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Design Classics

LC2 Grand Confort Armchair
(Small Version), 1929

Designer: Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret), Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand
Manufacturer: Various

Conventional wisdom credits the Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier as the father of this icon of 20th-century design. In fact, this is a joint venture created by Le Corbusier, his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. The three worked together to create a new type of furniture to equip the Modernist buildings they designed.

For a machine-age armchair, the team took as its model the over-stuffed club chairs of the late 19th-century. But instead of an interior frame (usually wood) covered with upholstery, it turned the chair inside out and created a tubular steel “container” that holds loose cushions. The result is an almost perfect cube with space carved out to provide maximum comfort.

In the early 20th-century, such architects as Le Corbusier were fascinated with industrial production and the possibilities of the machine age to transform the way people lived. One of his famous dictums was that a house was “a machine for living.” The first edition of the Grand Confort dates from 1928 and was shown in an exhibit at the 1929 World's Fair in Paris that featured a vision of an apartment furnished in a deluxe modern style.

In the 1980s, the audio-tape company Maxell ran a famous ad showing a hip-looking guy seated in a Grand Confort as if he were driving a race car. The chrome-and-black-leather version of the chair became the epitome of minimalist cool. Its self-contained, though somewhat constrained, form simultaneously displays both rationalist and voluptuous tendencies – a perfect example of French modernism and the International Style. Any versions of the Grand Confort you find these days will be a reissue of the original and the quality can vary greatly. Look closely at the metal frame. The corners should be perfectly smooth with no pitting. Cassina makes a very good version.

National Post, November 24, 2005.