is completed by the 24 hand-stitched leather buttons. The upholstery is attached to the frame with cowhide leather straps (goatskin was formerly used). The visible side of the leather straps (back) is dyed according to the chosen color. The Barcelona Chair is also available with a fabric cover. However, this variant is not very common.
As with many lounge chairs, a matching footstool / ottoman, the Barcelona stool, is also available, which completes the chair virtually.
The dimensions of the Barcelona Chair at glance
Seat height: 17 in / 29.5 in W x 30 in D x 30.25 in H
Weight: 47 lbs
25 in W x 23.25 in D x 14.75 in H
Where can you buy the Barcelona Chair?
No doubt about it – this design classic enhances every room tremendously. You have the choice between original and replica. The original convinces with high-quality materials and top craftsmanship, but it also comes with a price.
The Replica model is significantly cheaper. The Replica models now also use genuine leather and are solidly manufactured. You will have to renounce the serial number and the engraving on the underside.
How good is the replica model?
The One replica model of the Barcelona Chair does not exist. Therefore no general statement can be made about the quality. It’s easier with the original. The licensed reproductions of Knoll, referred to as originals here, are produced in consistently high quality.
But even the replica models offer generally a reasonable quality with a good price-performance ratio. In the past, replicas were produced with cheap imitation leather, but today they are already available with real leather upholstery. If you buy from a large supplier, you can be sure that if you don’t like the product, you can return it anytime.
“It’s harder to build a good chair than a skyscraper.”
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Recognizing the original Barcelona Chair
Whether you decide for an original or a replica model is up to you. The original convinces with its high quality materials and top manufacturing. On the other hand, it is quite expensive. Replica models are much cheaper. However, you have to make small compromises here and there. You will learn now how you can distinguish an original from a replica.
- In the very cheap replicas for less than 200,- euros, the frame is often made of several parts and later screwed together With the very cheap. The original consists of a single piece.
- In addition, artificial leather is sometimes used. However, replicas are now also available with genuine leather. Please note that even with genuine leather, there can be significant differences in quality. Knoll uses high-quality Velluto Pelle leather for the original.
- Knoll started to engrave the armchairs in 1996. The word “Knollstudio” and the signature of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe are engraved on the lower right side of the chair leg. The engraving evolved over the years into several designs. Although it was coloured red in the meantime, it is currently colorless.
- A label with the serial number is attached to the underside.
Video explaining the differences
Cleaning and maintenance
- The Barcelona Chair is easy to clean due to its materials. Wipe the stainless steel frame occasionally with a damp cloth.
- Wipe off the leather cover with a soft cotton cloth and use a damp cloth once a week. Occasionally you can apply a leather product to the cover. However, even with high-quality cleaning products, it is advisable to test them first on an invisible area. The back of the upholstery is ideal for this.
The Barcelona Chair has a long history
The Barcelona Chair was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969), one of the most important modernist architects. In the German pavilion at the 1929 World’s Fair in Barcelona, it was designed to accommodate the Spanish royal couple at the opening.
The skilled sculptor Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was one of the most prominent faces of the Bauhaus School. In 1930, the Bauhaus even appointed him as director. As director, he was able to accompany the Bauhaus’s move from Dessau to Berlin before it was closed by the Nazis in 1933.
One piece frame
The crisis in Germany also affected Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and so he went to the USA in 1938 to start a new life there. In America, he later became acquainted with the furniture producers Florence and Hand Knoll (KnollStudio©). It didn’t take much work to convince them. In 1948, KnollStudio started producing the Barcelona Chair. In the meantime, the technology had progressed so far that the base frame could be made from a single piece. Since 1953, Knoll has had the sole patent for the production of the Barcelona chair.
The Barcelona Chair in the german pavilion |Barcelona Pavilion
When the world exhibition was about to take place in Barcelona, Mies van der Rohe was assigned by the German government to design the German pavilion, including the interior. He was not given exact specifications as to how the pavilion should look. However, the government provided him with sufficient funds: fantastic conditions for an architect! As a result, the so-called Barcelona Pavilion was home to a generous amount of glass and even more marble.
For more pictures take a look at our gallery
Fantastic conditions for an architect
Mies van der Rohe designed the Barcelona Chair for the interior. In total, two Barcelona armchairs made of white goatskin were on display in the German pavilion. They were thus part of an architectural synthesis of the arts. As the two chairs were the only pieces of furniture in the entire room, they were particularly effective and attracted all the attention. In prestigious areas, we can still find the Barcelona Chair in pairs.
The Mies van der Rohe chair achieved a cult status shortly after its presentation at the World Fair.
It is unknown why the Spanish royal couple did not sit on the chairs provided for them when visiting the German pavilion. Presumably, because they didn’t have enough time. In any case, it didn’t harm the image of the Barcelona Chair.
After the end of the World Exposition, the Barcelona Pavilion was demolished and the parts that could still be used were sold. Today some parts can be found in the Saxon state parliament in Dresden. Later the city of Barcelona decided to rebuild the pavilion according to the original plans. The reconstruction took place between 1983 and 1986.
Frequently asked questions
Who designed the Barcelona Chair?
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969), a German-American architect, designed the Barcelona Chair.
Are there different versions?
The most common version is the one with black leather. The chair is also available in other colors and with fabric upholstery.
How much does the Barcelona Chair cost?
An original reproduction of Knoll is available from about 6800 €.
Who was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe?
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (* 27.03.1886 – † 17.08.1969) was one of the most important “architects” of the modern age.
“Architect” in quotation marks, because he never passed an official final examination.
His father was a sculptor and thus he inherited a sense of architecture and design. He grew up in Aachen and moved to Berlin at a young age. There he found a job in the architectural office of the well-known architect Bruno Paul and worked on his first furniture designs.
At the same time he attended lectures at the Kunstgewerbeschule and the Hochschule für bildende Künste Berlin. As an architect, Mies van der Rohe
designed well-known buildings such as the Haus Tugendhat in Brno, the Crown Hall in Chicago, the Seagram Building in New York, and the Barcelona Pavilion for the 1929 World Fair.
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