The first time I ever saw a La Chaise lounge in person was at a casual house party. After the initial oohs and aahs inspired by the Eames’ curvy beaut, I went to ask the hostess if it was okay with her if tried taking a seat. Normally I don’t feel the need to request permission to use furniture at a friend’s house, but sitting on a masterpiece is a little intimidating.
Apparently, I’m not alone, and that is perhaps a problem. So Vitra is turning their marketing away from pristine perfection, and toward real-life use. The Swiss manufacturer of and retailer for an almost impossibly rich back-catalog of iconic designs both current and classic (including La Chaise), is developing a new campaign focused around evolving the public perception of the pieces in their collection. The company enlisted photographer Florian Böhm to direct Vitra Fiction, a series of ads that utilize the storytelling spirit of movies to show how versatile, and truly livable, their furniture can be. “I think what is missing in most of the images used in this field is a convincing and inspiring connection to our real lives,” Böhm tells Co.Design. “Everything is either highly technical studio photography or excessively idealized settings that you can’t trust anymore–empty images showing representative interiors full of status symbols.”
Böhm established scenes that soften the do-not-touch aura that often surrounds items enshrined in the pantheon of Good Design. “I wondered if it was possible to create a slice out of a real movie that doesn’t exist otherwise–a mise-en-scène,” Böhm explains. “If you look at a single frame taken out of a short film sequence, you will most likely recognize it as such, as a part of a story. You might not know the story but that doesn’t matter. The (moving) images speak to you in a quite different way than images produced as single photograph.”
Products were selected by Vitra, then supplemented with additional accessories by set designer Paolo Bonfini, depending on the vibe of each individual location; in one vignette, a group of kids pile atop an Alcove sofa by the Bouroullec Brothers; in another, a woman in a cluttered creative studio makes use of the lean in Barber Osgerby’s Tip Ton chair. Writer Eckhart Nickel provides moody, Werner Herzog-esque narration, which itself influenced the equally evocative soundtrack by Benedikt Brachtel. The result is a compelling look at people taking pleasure–daily, simple pleasure–in beautifully designed furniture. “It’s ironic,” Böhm says, “but I think real things become somehow more believable through fiction.”