We asked six designers who often specify bar furniture to pick a favourite piece. Despite the wide variety of exotic, not to say outlandish, designs screaming for their attention, three chose classics of many years’ standing, and it was easy to see why. The other three settled on newer, but equally well thought-out designs which will probably join the classics gallery in years to come.
Rick Mather – designer of several restaurants in the Zen chain and of The Avenue, which opened recently in London’s St. James’s Street, Mather designs most of the chairs he uses. But he settled on Arne Jacobsen’s Ant chair, designed in 1951 with a moulded ply seat/ back on chromed steel tube legs: “It’s the first of its kind, and it’s minimal to the extent of having only three legs, which distils the idea to its essence. I can’t bear a lot of junk on things. It’s comfortable for sitting at bar tables and we’re using it at a new restaurant we’re doing off London’s Piccadilly,” says Mather.
Andy Gollifer – like Mather, Gollifer Associates is into big-time architecture (it recently won a competition to design Sunderland’s National Glass Centre) and is a longtime designer of bars and restaurants. Andy Gollifer’s choice was Amat’s Jamaica stool by Pepi Cortes, which has a cast aluminium seat on five chromed steel legs arranged wigwam-fashion: “It looks so inviting – although it’s a bit chilly for the first few seconds – and there’s a comfortable footrest at just the right height. A low version can be used around bar tables.”
Lorenzo Apicella – the architect who has designed a restaurant in London’s Oxo Tower, due to open this summer, chose Jorge Pensi’s tube and cast aluminium Toledo chair from Amat. “It’s beautifully engineered with its thrust-back hind legs, and it has spawned a whole generation of affordable cafÃ© chairs, but none is as good. I like the fact that it’s made of only one material, and I feel sure that this is a design which will endure.”
Gregory Phillips – has worked for both Julyan Wickham and David Chipperfield. Now in practice on his own, Phillips has designed restaurants, art galleries, and residential buildings. His number one bar seat is another classic: the 40/4, designed in the Sixties by David Rowland. “Forty chairs stack to a height of four feet (hence the name) which makes it excellent for bar and restaurant use,” says Phillips. “With a moulded wood seat and back on a small-gauge tubular frame, it is beautiful, elegant and simple. I’ve used it in a 90-seat Gujarati restaurant and bar where I was looking for something which
didn’t interrupt the architecture.”
David Green – overcome by the quantity of bars and restaurants his firm has designed – Benihana, Si SeÃ±or and Zoots for a start – David Green of Carnell Green was tempted to select the barmaid as his favourite piece of furniture. But casting aside that nugatory thought, he hit on the Art 301, a barstool from Sandler Seating. “It’s the archetypal American diner stool from the Fifties,” he says.
“Lots of stools without backs aren’t comfortable, but with its low centre of gravity, deeply upholstered seat, heavy base and generous foot rest, the Art 301 is wonderfully soft and springy. We’ve used some weird and wonderful designs in various bars, but they’re mostly desperately uncomfortable and I’d much rather be perched on this,” he adds.
Gordon Craigmyle – likes almost everything produced by Zoeftig. Although McNeece, the consultancy where he is general manager, deals with interiors, graphics and space-planning, it is ship interiors (most recently the Oriana) for which it has become so renowned. And for our purpose, Craigmyle finally chose the Zoeftig Zee Grand stool, which he used in the Lord’s Tavern on board the Oriana. Even though it was designed some years ago, with its comfortable seat and backrest and stolid demeanour, it’s absolutely appropriate for shipboard life.