‘Bienenstock Coffee Table’, 2022
Chris Eitel, Vladimir Kagan Design Group
HELD IN PLACE by an intersecting matrix of translucent lucite planks, a lacquer-finished case appears to float in midair. With only a slight hint of rounded edges, the shimmering red volume takes on a seemingly impenetrable geometry. Unbeknown to the viewer, however, the element can be opened to reveal a fabric or leather inlay compartment. These expressively patterned textiles contrast with the object itself and introduce a different dimension of depth.
Developed as a homage to the late Vladimir Kagan’s iconic ‘Omnibus Sofa’– first developed in the 1950s – the new design was conceived by the American icon’s successor Chris Eitel. ‘Bienenstock Coffee Table’ is part of the ‘Forward’ capsule collection debuted by parent company Holly Hunt (itself a subsidiary of American giant MillerKnoll) during Miami Art Week 2022.
As Vladimir Kagan Design Group’s director of design since its namesake’s passing in 2016, Eitel has been tasked with continuing his work. From its factory in northern New Jersey, the company faithfully crafts many of Kagan’s most recognised mid-century modern furnishings. Highlights of the larger-than-life talent’s prolific and ever-changing oeuvre – including the ‘Cloud Sofa’, ‘Groovy Chair’ and ‘Annecy Sofa’ – reflect his groundbreaking sinuous wooden frame aesthetic. Aside from reintroducing contemporary iterations of Kagan classics, Eitel was tasked by Holly Hunt herself to develop new limited edition concepts for the collectible market that were entirely of his own conception.
The new offering is as much an intrinsic ode to the lauded master as it is his protégé’s debut. “Vladi was a prolific creator, even at the age of 88,” Eitel says. “He always embraced new materials and shapes and anticipated what was coming next, which taught me to be forward-thinking. The ‘Forward’ collection is my way of honouring and building upon his legacy of iconic curved silhouettes, growing the portfolio in the way I know he would have hoped to do himself.”
For the meticulously crafted five-piece series the director of design implemented new production technologies such as 3D-printing and also tapped into Kagan’s extensive archive for inspiration. This resource comprises everything from maquettes of interior stagings to the first-generation American’s art school observational drawings.
The ‘Forward’ collection is also a celebration of Eitel’s personal and professional relationship with his mentor: summers spent at Kagan’s Nantucket house engaging in everything but conventional forms of research and development. Racing old cars and taking on physical challenges often substituted for the hand-constructed models and analogue sketching techniques Eitel employs as part of his process today. This teaching method was unconventional but it has clearly inspired fresh, unexpected ideation.