When, as a child, I went with my parents to visit family friends on Sundays, an event that occurred more frequently than I would have liked, I knew from the outset that during the critique, which inevitably followed the visit, the host family’s sofa set would play a central role. The quality of the sofa set was closely linked to the standing the family accorded themselves. "Did you notice? The armchair was worn, the sofa wobbled and the furniture was old." Unmistakable signs that the family had obviously put too much money into building a house back home, and were heavily in debt. Ideally, the indispensable 3-2-1 combination was bulky, not sat on, and made of pleather or, at the very least, dark brown in color.
I grew up amongst Sicilians and Turks. And, like anyone else who gets bossed around at work all day, then at least at home in the evenings, you want to relax in massive, immovable comfort. Floor cushions and braided rugs like those that were found in the home of my Norwegian friend's hippie parents were unimaginable in a blue-collar household. Those loose cushions would not have been interpreted as an expression of freedom, but more as one of total failure.
Years later, I encountered a close relative of those massive sofa sets of my youth, the Eames lounge chair. Designed in the 1950s, this iconic chair, inspired by a baseball catcher’s mitt, is a classic that has become the hallmark of an entire professional class: the advertising executives, copywriters, PR consultants, stylists and media professionals. In fact, just about everyone who works in a creative profession without being an artist themself. Somewhere along the line I stopped counting the number of lounge chairs I came across in the apartments of friends and acquaintances.
It may seem odd to be drawing a comparison between those perfectly crafted chairs and the cheap sofas of erstwhile, but the phenomenon at the root of both is one and the same. A manifestation of the greatest possible identification with a specific social stratum coupled with a minimal risk of displaying individuality. However understated the display may be, the desire behind it is loud and clear: Look everyone, I made it! Not only have I made good, I even have good taste. Golden taps, damask drapes and supersize flat screens are for bling-bling rappers or soccer players, but not for us, the chosen who value local market produce and clever wordplay. On the train, I’m not just one of those who travel first class, but also – to quote Harald Schmidt, who in turn quoted someone else whose name I've forgotten - one of those who exchange knowing glances at the mangled English announcements made by the local railroad staff. That's where I am nowadays. With the know-it-alls, the worldly and the erudite who wear blouses by Lena Hoschek, dine on Dieter Meier's gaucho steaks and collectively despise the books of Paulo Coelho. We know who we are, our furniture doesn’t wobble – the world is already unstable enough. In our circle of friends, one marriage after the other fails, but in an Eames lounge chair the world briefly stops spinning out of control. It's a bit like putting on a pop song to create a mood. For a brief moment you are safely cocooned in a cozy world – in every sense of the word.
I, by the way, am no exception. I have a particularly soft spot for beautiful furniture, classics even, especially those delicate Scandinavian designs. The only reason I will probably never own an Eames lounge chair is that they remind me too much of my childhood Sundays. Nor am I trying to establish moral superiority. Instead of being amused at the airs of strutting pseudo rappers, flashy trophy wives and trashy bimbos, we should take a closer look at our own affectations and realize that our carefully selected Barcelona lounge chairs, Noguchi lamps, Saarinen dining tables and Panton chairs make the same absurd impression on outsiders as does a schoolyard full of teenies sporting Tally Weijl jeans.
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Güzin Kar was born in Turkey in 1971. She has been living in Switzerland since the age of five and studied at the renowned Ludwigsburg film academy in Baden-Württemberg. She works both in Germany and Switzerland as an author (amongst others she wrote the screenplay for “Die Wilden Hühner”) and as a director. Currently, she is writing a screenplay for the sequel of the military comedy “Achtung, Fertig, Charlie!”, and working on a new novel.
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