The Wire Chairs are a series of three chairs made of a metal wire mesh; designed by Harry Bertoia in the 50s for Knoll.
Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/1285aff9-d702-4861-8743-3b2de9e3c7f3
When were the Wire Chairs conceived?
Starting out as a teacher in jewelry design and metal work in California, Bertoia moved to Pennsylvania in 1950 to work with Hans and Florence Knoll, with the promise of full freedom to develop his artistic concepts. Out of this challenge emerged a range of furniture “mostly made of air” and three wire pieces that became known as the Bertoia Collection for Knoll. Among these was the famous Diamond Chair: a fluid, sculptural form made from a welded lattice work of steel that soon became one of the most popular piece of furniture of mid-century.
If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes right through them.
How were they produced?
The chairs were produced with varying degrees of upholstery over their light grid-work, but since a suitable mass production process couldn’t be found at first, they were handmade and sold in small numbers. It was at that time that a dispute with Ray and Charles Eames took place. In fact, the first Wire Chairs utilized two thin wires welded on either side of the mesh seat, unfortunately this design had already been granted a patent to the Eames for the Wire Chair produced by Herman Miller.
So Bertoia and Knoll redesigned the seat edge, using a thicker, single wire, and grinding down the edge of the seat wires at a smooth angle — the exact same way the chairs are produced today. Nonetheless, the commercial success enjoyed by Bertoia‘s chairs was immediate and the Bertoia Collection remains one of the great achievements of modern furniture design.
Image source: https://www.smow.com/blog/2015/03/smow-blog-design-calendar-march-10th-1915-happy-birthday-harry-bertoia/
Which are the Wire Chairs?
The three Wire Chairs by Bertoia are: the Side Chair, the Barstool and the Diamond Chair. Each one can be found in slightly different versions. A full list of the Wire Chairs available today is the following:
Bertoia Side Chair
Bertoia Side Chair without Seat Pad;
Bertoia Side Chair – Two-Tone;
Bertoia Side Chair in Rose Gold.
Images source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harry_bertoia_per_knoll_international_inc.,_sedia_da_bambino_(mod._426-2),_new_york_1950-52_(1953).jpg
Bertoia Barstool without Seat Pad;
Bertoia Barstool – Counter Height;
Bertoia Barstool – Counter Height without Seat Pad.
Images source: https://www.mobiliedesign.it/collezioni/coleccion-de-acero/sgabello-bertoia?gclid=Cj0KCQjw-4SLBhCVARIsACrhWLUBuJUzKCHBRNNPhMroyerHb1M-BHuyi9tsz7YaWk7J8Y328ubpyHcaAnl8EALw_wcB#/3-color-nero
Bertoia Diamond Chair
Bertoia Diamond Chair – Two-Tone;
Bertoia Diamond Chair in Gold.
Images source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/5870fdeb-c799-49fe-ba02-97e5625a2b07
What are the Wire Chairs made of?
The three chairs are all characterized by a wire mesh design, but they differ slightly for material and finishes.
Bertoia Side Chair
Seat and base are constructed of welded steel rods with polished chrome or white or black Rilsan finish. The seat pad and cover attach directly to the frame with hidden mono-filament and metal hooks.
The Rilsan finish and vinyl seat pad are both suitable for outdoor use while the chrome finish is not. Plastic glides are also included on sled base to protect floors.
Seat and base are constructed of welded steel rods with polished chrome or white or black powder coat finish. Seat pad snaps on to the frame with domed snap buttons.
White and black powder coat frame with vinyl seat pad are all suitable for outdoor use.
Bertoia Diamond Chair
Seat and base are constructed of welded steel rods with polished chrome or white or black Rilsan finish. Seat pad and cover attach directly to the frame with hidden mono-filament and metal hooks.
As for the Side Chair, the Rilsan finish and vinyl seat pad are suitable for outdoor use, the chrome finish is not and plastic glides are included on sled base to protect floors.
- Designer: Harry Bertoia;
- Year of design: introduced in 1952 and still in production;
- Manufacturer: Knoll;
- Provenance: USA.