Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Hoffman Tales

Josef Hoffman Austrian architect and designer of consumer goods was a man ahead of his times. Quite easily the Philippe Starck of his day. With the assistance of other artists and financial backers he helped establish the Wiener Werkstatte which was to last until 1932. He designed many products for the Wiener Werkstätte of which designer chairs, most notably the "Sitzmaschine" Chair, a lamp, and sets of glasses, tea services and such which make up parts of many museums collections on decorative arts.

*Metropolitan New York
Many of his architectural works still survive in Europe; however it is purely in the decorative objects where I think he shines.

His was a purely functional no nonsense approach to design relying on pure form with minimal decoration, where decoration was involved it enhanced the lines and was an integral part of the design with form complementing decoration and vice versa. Before 1910 designs were in the fashionable Art Nouveau style, however with the turn of the century his style radically changed. Geometry took over and objects were now incredibly linear with little decoration and silver predominated.

The “Series B” glassware is one of my all time favourites. This is a prime example of form, and function with decoration complementing it all.

Objects such as cutlery services are strikingly modern considering when they were designed. One can be forgiven for thinking that function was sacrificed over form; however this was not the case. Function and form also complement each other

We can still see the influence that Hoffman has played on consumer design today. How many cheaper versions of the chairs below have we seen!

This was savoir faire ahead of its time!


  1. Is it just me or do you find something Steampunk about the whole Wiener Werkstatte aesthetic, especially in something like that chair.
    I like all of Hoffman's work but his designs for glassware are particularly magnificent.

  2. I'd willingly go back to drinking heavily again if only I had some of that glassware!

  3. It would be fascinating to see exactly when each of these items were created... Do you have approximate dates for these items? I guess the costume nerd inside of me wants to imagine what a lady would have worn when pouring tea from that tea set, or sitting in the "Sitzmaschine".

    Great Post!

  4. Ha! Your title is not lost on me! I've always found it interesting how architects - Wright, Eames, MacIntosh and Graves come to mind - make successful forays into other design realms. Hoffman's at the top of the list. Thanks for a great post.

  5. OMG- I was looking At the Dunlop Volleys im so getting them too there amazing ;D

    p.s Josef Hoffman was such a great man!


  6. I admire such an aesthetic in which every aspect of the environment is in harmony. The silver flatware is incredible. I also like that his designs are clean and modern without being minimalist, which can be dull and cold.

    You had to be a very adventurous patron of the arts to commission something this innovative 100 years ago.

  7. Interesting!


  8. Belle, No it is not just you. Very Steampunk in areas.

    Il Duce & Belle, I am seriously thinking of taking out a loan and starting to drink heavily for some of the glassware.

    Nostalgia, I believe the tea service is @ 1910. I have always tried to picture the scenario you have described

    Mark, definitely at the top of one of my many lists.

    Mr SWF. The flatware is magnificent! I believe Helena Rubinstein commissioned a lot from Hoffman in the early 20's.

    Sam, Go get a pair.

    Jon, Many thanks

  9. stunning post, love the glassware. perfect example of form = function.

    hope you're having a sensational weekend david x


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