Design Classics. Class or Cliché?

Your Brother has invited you to his new apartment.

He wants to celebrate his new job in advertising and you know you’re going to have to brush up on your design classics.

You arrive, parking your financed Hyundai next to his 1958 Fiat 500, as he welcomes you in, and  invites you to sit down on his Eames Lounge Chair. He opens his off-white Smeg fridge and places two slices of seeded, organic bread in his Dualit toaster.

You pick up the Philippe Starck Alessi lemon squeezer, placed on top of the neatly piled copies of GQ and Wallpaper* and ponder, ‘why is there a lemon squeezer in the living room?’

Here, design literate readers, lies a question that I have been considering for a while. Design classics. Are they classy, or just a cliché?

There are a number of things to consider when asking this question, first among which, is the exclusivity of such items. This exclusivity is fuelled, mostly, by their price. A real Eames Lounge Chair (and Ottoman) retails at around £6000, while one can easily find a beautifully made, stylish chair from A.N.Other Design Ltd for a fraction of that. So maybe it is all about ‘making it rain?’ Not the design intent?

When Charles and Ray Eames designed their Lounge Chair in the late 50’s, using a baseball glove as inspiration for ultimate comfort and form, I’m sure they didn’t want it to be seen as something only the owners of the silverest of spoons and the whitest of teeth would sit in. It is, after all, a chair.

Next comes the simple power of names, and the dagger-in-the-side one-upmanship that they induce. To say that ‘I have an Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair… and yes… it’s real’ does have a certain twang to it, even if everyone else at the party thinks you’re a dick.

Finally, we come to the professional’s opinion which, when asked, ‘what is your favourite piece of design?’ always results in the same tedious repetition of the aforementioned chairs, lemon squeezers, cars and pencil sharpeners. Wanting to buck the trend should be at the forefront of this industry’s mind. Ever trying to improve and re-define what is desirable. I wonder… Do you like it because you’re meant to like it?

So, as I imagine sitting in my made-up Brother’s living room, I ask, ‘do I want a £50 lemon squeezer, just because of who put it to paper a few decades ago?’ you’re sure as hell I do.

I am writing this after just buying a Dualit toaster, and am currently scouring eBay for a replica Eames lounge chair.


One thought on “Design Classics. Class or Cliché?

  1. Melissa says:

    I totally agree with the point ‘Do you like it because you’re meant to like it?’
    This can be said of so many things, not just furniture pieces. So many designer brands produce undoubtedly high-quality products, but which may not be the most practical or functional of items. Consumers will pay the high price tag simply to say that they own a ‘???’
    It is in this instance when I have to agree that some products become a cliché rather than a classic piece to hand down generations.


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