Sitting pretty with PLANEfurniture

[Alyson Kuhn] Michael Boyd, designer of the PLANEfurniture line, collects modernist furniture, art, architecture and design books, and ephemera. Last year, he decided to create a line of modernist-inspired furniture that “makes you think, holds your body, eases your mind, and sits well within your budget.” That’s a quote from the jacket flap of PLANEfurniture: types + prototypes, designed by Mick Hodgson of Ph.D, A Design Office. I recently sat in some of the furniture and can confirm that it is quite user-friendly.

Photo: Ph.D, A Design Office

Boyd lives in Los Angeles, and he found carpenters and metal fabricators — all in California — to produce the pieces in wood and steel. He secured the perfect gallery to launch the line — Edward Cella Art + Architecture, just across Wilshire Boulevard from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Boyd, Hodgson and Wendy Kaplan (curator of Decorative Arts at LACMA) were at a benefit evening at the Eames House in January 2012. Kaplan mentioned that Hodgson had designed the California Design 1930–1965 catalog.

The book is covered in linen fabric.

Mick Hodgson: Michael said, “Oh, I love that catalog. I have a book I need designed. We should talk.” Which we did the following week — and then we basically had 14 weeks before the show opened [on April 28]. The book needed to be designed, paper and binding materials spec’d, all the color work done — and the book printed, bound and delivered.”

Michael Boyd: The first time we met to discuss the project, I handed Mick a binder and said, “Here’s the book.” I had a full-page shot of each chair, as I’d already designed them and had them fabricated and then photographed by Sam Frost. I had written my essay. Michael Webb — he’s an architecture and design writer — had finished his. I had supplementary quotes, and I’d even printed out some sketches and component part charts on vellum sheets.

MH: I used the binder as my starting point, and I proceeded to design and print out about 20 spreads. Our second meeting was definitely a different way of working than I’m used to. Michael is extremely collaborative. He wasn’t dictating, he was giving his opinion, and listening to mine. The presentation segued immediately into a real working session. We had four successive meetings like this, and the book was done.

MB: The process was a wonderful push and pull. Having been a composer for years, I’m used to people saying, “I don’t like this. Keep that. I don’t like that. Change this.” For me, Mick’s collaborative approach was superlative … and our dual vision came out as a singular one.

MH: I think the two keys to visual books are scale and rhythm. Scale in this case refers to the photographs of the furniture. Every photograph in Michael’s binder was the same size. I made some smaller, and then we came up with a grid system of even smaller photos, to introduce each of the four ranges in the line. These pages provide pacing, giving your eye a chance to wander.

MB: Rhythm is a concept I am quite familiar with musically, so it made instant sense to me when Mick said, “We don’t want to show chair-chair-chair-table-chair-chair-chair. We want to vary it — chair, pause, vellum.…”

MH: Michael has such an extensive library of art and design books that his frame of reference is encyclopedic. When he told me he wanted a silver jacket, I said, “Could you show me what you are thinking of?” And at the next meeting Michael brought three beautiful books with silver jackets. My first thought was that we would print one color — black — on silver stock, but Shapco offered to print the silver. When I was at the printers, they did a test — a flood-coat of silver with UV inks — and then put it through a press with another form, and it looked beautiful.

Michael Boyd’s home library. He also keeps about a thousand books for reference at his studio-warehouse. Photo: Tim Street-Porter.

MB: Mick told me he thought we needed to print at Shapco, which is in Minneapolis, although he’d never printed there before. Tony Manzella, a good friend of Mick’s, recommended them — and mentioned that Shapco prints for the Gagosian Gallery. During the two days that Mick was at Shapco for the press check, he saw three Gagosian catalogs in various stages of production. The PLANEfurniture catalog was in good company.

MH: I knew I wanted the book to be printed on uncoated paper, which is not the usual choice for an art book. My first choice was Mohawk Via 80-lb. Text [Pure White, Smooth]. I asked Shapco if they had a preference for another uncoated sheet — and I was also thinking of the budget — but they said that they absolutely recommended running on Via. I’m a long-time Via user, and this was definitely the most demanding job I’ve printed on it.

Michael Boyd in front of Edward Cella’s gallery. Photo: Hans Eckardt.

MB: As soon as the book was ready to go to press, Mick was able to address my need for a PLANEfurniture calling card. He had read about these ultra-thick cards available through an online printer called MOO. The cards are printed digitally in sets of 50, and they are printed on both sides. This was an opportunity to show 50 different images of PLANEfurniture, so I was delighted. Mick was able to use the images from the grids in the catalog. It was incredibly easy. Some of the cards have a red stripe around the edge, and the others have black — perfect.

MH: We replaced MOO’s standard satin ribbon with a paper band we trimmed from Shapco’s overrun of the catalog’s endpapers. Michael has given away several full sets of cards — though he’s primarily using them singly, of course. And the cards look great placed right on the furniture — a kind of art-imitating-art effect.

Each set of 50 MOO Luxe cards comes in a white linen box with a covered magnetic-dot closure. Note the custom band. Photo: Ph.D, A Design Office

Except as noted, all photos © 2012 StudioAlex

PLANEfurniture: types + prototypes is currently available at Edward Cella Art + Architecture, the museum shop at LACMA and William Stout Architectural Books in San Francisco. Michael Webb’s book Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House | Boyd Collection showcases Michael and Gabrielle Boyd’s collection of modernist furniture — and the Oscar Niemeyer-designed home in which the furniture resides with the Boyd family (Rizzoli, 2007). It is the perfect companion volume to PLANEfurniture: types + prototypes.

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Comments (2)

  1. Posted by Joe Avery on 05.14.12 at 4:30 pm

    Very nice! As we were the printer that worked with Mick I can say he is quite a gentleman at all of the press checks and a joy to work with!

    Joe Avery

  2. Posted by Jen on 05.14.12 at 5:22 pm

    Loved the interview. What a great project!

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