Using Color and Shape for Decorating with the Coconut Chair
Introduced to the market in 1955 by Herman Miller, the Coconut Chair is a classic of modernism in furniture design and is a feature of permanent exhibitions the world over. Architect George Nelson, famed and respected for his out-of-the-box-thinking, designed this striking piece to resemble a shard of a coconut shell, which is surprisingly comfortable to sit in. Nelson said of his designs that “total design is nothing more or less than a process of relating everything to everything.” Relating all the parts of your setting will guide you to building a style which will put this iconic chair to its best use.
• Using Color
o Use the white of the chair’s shell, the upholstery – usually black leather – and the chrome finish of the legs in the color theme of its setting. Carry the colors with accent pieces and accessories throughout the room.
o Choose three main colors to use in your room.
Base color. The main color of your room, this is usually represented in your walls and floors as the color covering the largest area. Use it as a canvas for your stronger colors and try to avoid using colors which distract or overpower the rest of the furnishings. Shades of whites, grays and creams work best and are won’t clash with your accents.
Focus. Use this color in your furniture. The Coconut Chair is usually covered in black leather, but a variety of other upholstery is available. This color should stand out against the backdrop of your base and focus attention on your highlights – in this case, the furniture. Match the same color in some of your plain or functional accessories, but don’t overdo it or your room will feel cluttered.
Accent. A burst of color in your artworks, window dressings or ornaments will add to the depth of the room. Lamp shades, place mats and other small ticket items can be replaced regularly to breathe new life and add a different feel to the room.
• Using Shapes
o Lines. The coconut chair has a visually strong design. It shows off straight lines and triangles with its chromed legs and sides to accentuate its form.
Background. Using square or rectangular shapes in the background will frame the shape of the chair and bring it into focus in the room. These shapes occur in the forms of your windows, walls, drapes and wall-coverings. Adding a chair rail to a blank wall will give an appearance of more space. Vertical blinds will bring the illusion of greater height in the room.
o Using rectangular designs in accompanying sofas to accentuate the shape of the Coconut Chair. Keep the upholstery of both chair and sofa the same or in matching colors.
o Using oval or elliptical shapes in the choice of coffee- or side tables will take the edge off of all the lines and corners of your squares and triangles and compliment the smooth arcs in the design of the chair.
Don’t rush the completion of your room – like its owner; it will require something new and personal from time to time. Let your style evolve over time by seeking out décor that reflects your personal taste.
The Coconut Chair was designed in the mid 50’s by one of the founders of American Modernism, George Nelson. The striking design of the chair is intended to represent an eighth of a coconut shell and shows off the inverted colors of the tropical fruit – white on the outside plastic shell and black leather, or a variety of colors, for the one-piece upholstered cushion. The choice of accompanying furnishing will allow the accent to fall on the iconic 50’s chair and allows the designer a variety of styles or themes.
• The Nelson End Table. The table mimics the circles contained in the design and carries the chrome and black finish of the original chairs design.
• The Eames Sofa. Considered co-founders of American Modernism, the contemporary design couple of Ray and Charles Eames worked with Nelson and collaborated on some designs. The rectangular shape and parallel lines give an excellent contrast to the smooth curves of the chair.
• The Nelson Bench. Also a product of the versatile George Nelson, the straightforward lines reflect Nelson’s architectural background. Like many design classics it can be used flexibly as either a bench or an occasional table.
• The Noguchi table. This table has a smooth triangle triangular design which complements the shape of the Coconut chair and extends the theme of unique shape into the rest of the setting. The unusual base adds visual appeal with the chair.
• The Eames Elliptical table. Smooth lines in this tables design counter the sharp corners of the Coconut Chair and highlight the sweep of the rounded seat at the same time. The legs of the chair match those of the chair for color and style.
• The Marshmallow Sofa. For a bit of eclectic style, combine coconut chairs with this famous, but slightly uncomfortable sofa. Another product of George Nelson’s busy mind, this cheerful design continues the theme of circular design at the base of the coconut chair and comes in a variety of accent colors which will combine, or match with that of the chair.
• The Nelson Ball Clock. For a bright conversation piece that will add color and tie in perfectly to the Coconut Chair theme, mount this clock in the same room. As the legend goes, the designers Nelson, Isamu Noguchi and Irvin Harper had a glass of wine too many at a dinner party and one of them drew the design for the clock during the course of the evening. Although he claimed that the design was probably done by Noguchi, the clock bears Nelson’s name.
• The Eames Hang-it-all coat rack. The orbs used in the design of the rack fit in well with the circular theme carried by the Marshmallow Sofa, Ball Clock and the Coconut Chair. Co-ordinate your colors, learn the history behind the designs that generated the style and vision of the 50’s and you have a modernistic theme that ties in perfectly to the feel of the era.