• Steven Heller

An ’80s Retrospect: Venturi Chairs

By: Steven Heller

What I liked about ’80s design was its disco, anything goes, Studio 54, modernist-be-damned reverie. Pretentious, yes! But also not as self-seriously somber as today. Perhaps it was the bubble of affluence brought on by Reagan’s trickle-down economics. But it was a moment when the baby boomers showed their rebellion in establishment ways. This and the next two Daily Heller’s are about some randomly representative artifacts of a curiously transitional moment in time. Today: Knoll’s Venturi Collection of Chairs.

Typical of the Po-Mo aesthetic with a pinch of Memphis, this brochure was created by the Knoll Design Group with a die-cut on the front and back covers and interior photography that gave a playground aura to the timely furniture. Were they comfy? That’s debatable. But they were emblematic of a period. Or as Knoll states:

“The collection of chairs, tables and sofa created for Knoll in the 1980s by Venturi served as a physical statement of their willingness to reference and indulge in the more traditionally ornate styles of design. The chairs exemplified Venturi’s fascination with the façade; the idea that period styling could be applied for purely decorative purposes to a more functionalist frame. Breaking down barriers between traditional and modern design, Venturi’s collection incorporated a wide range of major historical furniture styles, such as Chippendale, Queen Anne, Empire, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Biedermeier, Gothic Revival, Art Nouveau and Art Deco.”

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