Not so long ago you may have seen the Solair chair – the summer classic that decorated North American motels and patios – tossed in to the garbage. It was available in vibrant colours with a moulded plastic seat on bent removable steel legs. It was so bright, so ’70’s and so dated. That’s all changed.
A couple of weeks ago I was in Prince Edward Island when I came across these chairs.
The Solair(e) chair was designed and manufactured in Canada and overlooked for decades has made a comeback in Toronto. Now hailed as a classic and icon of Canadian design.
It used to be known as the motel chair but is now part of the permanent collection of the Musee National des Beaux Arts du Quebec.
Kate Eisen, owner of the mid-century modern Toronto furniture store INabstracto says: “We just want to make people aware that this is something special in Canadian design.”
The Solair was designed in 1972 by two young Montreal industrial designers: Fabio Fabiano (with a name like that what else could you be?) and Michelange Panzini. Sales slowed for years, but the chair has never been out of production. With all the recent interest IEL manufacturers (originally Industries Provinciales Ltee) of Saint-Damien, Quebec expect sales to double.
Panzini has an architectural practice in Montreal. He was just out of school when he and his partner got a commission from manufacturers Industries Provinciales to rework an indoor/outdoor chair. The objective was to build a chair that was easy to assemble, inexpensive and fun.
The result was clever, minimalist and influenced by Italian design. The parts were stackable and the chair was sturdy and waterproof.
Here is the chair as shown on IEL’s website.
I prefer the original which looks like it has less plastic and smoother lines for the steel legs.
We are too quick to throw things away. This is still a “modern” chair. And if you can get your hands on one of these chairs I think they would be great for Israel’s lifestyle, climate and space considerations. The Solair chair is comfortable, rain-resistant (that is if we get rain) and easy to disassemble. And best of all says Eisen: “…people look great sitting in them.”
Three Toronto dealers sell the revived Solair: INabstracto, EyeSpy (who ship Internationally) and SMASH.
The chairs retail for $120 (Cdn) and are available in original as well as new colours: tropical orange, tan, white, aquamarine, lime green, hot pink and yellow. Fall ’09 may see grey and black as well.
Solair chair makes a comeback