Nearly everyone knows the famous advert of the man sitting in his living room getting literally blown away by his loud music which, according to his butler, is a ‘usual’ occurrence for him.
The ubiquitous Maxell cassette TV ad from 1985 is certainly iconic, but the chair the man is gripping onto, as Richard Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkeries’ booms out, is perhaps even more so.
For the birth of this chair, we have to go back more than 34 years — to the back-end of the roaring 20s in Europe and the workshop of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, or as he was more widely known, Le Corbusier.
Designed as a modernist response to the traditional club chair and curated in collaboration with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and colleague Charlotte Perriand, Le Grand Confort was originally presented as two versions at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in 1929.
In line with their concepts of proportion and ergonomics, they created the grand modèle for women (LC3), who tend to sit with their legs crossed in a diagonal line, and the petit modèle for men (LC2), who instead tend to sit straight with their legs open.
However, these prototypes were different from the current model. For this to come into fruition, the chair had to wait until 1959, when interior decorator Heidi Weber suggested the chrome-plating of the structure.
The chairs were already minimal and efficient, but this tubular frame gave the cushions their iconic square, formal appearance, and eliminated the spring mechanism in the back legs, which allowed the chair to bend backwards. This simple frame combined with the soft, supple leather upholstery, helped lend an organic warmth to an industrially made design — and became even more popular.
These changes made it a commercial success. The grand modèle, or LC3, is particularly cherished because it predates larger-scale production of the design by Italian manufacturer Cassina. The distribution was limited up until 1965, the year of Le Corbusier’s death, upon which Cassina began exclusive production with permission from La Fondation Le Corbusier.
A sample of the petite modèle (LC3) is on permanent exhibit at MoMA in New York. But if you want a vintage model in your home, it will set you back around $9000 from outlets like 1stdibs. A replica costs significantly less and is available for $1,799.95 at chicicat.
Le Corbusier once declared: “Chairs are architecture, sofas are bourgeois”. Le Grand Confort’s luxurious nature, stunning design and practicality mean this piece of architecture will continue to stand the test of time.
(Hero image credit: Cassina)
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