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Maria Kalman and Vitra

Kalman's "The Lucky, Plucky Chairs."

Kenneth here.

In mid September I had the opportunity to visit the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, which is a town right next to Basel in Switzerland. Vitra is a Swiss furniture brand well-known for their designer furniture and particularly several iconic chair designs.

The visit to Vitra included a two hour walking tour of the campus and we got to see some famous buildings by very famous architects including Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, and Tadao Ando.

VitraHaus designed by Herzog & de Meuron

The last stop of the day was the VitraHaus which is basically a four-storey show house for all the Vitra furniture. After a refreshing scoop of gelato (it was a very warm summer’s day!), we visited the gift shop. There were lots of books about design and architecture, but one in particular called out to me.

Book cover of The Lucky, Plucky Chairs.

The Lucky, Plucky Chairs by Rolf Fehlbaum, illustrated by Maira Kalman is a whimsical tale of how eight classic Thonet chairs came to life to escape being disposed of by burning by an unappreciative owner. The second half of the book is a glossary of 22 iconic chair designs, with the entire book illustrated in Kalman’s unique style.

Page 18 and 19 of The Lucky Plucky Chairs
Page 30 and 31 of The Lucky Plucky Chairs

The Lucky, Plucky Chairs
Written by: Rolf Fehlbaum Illustrated by: Maira Kalman
Published by: Vitra Design Museum
Buy The Lucky, Plucky Chairs on Amazon | Book Depository

A regular contributor of cover illustrations as well as illustrated columns for the New Yorker, Maria Kalman is also the author of several books for children and for adults, and she created the illustrated edition of the Strunk and White classic treatise on writing and grammar, The Elements of Style.

Book cover of The Elements of Style Illustrated

The Elements Of Style (illustrated)
Written by: William Strunk & E.B. White Illustrated by: Maira Kalman
Published by: Penguin Books
Buy The Elements Of Style on Amazon | Book Depository

There are also many videos on YouTube featuring Maria Kalman talking about her life and work. (rabbit hole warning!)

In this YouTube clip you can see the models of the chairs featured in the glossary of The Lucky, Plucky Chairs, starting at 30 seconds into the video.

Another great video to watch is her 2007 TedTalk – The Illustrated Woman.

P.S. If you get a chance to visit the Vitra Design Museum, don’t forget to try the slide!

photo of the slide at Vitra
The slide at Vitra

1 comment on “Maria Kalman and Vitra

  1. I loooove this post! And I MUST get my hands on that Strunk and White with Maira Kalman’s art!!

    Liked by 1 person

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