We congregated in d3 yet again, at the Haworth showroom with designers Yullianna Porter and Michal Hrabovsky from JLL and Massa respectively, to review the Brunner Ray chairs, part of the Haworth Collection portfolio. And flying in from Germany to introduce this latest range by celebrity designers Jehs and Laub, was Elke Renk, Area Sales Manager at Brunner.
It is not often that you cone across a family of chairs where each one is as beautiful as the next. With the Brunner Ray chairs, which now sit under the Haworth Collection in MEA as a result of their collaboration, we were absolutely surrounded by design elegance.
Brunner as a company has an interesting history, where forty years ago, Rolf Brunner won a contract to furnish their neighbourhood’s local community hall in Germany with stackable chairs. From there on, Brunner continued to grow from strength to strength, and their design philosophy is still based on identifying the needs of the market, and then fulfilling it. Rolf also proudly proclaims that Brunner’s true first product is his son Marc, who is the same age as the company. “But not mass produced!” Michal, our guest designer, observes jokingly.
The Review Crew
Above from left: Michal Hrabovsky, Design Principal at MASSA Interior Design & Architecture, Elke Renk, Area Sales Manager at Brunner and Yullianna Porter, Head of Workplace Design at JLL MENA.
A Chair that Floats Above the Ground
Elke tells us that when Brunner approached celebrity product designers Jehs and Laub to design a cantilevered chair, they responded with a drawing on a piece of paper, where the shell of the chair appeared to be as if floating above the ground with an ‘invisible’ connection. They decided to take on the challenge to make this unique piece of furniture. The next step was to find the right materials to support this design, for the chair still needed to be suitable for contract use while simultaneously sustaining a considerable amount of weight. The end result of this process was a chair that looked simple and sleek on the outside, with the inside housing sophisticated polypropylene parts that allowed for flexibility and comfort where needed, and also giving sturdiness to the connecting elements.
The one undeniable characteristic of the aesthetics in the entire Ray Collection are the lines that flow seamlessly in a fluid motion from one material to the next – metals melding into soft fabric, leather and moulded plastic.
The die-cast aluminium armrests are mounted to the steel frame and the plastic seat shell without any obvious connection. The seat covers, too, are attached to the shell in a manner whereby no seams or zippers are visible, giving the chair a beautiful, elegant silhouette.
Yullianna: I thought it was an absolutely beautiful, cohesive, dynamic set of chairs. It would definitely complement what a designer would envision from day one. I love the transitions, the details and the junctures. The design is human centric in that it responds to the needs of an individual sitting, touching, feeling comfortable, and hugged…
Michal: For me, the looks stood out above all else. The selling point of this collection was page 1 of the brochure… it’s just ‘wow’! The dynamic element in the design is obvious from the very first look. As designers, we can create amazing spaces, but when it comes to the chair, it is out of your hands. Finally we have a furniture design that can underline all the effort we put in the interior.
Usability and Comfort
Despite the exquisite aesthetic, the ergonomics remain strong and are not at all compromised. Flexible polygonal blades in the seat and back areas allow for optimum adaptation to the human body. Besides that, a fully upholstered seat surface gives that little bit of extra comfort.
The chair features some well thought out design touches, our favourite being the leather inlay on the chrome armrests, so it does not feel cold to the touch. Furthermore, none of the chairs have height adjustability. Instead, a mechanism in the base has a tilt and swing effect, giving some movement, and this greatly adds to the comfort. It also emulates the feeling of a rocking chair.
Michal: Whenever we go to test a chair, I make sure to take my much shorter colleague, as this gives us a good idea of the range of people that can use it. It is quite unique for a chair to be just as comfortable for such a wide range of body shapes, and the Ray Collection manages that. My back feels completely supported, and they are deceptively comfortable, and feel much softer and deeper than they look.
Yullianna: Normally, the seat depth is an issue for me as my legs are quite short, so I find myself sitting at edge, but here, I’m surprisingly comfortable. My legs come quite far ahead and they feel quite supported. Plus, the various leather inserts on the armrest really make a difference, as my arms don’t feel so cold. Despite the thin profile of the chair, the seat actually feels quite plush.
Michal: We are increasingly leaning towards fewer adjustments in chairs. When a furniture dealer sells you a chair, they initially give you a tutorial with it. However, as employees rotate, you see individuals unable to adjust the chair to the proper settings, and that is where the office becomes a living room and the pillows start coming in!
Yullianna: We are moving away from one-to-one, and going for sharing ratios, with unassigned desking. So as a rule, nothing should be personalised.
The die-cast aluminium armrests come in a choice of finishes – chromed, polished or colour powder-coated. And the upholstery can range from leather and artificial leather to fabric. Elke mentioned that Kvadrat is their most popular supplier, but they are known to work with all the top brands, so the options in colour and fabric are limitless.
Michal: I think the range of colours with this chair is limitless. They can do anything we ask for, and that is amazing, plus they seem to not shy away from experimentation either.
Yullianna: As long as the colour is on the RAL Chart, they can do it. So basically any colour of the rainbow! That opens a lot of doors for us. There is a lot of power in being able to customise something so small, which still has a substantial impact on how the whole project would look. I think it’s exciting.
The Family of Chairs
From the first cantilever chair, the Ray family grew to include a stackable version and, due to popular market demand, Brunner introduced the central base with options of glides and castors. The latest in the series is the Ray high back chair, which can be appropriated for the CEO with matching visitor chairs in front of the desk. The high back chair is also a good option for high end board rooms and conferencing facilities, based on its incredibly sleek design. Aside from the classic task or desk chair, this collection takes care of every other furnishing need, from conference rooms to reception areas, visitor spaces and more. Yullianna brought up a very valid point that most clients in today’s market are not willing to give up prime real estate for storage, so the number of chairs that can be stacked easily is extremely important. Elke explains that this particular chair is best suited for a conference room, where they are placed permanently. When the cantilever base chairs are stacked, they do not remain vertically upright, but at a slight tilt, so the maximum number that can be stacked is four (ten with a double trolley).
Yullianna: Three different chairs, three different functions. Collectively, they’re very unique and they need a unique design project. It’s not for your everyday project or client, but one that appreciates the quality, aesthetics and value of the chair.
Michal: They did the right thing in focusing each chair for a certain area. It can’t be used everywhere, but each chair fulfills its purpose.
Michal: I like simple things that work, and this works beautifully. I like that Brunner listened to the needs of the people, and developed a chair based on those needs. We (designers) are getting bored with the standard menu of chairs in the market – one shape that is made in plastic or metal and extruded all the way. Here, there is ergonomics at play, plus it is so dynamic. It’s just… sexy! The designers have really thought about how the elements are to be put together, and they have done a great job.
Yullianna: I absolutely love the look of this range. My favourite part has to be the details in the design – the way the fabric meets metal, and how that is extruded. The collection sits at the higher end of the budget. Having said that, it is a beautiful product that has a lot of thought process behind it, from its inception all the way down to the logistical details. There is tangible value to that, so if you value a great brand, you will pay for it. I think it’s absolutely stunning!
Yullianna: I would like to see the highback chair with height adjustability, as there will be some individuals who would want that option based on the height of their table.
Michal: Also keeping the logistics in mind, the transportation of these chairs fully assembled and the possible storage space needed is quite big. My suggestion would be to have the last mile of assembly done on site, which allows for more chairs to be shipped per container and easier storage, thus smaller footprint.