For centuries, lacquerware was among the most precious cargoes crossing oceans from East Asia to Europe. Because the sap of the Toxicodendron vernicifluum tree couldn’t be transported by boat without hardening en route, Japanese and Chinese craftsmen became experts in imitating European furniture styles and decorating them for export with the sought-after finish.
But globalism comes for even the most regional of crafts. By the early 20th century, methods of transport had improved and a number of European designers began to experiment with lacquer in its raw form. The pioneering furniture designer Eileen Gray was among the first to grasp the contemporary potential of the millennia-old technique after she studied under the Paris-based lacquer master Seizo Sugawara in the early 1900s. Others soon followed suit, sometimes using innovative new compounds to imitate the resin.
The Carimate Chair, designed by the late Italian modernist Vico Magistretti and newly reissued by Fritz Hansen, demonstrates the happy unity and timeless appeal of traditional lacquer and contemporary lines. The chair, made in beech wood and finished in red and black lacquer, was initially designed by the Milanese architect for the Carimate Golf Club House in 1959. To celebrate the centenary of Magistretti’s birth, Kinfolk spent a day in the studio considering the light-reflecting potential of lacquer alongside a series of monochrome fashion looks.
This post was produced in partnership with Fritz Hansen.