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American and Scandinavian Designs

"Marshmallow" Sofa
"Marshmallow" Sofa, Designed 1956
Designed by Irving Harper, American
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American and Scandinavian designs added other dimensions to modernism in the mid-twentieth century. Following Bauhaus orthodoxy, both movements eliminated decoration and pursued standardized production techniques. However, American designers like Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, and George Nelson experimented with industrial technologies and materials that emerged during World War II, bending, stamping, and molding fiberglass (glass-reinforced plastic), plywood, and metal into quirky furniture forms. Eames further used synthetic resins to join steel-rod legs to his plywood and fiberglass seat shells with rubber shock mounts borrowed from the automotive industry, and then left the mechanical details of mounts and bolts plainly visible.

Scandinavian designers, on the other hand, continued to value their native handcraft traditions, using natural as well as industrial materials, and curvilinear, sculptural shapes to express both a personal and regional identity quite different from that of modern designers elsewhere. The Danish architect Arne Jacobsen created "Ant" and "Egg" chairs, which stand as organic symbols, expressed by forms suggestive of an insect on slender metal legs and an enveloping oval shell, respectively. At Finland's Nuutajärvi glassworks and Arabia ceramics factory, Kaj Franck developed generalized tableware for multiple functions in coordinated sizes and colors, along with glass decanters in unusual shapes that could be further individualized with differently colored stoppers.