Rietveld with an Architectural Model


Iconic? Yes. Comfy? No. Not even remotely. Unlike so many other chairs designed in the early Modernist period (from Breuer’s “Cesca” to Jacobsen’s “Swan”) Gerrit Rietveld’s “Red & Blue Chair” is one of the least relaxing chairs you’ll ever sit in. Designed in 1917 and originally meant to be left unstained, the De Stijl movement influenced Rietveld’s later color choice of primary colors. Purpose built for mass production, it never caught on so while we’ve sat in a replica, the originals can only be seen in a handful of collections such as the Brooklyn Museum, the MOMA and at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Rietveld, however, was one of many European designers whose work as a whole is often underappreciated. He championed social housing solutions throughout Northern Europe and was experimenting with innovative building materials like reinforced concrete long before most of his contemporaries.

The Red & Blue chair

Planning a Summer trip to the Netherlands? Check out his Rietveld-Schroder House in Utrecht and visit his zig-zag chair at the Van Gogh museum.

The Rietveld-Schroder House, b. 1924

Interested in learning more about Gerrit’s unique architecture style? His influence on Parson’s grad and Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Han Schroder can be seen in her archive currently held at Virginia Tech.

For more on the De Stijl movement we suggest reading: “Theo Van Doesburg: Propagandist and Practitioner of the Avant-Garde, 1909-1923” by Hannah Hedrick.

The Red & Blue Chair in an early photograph