He who talks to chairs

Süddeutsche Zeitung December 28, 2015: He who talks to chairs by Hansgeorg Bankel

Even as a child, Werner Löffler was always fascinated by the interplay of form and function. He has been collecting seating for 28 years now, including real classics and unique exotics.

This one was the first: "Teodora", designed by Ettore Sottsas. Plywood, laminated, an abstract, grey-white pattern. The sides vertical, like to capital T's standing on their head. The seat horizontal, completely flat, without any concession to the anatomic form of the person who is supposed to sit on it. The backrest: semi-round shaped Plexiglas.

There it was, on a turn-table, in a furniture store in Hirschaid. That was in 1987. Werner Löffler was 24 years old. Since his childhood he had been fascinated with the beauty of everyday objects. His mother had taken him to every museum within a reasonable distance. He had spent whole days on flea markets. The interplay of form and function which is reflected in every detail, no matter how small. Some kind of magic that only seems to live in seemingly inanimate objects. As if it were speaking to him: Look at me. Touch me. Understand me.

And there it was, this chair, and it was speaking to his: I am the beginning of something big in your life. "I purchased a piece of furniture that had the power to be the start of a collection", so Werner Löffler. From this day forward, he collected chairs. For 28 years, 365 days a year. His collection now contains more than 1300 chairs and he could tell you a story about each one of them. They are not just any chairs. "I don’t force my search", says Werner Löffler, "otherwise a lot of them would not come. I want only those things that have a personal presence."

An incredible variety. Folding chairs, children's chairs, office chairs. A chair with desk from the first German Bundestag, row 2, seat 30. A whole section for Verner Panton, the Dutch designer who invented the cantilever chair: bent steel pipe with a seat made from textile or leather: "Why four legs, if two will do?" Austria and Vienna: Classic by Michael Thonet from the Rhineland, who Metternich brought to Vienna in 1842 and who created Chair No. 14 there, the epitome of Viennese coffee house chairs. A revolutionary concept: You could disassemble to chair into six components which you could stack and save space.

There are chairs in Werner Löffler's collection which tell stories of their former owners: The white plastic egg of the Finnish furniture manufacturer Asco for instance, lined with red corduroy velvet to form a small cave to curl up in: This come from the estate of the pop singer Manuela who posed in it for a record cover once. An armchair in the shape of a giant baseball glove, covered in blue jeans material: made to honour Joe DiMaggio, the legendary star of the New York Yankees. And here something really exotic: the royal stool of Sultan Njioya, who until 1933 reigned over the Kingdom of Bamum in today's Cameroon. Carved from a living tree and decorated with sea and snail shells.

Werner Löffler strives very meticulously to restore his collection into its original state. Like this Art-Deco chair, the backrest sawed from a solid block of oak, by Fritz August Breuhaus, who also designed the interior décor of the Hindenburg Zeppelin and the training sailing ship Gorch Fock. This chair comes with a strange story: The woman who offered it to Löffler is die daughter of a furrier who was once visited by a woman from Berlin who wanted him to make her a floor-length mink coat. She paid in kind by decorating an entire room: Side board, table, two chairs. "The chair was covered with a floral pattern fabric", Löffler tells us, but you could still see a tiny remnant of the original material in one corner – a dark, striped horsehair textile. Löffler found the exact match for this textile at the Prussian Horsehair Factory in Berlin. "Now you can see it again the way it was made in the 1920s", beams Löffler.

Or this art nouveau armchair from the atelier of the painter Paul Bürck in the Darmstadt artist colony. Only two of them are in existence, designed by Patriz Huber and made by the artisan carpenter Julius Glückert. This chair had also been defaced with a modern cover fabric. Löffler found some hints in old letters by some of the previous owners: The original cover had been "felt-like" and "Russian green". "We then decided on a pure silk fabric", says Löffler, "and I think if the two came in here today, they would say: 'Yes, just like that.'"

We would like to thank Hansgeorg Bankel from Lauf an der Pegnitz for this tip.

Guided tours through the Löffler collection: Wednesdays and Sundays or by appointment at: Tel. ++49 9151/83008-0 or per e-mail to collection@loeffler.de.

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