Design icons: Xavier Pauchard Tolix chair


From my regular series of Design Icons written for ABC RN Blueprint. You can find others on my main page and also on the Blueprint and Podcasts pages.

The Tolix chair was broadcast on the 12th February 2022. You can listen to the audio here.

*

The French have a particular liking for unadorned metal, like the zinc-topped counters in cafes, and the unembellished iron of the Eiffel Tower. They’ve also been good at producing metal furniture, like a particular chair often referred to as the Tolix chair. Its distinctive look has meant it’s been copied so much that the market has now become saturated in them. Does this diminish our appreciation of its uniqueness or does it in fact highlight just what a great design it is?

The Tolix chair, properly known as Chair A , looks as good in a dining room as it does in the garden. It was designed by Xavier Pauchard in 1925, his first foray into the mass market, and intended to become the essential café chair, strong enough to put up with rain, shine and careless customers.

Pauchard’s family had a roofing company in the Burgundy region, a few hours south of Paris, and used galvanised metal sheets. Young Xavier was interested in creating furniture from it, understanding that it would make it both practical and hardwearing. The original galvanising method was to dip metal in a molten bath of zinc, rendering the whole thing entirely weatherproof, even if chipped. When the First World War ended, Pauchard worked on a prototype chair, using metal snippers to cut up a sheet of galvanised steel, rolling the metal to form sturdy legs and gradually crafting a chair that looked a little like an updated version of that other great staple of the café interior, the bentwood chair, designed some seventy years earlier. By 1927, he had honed the design and began to sell it through his new company, which he called Tolix. Others were working on metal chairs elsewhere, like Marcel Breuer in Germany, with his cantilevered, tubular steel chair. Metal was seen as hygienic and industrial and therefore modern and the Tolix chair was intended for everywhere from cafes to hospitals. The initial response was muted. But in 1935, along with an armchair variant, it was used on the luxurious new transatlantic  liner, the Normandie, and became hugely popular. Two years later, it was the official chair of the Paris World Fair. Pauchard also added a stylish table to his range, the Kub, which had an inverted pyramid pedestal that joyfully captured the Art Deco spirit of the time.

When Pauchard died in 1948, the company was taken over by his sons, Andre and Jean, and then divided into two businesses, one making steel tanks, the other continuing to produce the Tolix range. Jean Pauchard refined the shape of his father’s design and added an armchair version, naming it the A56 after the year it was released.  While this has become the chair we perhaps know best today, it’s continued to evolve, subtly tweaked from time to time, making it taller, wider, more colourful and even available in perforated steel. And yet still it captures a moment of French design, a chair that echoes both the functionality and cleverness of the Citroen 2CV. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but in the design world it’s usually a way of making easy money. Cheap and often clumsily made copies shouldn’t dent the reputation of a design that aimed itself to be cheap and ubiquitous.  The top-quality original is still made in France, much of it handmade. It remains, in fact, a classic that just keeps on going, almost despite its success.

Categories: Design, Icons, radioTags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 comments

  1. Interesting story! I had to google Tolix Chair to see what it looked like. Indeed a French icon! Many metal chairs are incredibly uncomfortable but that one looks like it would make a pretty comfy seat with the central back metal support. Nice looking chair too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

La petite musique des vendredis

Le blog culturel d'Hélène Cascaro- arts visuels, cinéma, patrimoine, artisanat d'art, architecture,...

annabellabraydotcom

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Avisha Rasminda

Hi, I'm Avisha Rasminda. Twenty years old.

Ananda Only

an empty space between silence & stillness

Are we there yet?

Diversions, detours and discoveries

Nick Alexander

Author of From Something Old, The Road to Zoe, You Then Me Now, Things We Never Said, The Bottle of Tears, The Other Son, The Photographer's Wife, The Half-Life of Hannah, the 50 Reasons Series. And more...

Dr David T Evans, OBE NTF PFHEA RN(T)

Sexual health matters! It really does!

Dr. Eric Perry’s Self-Help Blog

Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

Cole Moreton

Award-winning writer and broadcaster

Wildonline.blog

British Wildlife & Photography

Place, Plots and Plans

The PlaceMatt Blog

viewer site

Barbara Heath & Malcolm Enright - our viewer site blog

Museum Travelers

Cultural travel for curious minds

kirilson photography

the stories behind the pictures, and vice versa

Not-So-Modern Girl

Thoughts of a twenty-something girl navigating her way one blog post at a time

Anthony Hillin

Training, Facilitation and Policy development

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

MOVIE-WARDEN

T.V/Movie News & Reviews

SAVING OUR TREES - Marrickville municipality

Community Tree Watch - working to protect healthy public trees in Marrickville municipality from inappropriate removal

MOVIE MUSIC UK

Film Score Reviews by Jonathan Broxton since 1997

A life in books

Book news, reviews and recommendations

150 great things about the Underground

An unofficial birthday salute to a public transport titan

Mistakes & Adventures

What I've always wanted

Expedictionary

Literary Geography

UNSW Built Environment's Blog

Information from students and staff at Built Environment at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia.

joe moran's words

on the everyday, the banal and other important matters

The Back Road Chronicles

Curious soul...and it makes me wanna take the back roads!

Fool for France

A house of one's own

Wee Notions

Notes on a napkin

Philip Butler Photography

Architecture & Observations

Susie Trexler

Secret Knowledge of Spaces

Rebecca Renner

Welcome to Gator Country

DynamicStasis

DynamicStasis is basically an attempt to think about and discuss integrity, beauty, and delight - in architecture and elsewhere.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

Sustainable Gardening in our Continually Surprising Climate

%d bloggers like this: