When it comes to modernist design, it’s well worth casting an eye
across the Tasman Sea to our neighbors in New Zealand, where
you will find outstanding examples of post-war furniture and objects to
rival those produced in Australia, and for that matter, anywhere else in
the world. For my money, it’s hard to go past many of the stylish pieces
by iconic kiwi designer Garth Chester (1916-1968), who is regarded
as one of New Zealand’s most important furniture designers.
One of Chester’s most sought after designs is the ‘Curvesse Chair’ (pictured above)
which was designed in 1944, and is considered by some design experts to be the
world’s first cantilevered plywood chair. At first glance this chair conjures up the
plywood designs of Alvar Aalto or Marcel Breuer, but Chester’s design perhaps
has more in common with the armchair (pictured below) designed in the early
1930’s by iconic British furniture designer Gerald Summers.
Look out for classic chairs by Bob Roukema (Edzer Duije Roukema) who, according to Carter’s Price Guide, designed most of the furniture for the Jon Jansen store in Auckland between 1951 and 1959. Roukema’s designs are highly sought after, in particular his range of contour chairs such as the beautiful example pictured below.
Search for chairs by Ernst Plischke (pictured below), or ceramics and lamps by John Crichton. Bargain buys can still be found, check out vintage ceramics by Crown Lynn and Temuka Pottery, cool 1950’s table lamps and ceiling lights can also be purchased at good prices.
And If it’s architecture you desire, you will find plenty of information and archival photographs at Lost Property, which offers a brilliant showcase of the modernist movement in New Zealand. Look out for buildings and furniture by top architects such as Brenner Associates, Lillian Chrystall, Maurice K. Smith and the ground breaking work of Group Architects.
It’s also worth noting that designs by Fred Lowen (Fler) and Grant Featherston were made under license in New Zealand, and are notable for their superior craftsmanship and use of quality local timbers, thus making these pieces highly desirable and very collectable. You can find out more about Garth Chester and other New Zealand designers and architects at the excellent blog Mr. Bigglesworthy:For the love of design’. The site is crammed full of information and they also sell classic post-war designs. You can also find out more about Garth Chester and other kiwi artists at Lost Property. If you want to find out more about The Group architects, get yourself a copy of Julia Gatley’s book, Group Architects: Towards a New Zealand Architecture (Auckland University Press, 2010, RRP $75.) You may also like to check out copies of the original New Zealand Design Review Magazine which features lots of interesting articles and photographs of New Zealand mid-century architecture and industrial design. So now you have yet another reason to visit New Zealand, and just think of all
those op shops, markets and second hand stores. If you have any favorite kiwi
designs or further info on the modernist movement in New Zealand, please leave
a comment. In the meantime, check out these little Kiwi beauties.