How to Identify a Genuine Knoll Barcelona Chair
Although Ludwig Mies van der Rohe says he wanted to be good rather than interesting, the professional architect took an interest in one of the great designers of modern furniture in the mid-century. One of his most popular and famous products is the Barcelona Chair, which won the Museum of Modern Art Design Award in 1977.
With popularity and recognition comes imitation. To make sure you are buying a quality original instead of a copy, learn more about how to spot an original Barcelona Chair with these steps.
Start with the back cushion
This chair was originally made with the help of modernist designer Lily Reich. It was the entrance to the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona, Spain. It was produced in very small numbers in the 1930s and 1940s. The design was later modified by Mies to make it a little more stylish. In 1953 Knoll Associates took over production after the original patent expired.
Since chairs made in limited numbers are rarely offered for sale, most modernists look for chairs made since the 1950s. Knoll International (company name since 1969) still produces the «less is more» Barcelona chair. The company rightly calls it «the marriage of design and craftsmanship.»
Start by examining the Barcelona seat and look for the Knoll features. Start with the back cushion. The cushion should be slightly higher than the steel frame it rests on and slightly curved to fit behind it. Cushions are always made with high-quality fillers that will hold their shape over time. Hanging chairs are a sign that is less copied.
Examine the Upholstery
The frame of the main seat of Barcelona is not only of high quality but its upholstery is always made of first-class materials. It is made of cow leather to give a uniform appearance to the material. If you notice changes in the texture of the leather, it is a sign that it is probably not original.
There are also two separate cushions for the back and seat. They are made from 40 pieces of leather that are hand-crafted, including rolling, taffeta, and finishing with leather-covered buttons. This attention to detail and the use of quality materials is evident in every chair produced by Knoll.
This chair model is made in several colors, but black leather is undoubtedly the most common color.
Check the Frame or Cushions for a Logo or Label
There is controversy over whether Knoll International can still claim the patent for this style of chair. Other furniture companies have copied the plan over the past few decades, leading to lawsuits between different manufacturers.
Most mid-century modern design enthusiasts believe that the best chair in this style was made by Knoll in the early 1950s. Modernists view these as «original«. Therefore, for most people, the confirmation that Knoll made the chair is genuine, whether new or old.
A Knoll ID is often found on the bottom cushion of an old chair, whether a sticker or a sticker stuck in place (the name Knoll International was used after 1969). The «Knoll Studios» logo, stamped on the frame signed by Mies, can be found on chairs made since 1996. In addition to looking for the Knoll logo or tags (which may have been removed from older chairs), look no further for the other features listed here for authentication.
The first Barcelona chair was made with a chrome frame. This style was designed by Mies in 1950 using highly polished stainless steel to give consumers a sleek look.
Look for Fastening Rivets
The main seat of Barcelona is made of 17 leather straps (other materials such as vinyl can represent copying), which are placed on a ladder behind and under the lower cushion. They are attached to the frame with aluminum rivets instead of buckling. Once the cushions are in place, the clamps are well hidden inside the frame.
Widely used in office and home environments, with a similar ottoman, a similar chair may suffice for some. But this type of construction is part of the high quality that passionate fans of modernism are willing to pay a lot of money for, whether by buying an old or new version of this classic Mies style.