With the holiday season upon us and the spirit of giving in the air, we’re all on the lookout for extra special gifts for our nearest and dearest. So this year, we reached out to a few of our friends in vintage for their takes on the ultimate design gifts. Read on to discover their expert views on truly memorable pieces that are certain to be cherished for years to come.
Wouter Stoffels at Cadmium
Like many of us, Wouter Stoffels first became interested in vintage design by way of the classics produced by American design heavyweights like Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson. While working in a big-brand design superstore, he started prowling flea markets and estate sales looking for original icons for his own home. But it wasn’t long before his curious eye and love for sophisticated forms led him to look beyond what he now calls the “obvious” pieces. What started as a casual hobby transformed into a profession when, four years ago, he opened Cadmium in the Dutch city of Heerlen.
When asked to share his Christmas wishlist, Stoffels doesn’t hesitate to name Gino Sarfatti’s 1063 Floor Lamp for Arteluce (1954). “Sarfatti innovated forms and technologies in the midcentury way before his peers,” Stoffels comments. “He was a true visionary—the total package—whose influence on lighting design can still be felt today. What’s so incredible about the Model 1063 is that it looks like it could have been designed yesterday. And the vintage originals are really rare finds. Unfortunately, I’ve never found one that was affordable, so I hope someone likes me very, very much and gives me one for Christmas.”
Andreas Eriksson at Garage
Swedish vintage specialist and rock-n-roll drummer Andreas Eriksson shares Stoffels’s attraction to vision—the uncanny ability of certain designers to produce work that seems to predict the future. For more than a decade, Eriksson has been scouting the secondary market for an eclectic array of 19th- and 20th-century objects that “combine invention, either in form or technology, with high quality production.” He recently just sold off a good part of his sizable private collection of chairs that included iconic exemplars of just these characteristics, covering everything from Art Nouveau to postmodernism.
“There are so many good things,” Eriksson remarks, when asked to tell us about his dream designs. “But I would say that the works of Marcel Breuer and Josef Hoffmann contain all the qualities I’m looking for.” Breuer’s tubular steel chairs, in particular, hold a special place in Eriksson’s heart. “To have the imagination to look at a bicycle frame and imagine a chair… Breuer was a trailblazer with untold influence. His designs are forever.”
Ulla Jahn at func.
Ulla Jahn, founder of Hamburg-based vintage shop func., has been collecting and selling industrial and modern pieces for many years and has developed a fondness for a number of rare classics. “Some people might think that just because I’m a woman, I want expensive jewelry for Christmas,” jokes Jahn. “While diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, they shouldn’t be the only one,” she explains.
Jahn’s holiday wishlist is full of extraordinary design pieces you don’t come across everyday. “One of my favorite gifts I ever received was a rhinoceros,” she says, adding, “a toy rhino by East German designer Renate Müller , to be exact.” New York gallery R & Company has been exhibiting Müller’s 1960s’ era therapeutic toys for many years and has contributed to this designer’s rediscovery. In 2010, MoMA invited Müller to take part in the seminal Century of the Child exhibition. “Today,” Jahn explains, “Müller produces just a few animals per year, completely by hand. But to find an old original—played with, loved, and battered—that is a really special a gift.”
Jahn doesn’t stop there, though. “Thinking a bit bigger,” she says, “other dream gifts for me include Poul Kjærholm’s wall-mounted PK 26 settee, designed in 1956 for the town hall of Fredericia in Denmark, or something very rare by Alexander Girard.” Girard is best known as the friend of Charles and Ray Eames who headed up the textile department at Herman Miller in the postwar era. According to Jahn, “Many people recognize Girard’s fabric designs, but fewer are aware of his furniture designed for the lounges of Braniff International Airways. Presented by Herman Miller in 1967, the collection was produced for two years only, supposedly because the pieces were too expensive for a wider appeal. But if you come across the low, aerodynamic shapes of the chair or the 3-seater sofa, even today, you’d be instantly transported into the world of jet-set cocktails and well-heeled people, lounging before their flight to the Copacabana, Biarritz, or Capri.”
These pieces are rarities, for sure, but Jahn believes that gift giving should go off the beaten track. “If somebody is searching for a really, really memorable present, then dig deeper until you find something unique. The ‘uncommon’ is the ultimate modern luxury.”