EJR Barnes vintage furniture finds

EJR Barnes — Your New Favorite Instagram Follow — On His Top 10 Vintage Furniture Finds

Elsewhere today on the site, we’re featuring the up-and-coming London designer EJR Barnes, whose work first came to our attention via his aptly named Buffalo Mozzarella chair. But we were actually first introduced to Barnes via his Instagram, where he chronicles his favorite — and often completely obscure — vintage furniture finds, from Borsani daybeds to Vignelli glassware to Kukkapuro lamps. On Instagram, Barnes doesn’t give much context for each item, though taken together with his own output, their personal significance is often clear. When we reached out to Barnes to see if he’d like to put together a story featuring 10 of his favorite finds with captions, however, we confirmed what we’d already suspected: Barnes’s knowledge of design history is encyclopedic and all-consuming, with just the right details to make it exciting even to the most dilettantish design fan. Scroll through for a glimpse at Barnes’s current obsessions — and for some delicious Rietveld shade — then click over for a deeper look at Barnes’s own practice.

1. Sottsass Renzo Brugola Chair

1. Ettore Sottsass, ‘Miss, don’t you like Caviar?’ Chair, 1987

“This particular chair was made and owned by Renzo Brugola, Sottsass’ friend and cabinet maker. I love the narrative suggested in the name, despite the form being relatively simple with the stark palette and industrial materials. Being made by a cabinet maker outside of a mass production environment also gives it a bit of tension that is missing in some Memphis-era Sottsass work, which can feel a bit devoid of human touch.”

2. Dagobertpeche

2. Dagobert Peche, Cabinet, 1919

“Peche was a member of the Wiener Werkstätte, and designed almost everything, including the wallpaper, inside this completely insane but very amazing cabinet. It’s so bizarrely chunky and neoclassical that I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if someone told me it was a Dan Friedman work from the 1980s or something. It has this kind of quiet grandiosity to it, despite the color and carved tassels which should feel very fussy and ridiculous (not that they aren’t).”


3. Ugo La Pietra, ‘Oasis’ tray, 1990

“Well, who wouldn’t want to elevate their breakfast in bed with a Surrealist meditation featuring palm trees and a wavy mirror? I am a big fan of Ugo la Pietra; one of his most amazing works is an apparatus that allows the user to lean back and look at the full facade of a building better than just craning their neck, but this tray is a slightly more subtle intervention into everyday life.”

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4. Kazuhide Takahama, ‘Antella’ Table 1978

“I discovered this whilst looking for a drop-leaf table for a small flat, and, aesthetics aside, it’s supremely practical, which is the opposite of most pieces that I like. There is an amazing simplicity in the hinged legs that move clear when the table is folded; against the curve of the top they form a beautiful composition when closed or open. These tables are reproduced in a few different colors, but I really like the red lacquer, though classic piano black would work as well.”

5. Alan Siegel Double Ginko

5. Alan Siegel, ‘Double Gingko’ Chair, 1992

“Owing much to Claude Lalanne, I’m not sure how strong this cast-bronze chair would be under a user’s weight, but it is beautifully balanced between furniture and sculpture, as all the best things are, so I think I still need one. Siegel has made some excellent chairs in carved wood which are close to that of Gerard Rigot, but this is by far his most sophisticated work.”

6. Garouste Bonetti Sofa Lacroix2

6. Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti, ‘Grand Canape’ for Lacroix, 1987

“This sofa is almost 16 feet long and formed the centerpiece for the Couture Salon that Garouste and Bonetti designed for Lacroix. It is completely outrageous and has this Royere-meets-Matisse-meets-a-cow type of thing going on, which surprisingly works really well. This image shows it being removed when the showroom was dismantled and sold at auction. The sofa went for well below asking.”

7. E.W.Godwin Sideboard

7. E.W. Godwin, sideboard, 1867

“I first encountered this sideboard, by the English architect-designer E.W. Godwin, as a bit of a surprise at the bottom of a flight of stairs in the Victoria & Albert museum, where it was sitting very unassumingly between rooms. Designed for Godwin’s own home, it draws on his Japanese influences but also prefigures an extremely similar cabinet by Rietveld that was designed 50 years later and was still heralded as extremely forward thinking.”

8. Judy Mckie Leopard Couch

8. Judy Kensley McKie, ‘Leopard Couch’ 1983

“I have seen this couch in the flesh and it is absolutely incredible. Carved from bleached mahogany with details burned into the wood, the form is extremely elegant but the craft aspect of it pulls it back from being too slick. I have a bit of a thing for animals carved into furniture, but they usually make things feel a bit overtly playful or wacky. Rarely do they appear in such a perfectly balanced way, referencing ancient civilizations, Postmodernism, and contemporary craft all in one go.”

9. Mario Botta Charlotte Chair

9. Mario Botta, ‘Charlotte’ Chair, 1994

“Botta’s furniture is typically geometric but here it is simplified down to the essentials and made up in a considerably warmer material than normal. Wicker and rattan are amazing in that they are ancient and vernacular materials, but they can be made to feel extremely contemporary. My girlfriend is named Charlotte and I’m a big fan of hers, so that may be something to do with this chair’s place in my heart.”

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10. Les Lalannes ‘Bar YSL’ 1965

“I know that this is very old news for many, due mainly to its illustrious former owner, but it is probably one of my favorite works by some of my favorite designers. It looks like it could have been found at the archeological excavation of some ancient civilization, with its Viking horn–shaped shaker and rough bronze frame, which is very brutal for something so elegant. The other elements are strangely mystical: a giant egg, a glass sphere, and a crystal vase. All have a function in serving drinks (another activity close to my heart) but separately they appear to be the apparatus for some otherworldly ceremony, which is the spirit in which I personally prefer to store my booze.”