Lounge Like Frank Lloyd Wright in a Replica of the Chair He Designed for Himself

Though Frank Lloyd Wright is most famous for the beautiful houses he designed, his career as a furniture designer is less celebrated. He often designed custom pieces for the homes he built, and by the end of his career, he had created hundreds of sketches for chair designs.

You can now buy a replica of one of the chairs that he designed for his own use, thanks to Cassina. Fast Company reports that the furniture company has collaborated with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to release a limited batch of the chair that Wright designed for his living room at Taliesin West in Arizona (now the foundation's headquarters).

Wright created the Taliesin 1 armchair in 1949, using it at his home and workshop until his death in 1959. It wasn’t mass-produced until the late 1980s, when Cassina released a version of it. The company stopped making the chair in 1990, and it has only now returned to the catalog.

This time, there are some upgrades. (You can see some images of the original chairs at Taliesin West on the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation's website.) It still has that classic origami-like shape—created from a single piece of folded plywood—but it now has a slightly more reclined backrest and more padding to please modern backsides. It comes in new colors, too, with burgundy, green, and dark blue options.

Cassina will make only 450 of the chairs, according to Fast Company, and they cost $5500 each. (That may seem pricey for an armchair, but it's pennies compared to how much it costs to live in a Wright house.) For true obsessives, Cassina sells versions of some of Wright’s other furniture designs as well, including several chairs and tables.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Remembering Sara Little Turnbull, Whose Bra Cup Design Became the N95 Mask

Design innovator Sara Little Turnbull.
Design innovator Sara Little Turnbull.
Photo Credit: © Center for Design Institute

The coronavirus pandemic has made something of a celebrity out of the N95 mask, a particle-filtering face covering that’s long been used to protect wearers from inhaling or exhaling pathogens. (The “95” refers to the fact it can block 95 percent of airborne particles.)

Like most nondescript and pervasive products, not many people stop to think about where it came from. Now, owing to the attention placed on it as a key tool in the health care professional’s fight against coronavirus, the woman behind the mask has come to the forefront. Her name is Sara Little Turnbull, and she designed what would become the N95 based on the shape of a bra cup.

A design consultant, Turnbull was working with the 3M company in 1958 in their gift wrap and fabric division when she was exposed to Shapeen, a non-woven material made of polymers and used for decorative ribbons. Turnbull was fascinated by the molded version of Shapeen and devised the first-ever pre-made bows for gift wrap.

Turnbull didn’t stop there. She saw endless possibilities in Shapeen and assembled an audience of 3M executives to present a number of ideas she had for products—more than 100 in all—using the material. At the presentation, which she titled “Why,” she impressed 3M with the scope of Shapeen's potential. The company quickly enlisted her to work on a design for a molded bra cup.

But Turnbull had another, arguably more important notion. At the time, she was taking care of three ailing family members who were under the care of doctors. Turnbull was often in a medical setting and noticed health care workers were constantly adjusting thin masks that tied in the back. She returned to 3M with the idea of using that same molded material to make a mask that would fit more comfortably on the face.

Again, 3M saw potential in Turnbull’s idea. By 1961, they introduced a non-woven lightweight medical mask based on her concept, with elastic bands instead of strings, an aluminum nose clip, and a form-fitting "bubble" shape. (The bra patent was approved in 1962.) Though innovative, the mask couldn't block pathogens for medical use and was marketed for dust filtration instead. An improved respirator hit the market in 1972 that was suitable for other industrial purposes. As the mask’s filtration evolved, so did its usefulness. In 1995, the N95 respirator was introduced in the health care field, fulfilling Turnbull's original ambition.

Though Turnbull had been relegated to a nondescript part of 3M, she had an extensive background in design, graduating from the Parsons School of Design in 1939 and later becoming the decorating editor of House Beautiful magazine. After Turnbull wrote an article taking companies to task for not designing products suitable for the end user, she was hired by 3M. As a consultant, she also collaborated with Corning, Revlon, General Mills, and Ford, among others.

After Turnbull died in 2015, the Sara Little Turnbull Center for Design Institute was formed, which offers information to the public on the value of design and supports the efforts of disadvantaged women's design education. Turnbull's vast archive of material is available to view by appointment. A foundation in her name also provides educational grants. The “Little,” incidentally, was in acknowledgment of her height. At 4 feet, 11 inches tall, Turnbull wasn’t terribly physically imposing. But her contributions were gigantic.

[h/t NPR]