Inspired by Midcentury: Vivian Beer


Michele Racioppi


Docomomo US staff


Newsletter July 2019, Inspired by Midcentury
Image details

Inspired by Midcentury: Vivian Beer is part 2 of a 5-part series featured in our July 2019 Special Edition newsletter.

"In my studio form follows imagination, and function is a script for where and how we interact with the things we live with."

Vivian Beer is a furniture designer/maker based in New England, where her studio, Vivian Beer Studio Works, is celebrating its tenth year. Her sleek, abstracted metal and concrete furniture combines the aesthetic sensibilities of contemporary design, craft, and sculpture to create furniture that alter expectations of and interface with the domestic landscape. 

Beer, who studied at the Cranbook Academy of Art, itself an incubator of influential midcentury designers and architects, shares the people and pieces that have sparked her imagination. 


This lamp was designed for Carbondale Arts exhibition Bauhaus Seen at the R2 Gallery in Carbondale, Colorado. The show celebrated the 100th year of the Bauhaus school and was a group exhibition, curated by Brad Reed Nelson, which featured Bauhaus-inspired furniture makers from across the country as well as Roaring Fork Valley Bauhaus-influenced painters Richard Carter and Dave Durrance. For this large floor lamp, I was inspired Marcel Breuer’s silver-washed bronze architectural lamps, first displayed at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris.



I’ve always admired the graceful and efficient form of modernist designs but I like to think of my own lounges, like this piece in the Currier’s collection, as form following imagination rather than just function. Furniture creates a physiological space as much as a physical one. I believe as contemporary furniture makers we adapt and reinterpret past styles. This lounge is a combination of that modern harmonious proportion, classic decoration and “pop” color.



I was directly inspired by this Corbusier Lounge in designing Ruffle. It was an amazing sit which totally changed the way I thought about supporting the upper body. I like to play with the idea of the “decorative” in this design (ie. the whiplash curve of the sheet metal) also being necessary to give the chair both its strength and subtle spring for comfort.



I fell in love with the streamline design movement and followed its roots into studying aeronautics and aerodynamic in a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship at the National Air and Space Museum. This bench is one of the outputs of my deep dive into studying the form, cultural moment and love of momentum that is exemplified by that movement.



Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen had already experimented in 1938/39 with three-dimensional plywood veneers. The basic idea was adapting form to the human anatomy. Here, a high level of comfort should arise without elaborate upholstery. I strive to do the same with sheet metal in my own work. Create a comfortable sit with hard materials paying acute attention to how form can cradle the human body. I fell in love with this chair design during my graduate studies at Cranbrook. It’s hard to miss the legacy they and other modern designers left there. Steeped in this history, the Low Chair included, is where I began my passion for furniture and design.