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19 July 2021
Natural material par excellence, it is renewed thanks to the sophisticated interpretation of the design. Without losing its historical and elegant roots
Vienna straw is a material that has always been present in elegant homes, the straw seat framed by curved wood is a classic to which we are all linked, almost an archetype of the chair itself. It is a natural material, which is obtained from the processing of the rush: divided into strips which are then hand-woven to form the classic design that we all know and which gives the furniture a light appearance but a well-supported structure. And here the straw, a material of humble origin, is ennobled by its processing carried out through ancient techniques that are said to have been borrowed from the ancient Egyptians. Today, it is a material that also lends itself to interpretations with an extremely contemporary style, as the following examples demonstrate.
The classic and the contemporary of Wiener GTV Design
The Austrian company is the heir of Thonet, the brand that in the 19th century took over and relaunched Vienna straw, making it a trademark along with the curvature of the wood. The classic of the brand, still a great success, is the chair n.14, identified as a bistro chair and strongly characterized by the curved beech wood and the seat, in fact, in Vienna straw. The company has also been able to renew the use of this material by relying on contemporary designers who have won this challenge with excellent results. This is why the Swedish studio Front designed the Hideout collection in 2015: armchairs and sofas are characterized by a large padded seat and a huge and enveloping backrest that protects and welcomes and is, in fact, in Vienna straw. In 2017, the company collaborated with Servomuto to create suspended and floor version lamps in which recurring materials, straw and beech wood, are combined with other textures, equally precious: from marble to fabrics with bright patterns and colors.
Charlotte Perriand designs the Rio coffee table for Cassina. The main feature is the rounded shape resulting from a set of wedges placed in a misaligned position. The whole is harmonious but not obvious and among the finishes available for the top, one of the most interesting is undoubtedly the Vienna straw combined with the natural oak edges and structure.
Despite having been designed in 1928, the Cesca seat is extraordinarily modern in its lines and in the combination of materials. Designed by Marcel Breuer, it combines a tubular steel structure with Vienna straw seat and back. The contrast of the two materials, one cold and rigid and the other warm and flexible, creates a perfect balance of style and function.
The screen is once again a very topical element: it marks open spaces, offers immediate solutions of privacy and tranquility. But with its panels, the screen is also a decorative element, and this one, designed by Skrivo Design is a celebration of Vienna straw.
Vienna straw is not a suitable material for outdoor use, yet someone has managed to find a solution that combines the aesthetics of its weaving with the performance of an outdoor material. The first example is the Canasta collection by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia: the polyethylene – resistant to atmospheric agents – is woven to form the characteristic pattern of Vienna straw but in a macro dimension that allows, perhaps, to appreciate its beauty even more. The second example is Christophe Pillet‘s Grand Life collection for Ethimo. Here the weaving of Vienna straw is applied to a synthetic rope resistant to UV rays and abrasion and used for the enveloping backrests of an extremely elegant collection for sophisticated outdoor spaces.
Piani is a collection of coffee tables, consoles and shelving designed by Patricia Urquiola for Editions Milano. Vienna straw is the material chosen for the top of each line and is highlighted, by contrast, by the dense lacquering of the wooden structure. The straw tops are oval in shape while the sides are rectangular. A juxtaposition of shapes, textures and colors that makes Piani a versatile and interesting collection.
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