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The Beetle Chair

GamFratesi’s design darling.

There’s a reason Hans J. Wegner’s Shell Chair is also called the Smiling Chair. It’s the same reason Le Corbusier’s staunch LC2 chair is so admired for its macho attitude, and Eero Saarinen’s Womb Chair for its womanly carriage (it has curves, after all). Chairs imitate bodies—from their arms to their backs, legs, and feet.

But those bodies need not always be human—sometimes, the muse is an animal; an insect.

The Beetle Chair by Copenhagen’s GamFratesi design isn’t a subject of whimsical nomenclature. Modelled after the bug itself, this nimble number debuted several years ago, though the design had a banner year in 2016, being selected to provide seating in high-style hotels and restaurants from Singapore to Paris—and with good reason.

GamFratesi, a hyphenate of Danish architect Stine Gam and Italian architect Enrico Fratesi, studied the beetle, exacting its elements—bulbous shells, strict legs, hard exteriors, and soft centers—to create the most elegant articulation of the beetle to date. Thus, the beetle is captured. However creepily it crawls, such humble inspiration is rendered beautifully high-brow, slender-legged with a solid body both delicate and bold.

Its seat and back are made of a laminated, moulded veneer that’s upholstered and piped in choice colours and brilliant patterns. Its conical steel legs are coated for contrast, from black to brass. At first glance, you might mistake it for an updated icon—likely, this timelessness is the reason it caught the eye of its Copenhagen-based manufacturer, Gubi, which markets what it calls “icons of the future.”

With a vibe akin to Charles Eames’ DCM, GamFratesi’s Beetle Chair flexes form and function. Its plush mould cups the body’s contours like a plump shell, stilted on fine legs with the ease and elegance of an instant-classic.

Sometimes, the muse is an animal; an insect.

Its iterations (following its debut, the line expanded with a lounge rendition, and recently a sofa) feature in an array of new openings, creeping slowly into the spotlight as a design darling. At Singapore’s Whitegrass restaurant, the local design duo Takenouchi Webb channelled the Australian chef’s emphasis on nature by using the Beetle Chair to an organic and flirty effect. “It has the lightness of a modernist chair with the luxury of a classic model,” says designer Mark Webb, who used two variations, the first, a leafy green print, and the second, a show-stopping blush, to anchor the space.

Meanwhile at the just-opened Le Roch Hotel & Spa, the much-sought Parisian designer Sarah Lavoine balanced heritage style with contemporary spirit just a stone’s throw from Place Vendôme and the Louvre. Inside the hotel’s botanically-centered restaurant, Lavoine spruced the space’s interiors with the Beetle Chair. “I love organic and rounded shapes for a restaurant,” comments Lavoine, who upholstered her army of Beetle Chairs in chic pastels, lush blues, and rich greens, complementing the moody space with dabs of gushing colour.

At the Pulitzer Amsterdam hotel, Jacu Strauss, formerly of Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio, found space for the Beetle Chair after the property’s massive refashioning. Upholstered in emerald green with brass legs, a posse of Beetle Chairs stand their ground alongside the interior garden cafe, holding their own amongst the distinct architecture of Amsterdam’s famous canal homes. “It ticks all the boxes: comfort, looks, durability, size,” says Strauss. “It is a sculptural design without being intimidating.”

It’s an elegant science, really. We dare say, the butterfly is no longer alone—the beetle’s metamorphosis, too, is completely fabulous.

Gubi’s Beetle Chair is now available through Ottawa’s The Modern Shop, starting at $1,599 CAD.


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