A chair is never simply a chair. In the case of Hlynur V. Atlason’s VON collection for ercol, seating taps into our increasingly blended lifestyle and ongoing search for authenticity. We met Atlason in the furniture halls of Milan Furniture Fair last month.
May 10th, 2018
A designer of diverse backgrounds, Hlynur V. Atlason is an Icelandic-born, New York-based designer whose worked across all manner of projects. His broad portfolio encompasses everything from toothbrushes and shavers to packaging, fragrance bottles and, most recently, the VON furniture collection for UK design brand, ercol.
In making the leap from the likes of toiletries into furniture pieces, Atlason acknowledges he has taken on a steep challenge. However, “It sort of hits on the same vectors when it comes to designing: preparation, research, understanding the human condition, [the user as well as the ‘need’], and the business case around it.”
There’s also the case for the specifier too. “How they create environments and make decisions [based on their end users’ habits],” qualifies Atlason. Here he references the ever-shifting behaviours of a new generation of customer – the type which embraces the fluidity of life through lifestyle decisions that can be as obscure as wearing the same shoes for work, as to the gym and nightclubbing too.
But what does this all have to do with a chair? “It should accommodate us as human beings, you know?” says Atlason.
VON is a modular system of seating, benching and table units, designed to bring what we love about our homes into the professional environment. With its generously wide proportions, the focus remains firmly on comfort and achieving a sense of breathing space between users, no matter the configuration of elements.
Ercol, which has been around since the early 1900s and is one of the only remaining UK-based furniture producers manufacturing out of the UK, has an archive of design classics which remain just as relevant today as they did when first designed.
For VON, Atlason was commissioned to select one of founder Lucian Ercolani’s classics: he chose to launch the VON collection off Ercolani’s 1950s ‘427’ chair. Adapting the original design for a 2018 market, Atlason has infused new proportions as well as working and living scenarios into the chair. In so doing, he has ensured the sense of authenticity remains strong through a careful blending of the old with the new.
Acknowledging its original design tenets, Atlason has taken the ‘427’ chair frame and intelligently refined it. “We created a channel to ‘snap in’ the straps [supporting the upholstery]. From the outside there is no hardware, there’s a lot more depth than the upholstery suggests. The chair looks very simple as a result. We spent a lot of energy figuring this out.”
When asked about the tension inherent in redesigning a classic into a new original, Atlason says: “I think now, nobody is writing an original song. It’s all based on something else. So there is some tradition or foundation that we are working on.”
The same goes for design, he says. It’s whether you acknowledge it or not that really matters. The VON remains, a perfect case in point.
Heading to ICFF this May? ercol’s Henry Tadros, head of international sales, will be presenting VON at ICFF in New York, 20 May. ercol is available through Temperature Design.
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