In my opinion, nothing quite says ‘post-war’ like a webbed chair. Using surplus army parachute webbing tacked onto a simple timber frame, the webbed chair is both practical and simple in it’s design. Webbed chairs reveal their materiality, their taught bodies no longer concealed beneath a thick layer of padding and upholstery, for it is the frame that now reveals itself in all it’s glory. Curving lines in exotic timbers, colored cotton webbing and strong modernist lines makes these chairs ideal pieces for the modern home.
In Australia, when we think of the webbed chair we often turn to architect/designer Douglas Snelling (see image above), but it’s worth noting that there are a number of designs that pre-date Snelling’s range of chairs. The similarities between the rocking chairs produced by Rapson and Snelling are striking to say the least, but it’s hard to ignore that Snelling’s Advertisments for his rocker borrowed heavily from the print ads in America promoting Rapson’s rocking chair. At a time when trade restrictions and high import costs prohibited access to international design, was Snelling simply providing the masses with good design or was he a post-war Matt Blatt on a mission to replicate and mass produce the work of great designers? I guess I will leave that decision up to you.
The Snelling chairs have got me thinking about the idea of appropriation and/ or inspiration when it comes to furniture designs of the period. Designers are often influenced by each other, and in the case of the webbed chair, with shared ideologies and such limited materials used in the production of the chairs (pictured below), perhaps one could argue that similarities are bound to emerge. Infact, the more I research Australian furniture from the post-war period, the more obvious it becomes that many Australian designers had appropriated, or we’re influenced by the theories and techniques applied by international designers. Just look at the furniture made in the manner of the Swedish style by Danish DeLuxe and Fler, or Parker Furniture’s reinterpretation of Knoll sofas. I guess when you live on an enormous island, you cant help but look to the wider world for inspiration.
As I sit in the comfort of my 1950’s George Korody chair, based on a design by Jens Risom, I am thankful that Professor Korody looked abroad for inspiration, then created something special so that others could enjoy the benefits of modernist design.
Now enjoy the eye candy!
Jens Risom, 1941
maple or walnut, cotton or nylon webbing
Made in USA by Knoll
Abel Sorenson, 1945-46
The 703 WAC (Webbed Arm Chair), was designed by , and produced for only one year.
Douglas Snelling, 1947
Rocking chair for Functional Products, formed in 1947 and based in Sydney, Australia.