As the mid-mod fervor rages on, names of iconic designers such as Eames, Knoll, and Saarinen are becoming more and more familiar. But they weren’t the only ones who influenced the signature look of the middle 20th century. Today, we look back at Joseph Warren Platner, whose sexy, fluid designs remain a hallmark of mid-century style, still used and loved by design enthusiasts across the world.
Who Warren Platner was:
A graduate of the Cornell School of Architecture in 1941, Warren Platner worked with architecture greats Raymond Loewy and I.M. Pei prior to a five-year stint with Eero Saarinen in the early ’60s—just before debuting his own furniture line, the Platner Collection for Knoll. With the exposure to the modern ideas of the times, and his contribution to important structures such as the Dulles International Airport, among others, he emerged as a designer known for his “graceful” take on modernism. This label had much to do with the form of his furniture design—each piece with its sinuous lines of molded steel rods, creating a thick pedestal base with a subtle moiré illusion.
About the Platner Collection:
Platner is most recognized today for his 1966 Knoll furniture line, consisting of chairs, ottomans, love seats and tables. Creating the Platner Collection was in some ways an extension of practice of Saarinen’s Pedestal Collection, for which Saarinen humorously vowed to address the “ugly, confusing, unrestful world he observed underneath chairs and tables—the so-called slum of legs.” Platner’s disdain for “four legs” wasn’t as evident.
The designer began with the philosophy that “[a chair] isn’t going to be aggressively technological or aggressively handicraft,” he explained. He felt that “there was room for the kind of decorative, gentle, graceful kind of design that appeared in period style like Louis XV, but it could have a more rational base instead of being applied decoration. I thought why separate support from the object? Just make it all one thing… Starts at the floor and comes up and envelops me, supports me.”
Platner’s version of a pedestal piece took on a much more intricate design and construction process to become this graceful design he imagined. A chair, for example, was constructed with more than a thousand welds and more than one hundred vertical, cylindrical nickel-plated steel rods. The result: a graceful, fluid shape with a strong single base. It felt slightly kinetic in its energy.
His interior design:
Platner opened up his eponymous studio in 1967 to embark on his own projects, such as Windows on the World restaurant and reception areas, The Ford Foundation building, and the Georg Jensen Design Center. Though he was known as reserved, his work is just the opposite. Platner’s use of alloy metals, such as nickel-plated steel used in his furniture; his use of sprawling brass light fixtures and gold leaf covering walls, as seen in the Windows of the World; the sweeping use of linear forms reaching from floor to ceiling in The American Restaurant in Kansas City—these decisions were quite bold and opulent. His Connecticut estate, with fur-topped sofas designed upon clear glass frames—which gave them the appearance of floating— was the epitome of elegant contemporary design. Ultimately Platner would be pegged the “sensuous modernist.”
Why we love the Platner Collection:
The design is enduring and, frankly, quite sexy. A singular Platner piece stands alone phenomenally with a personal mix of period pieces and styles. Thrown in with Baroque antiques and objets d’art, as in French “surrealist” interior designer Vincent Darre’s Paris home, the Platner lounge chair brings a modern edge. Platner side chairs in velvet, flanking the ends of a farmer’s table atop rough-hewn wood floors in a New York condo, bring a subtle sense of cool to the space. We can’t overlook Platner’s role in bringing opulence to the modern aesthetic. Simply, Platner furniture makes an impressive statement about those who choose to live with it.
And, you can find one of Platner’s iconic spoke tables with a round glass top now on our site.