I first saw a photo of Gerrit Rietveld’s roodblauwe stoel (“red-blue chair”) in a book years ago. It was so different and visually arresting (not to mention seemingly simple in its construction) that I decided I could make one for myself. I carefully drew sketches and planned dimensions, somehow, though, I never got beyond the planning stages. And then, last year a very-pregnant Sacha and I visited a large Modernism exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC. Upon entering the exhibit space, visitors were greeted with long rows of Rietveld chairs lining each staircase. It then occurred to me that very little would be cooler than a homemade copy of the chair for my not-yet-born son.
More than a year later, I finally finished Hugo’s chair, and just in time for his first birthday no less. Constructing the chair wasn’t terribly difficult (painting the thing proved to be the bigger hassle) though it did take time (almost two weeks). I found Rietveld’s original plans published in a book that this gentleman helpfully scanned and posted to his blog. I then scaled all the dimensions down by half.
I’m familiar with woodworking as my father is a (retired) cabinetmaker. I know my way around hand tools and with the help of friends’ mitre saw I was able to cut and assemble all the pieces down in the distinctly non-workshop environs of our small San Francisco apartment. Then came coats of primer and paint. Final assembly, et voila:
After a couple of days of impatiently waiting for the paint to dry I decided it was time for the big test. Would the boy sit in his chair? Would he scream and squirm? Would two weeks of cursing at sticks and cans of paint be for nought? I positioned my boy above the chair then gently lowered him down. He seemed tentative at first, finally relaxing enough to recline fully, then he actually smiled. He was cool as a cucumber in his chair. Wearing those strange Swedish shoes his mom found, Hugo looked like some Euro intellectual. A diapered de stijl devotee.
Although I built the chair to half of Rietveld’s original dimensions I really can’t see Hugo fitting in this thing for too long. Hopefully he’ll give me the pleasure of sitting in his chair contentedly for at least a few months…