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Design Miami/Basel 2013: Resting Upon Imagination

Beasts, thrones and walnut wood offer visionary sitting spots at this year's furniture fair

by David Graver in Design on 20 June 2013

Design Miami/Basel houses the extraordinary. Objects as ordinary as a chair, and as everyday as a bench to sit upon, wow at this annual celebration of collectible design. With deft artistry, designers re-envision the structure and function of day-to-day living across furniture and housewares. From grandiose chairs fit for a czar to benches inspired by animals and the woods they call home, the following pieces stood out as prime places to sit down.

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An amorphous throne, Mathias Bengtsson's "Growth Chair" (2012) makes casted bronze appear to be molten lava. With a fluid netting of solid metal, this armchair matches regal grandeur with something entirely of nature. It's a seat fit for a king of the forest. The Danish furniture designer was showcased by Galerie Maria Wettergren.

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The Campana Brothers, Fernando and Humberto, delivered their imaginative prowess by way of two chairs this year. The "Kidassia Chair" (2013) clothes an asymmetrical assembly of teak wood in Kidassia goat fur. The chair appears comfortable, but in the way a shaggy dog companion would be. Presented by Galleria O. Roma, the Brazilian furniture designers collaborated with fashion house FENDI for the Kidassia. Further invoking the animalistic, their "Leather Alligator Banquete Chair" (2011) binds gold leather alligator toys, hand-sewn, to a stainless steel structure. Perhaps initially drawn from the childhood fantasy of sleeping atop a bed of stuffed animals, the gold leather counteracts this youthfulness and sets a fantastical vision.

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We first learned of Bae Sehwa at Design Miami 2011 and were pleased to see a legged version of his steam-bent wood work. The "Steam 11" (2012) lounge-chair applies his traditional approach: render digitally, steam wood for three or four hours (walnut in this instance) and mold to shape by hand. "Steam 11," futuristic yet oddly natural, rests an avocado-half design atop four legs built of sometimes fanning, sometimes parallel wood-strips. The piece was presented by R 20th Century.

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We found where the wild things are—they're made of cast bronze and wear buffalo fur and they are in the form of a bench. The Haas Brothers "Beast" bench (2013) mounts a furry mammalian body with tail on scaly metal lizard legs. Also seen at R 20th Century, the bench invites and repels with a headless, luxuriant confusion.

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"Fallen Tree" (2011), Benjamin Graindorge's oakwood and glass bench slides from the entropy of bare tree branches to the modernity of a square slice of glass. The piece, presented by Ymer&Malta, gracefully conveys the process of future-forward furniture design, all the while reminding us that our chairs and benches originate from the trees.

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"Asymmetrical ceramic chairs" (2013) by Lee Hun Chung, carry an almost artifact-like essence. The glazed ceramic pieces, coated in traditional grayish-blue-powdered celadon, appear to be uncovered from time past. Found at Gallery Seomi's booth, the polished, unplaceable beauty defies modernism while being such itself.

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Design Miami/Basel partner Artsy brought experiment studio ROLU to design their cellphone charging booth installation. The chair, cleanly geometric, brought foam to wood, carrying sharp structure while maintaining comfort.

Bae Sehwa photo courtesy of R 20th Century. Hass Brothers photo by Ben Cope. Benjamin Graindorge photo courtesy of Ymer&Malta. Lee Hun Chung image courtesy of Gallery Seomi. ROLU photo courtesy of Artsy and Claude Gasser. All other photos by Alexandre Corda.

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