Modern Design Classics, no 1. Eileen Gray: Bibendum Chair (1926)


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Modern Design Classics, no 1.         Eileen Gray: Bibendum Chair (1926)

In 1926, Eileen Gray created the curvaceous and inviting Bibendum chair. The figure hugging chair was aptly named after a voluptuous male figure, the legendary Bibendum man: an advertising character created in the late 19th century for the Michelin tyre Company.

The chair was relatively large; its depth approximately 84cm and its height 74cm. The visible frame was made of a polished, chromium-plated, stainless steel tube. The seat frame was made of beechwood, with rubber webbing inter-woven across the base of the seat to provide added comfort. The seat, back and arm rests were encased in soft, pale leather. The chair was originally created as part of an overall interior design scheme for a Paris apartment, and embraced the new Modern design aesthetic.

Irish born, Eileen Gray had a privileged background which enabled her to travel frequently and she attended prestigious private art schools in London and Paris. Shortly after the First World War Gray settled in Paris, where she was invited to re-design an apartment for Madame Mathieu Lévy, a successful boutique owner.

Gray's aim was that the apartment would not look too cluttered and that the eye would be drawn, first of all, to the tribal art on display. Gray designed most of its furniture, including her famous Bibendum chair, and made a point of using plain furnishing coverings. The process took four years and the result was favourably reviewed by several art critics who saw it as innovative and original.

Only a few pieces of furniture designed by women have achieved the status of Eileen Gray’s Bibendum Chair. However it was not until the 1970s that Gray signed a contract with Aram Designs, London, to authentically reproduce the Bibendum chair, which is still in production in leather and wool finishes. Today, Gray’s work is more admired and valued than ever.

Michelin Chair 1

The Bibendum chair sits beautifully with ethnic and retro schemes

Michelin Chair 2

The Bibendum chair works exceptionally well with modern art

Michelin Chair 3

The Bibendum chair is available in assorted colours, wool and leather

Michelin Chair 4

As a stand-alone piece it is stunning.

Michelin Chair 5

The Bibendum chair works equally well in a classic or contemporary setting

Michelin Chair 6

The Bibendum chair takes centre stage in an eclectic scheme

Michelin Chair 7

The Bibendum chair in soft brown leather against a floral backdrop

Michelin Chair 8

The Bibendum chair as originally conceived for a Paris apartment

Michelin Chair 9

The Bibendum chair was so Modern for it's time

Michelin Chair 10

The Bibendum chair is generously proportioned and comfortable

Michelin Man

The Bibendum character that provided the inspiration

Michelin Man Glass

The Bibendum character in the stained glass window of London's famed Michelin building

Michelin Creator

Eileen Gray (1878 - 1976)