The Butterfly Chair is one of the most recognised chairs in design history. You can find them in the lobbies of five-star hotels, on the front cover of luxury design publications and in the homes of the most stylish. But if we asked, would you know who designed it? Or how it became so popular? We reveal the secrets of one of the world’s most sought-after chairs. Join us for a surprising read.
What’s the story of the Butterfly Chair?
The Butterfly Chair (also known as the BKF Chair, Hardoy Chair or Sling Chair) was designed in Argentina in 1938 by three relatively unknown architects - Antonio Bonet, Juan Kurchan and Jorge Ferrari Hardoy.
The architects were working on an apartment building in Buenos Aires at the time and needed a chair to furnish the interior. Having recently become familiar with a folding-style chair used by the military called the Tripolina - a chair which they admired for its simplicity and portability - they created a design inspired by it, and the Butterfly Chair was born.
Because of the chair’s unusual shape and sling-like construction, it attracted a lot of media attention. One of the directors of the MoMA, Edgar Kaufmann Jr, became interested in the design and bought two of the three chairs the architects made. One went straight into the museum’s permanent collection, where it resides today. The second went to Kaufmann’s holiday home, Fallingwater, where it also still resides. And the third? Well, no-one knows, and it still hasn’t found to this day.
Mass production of the Butterfly Chair began in 1941 when Artek-Pascoe acquired the manufacturing rights. Knoll, recognising the chair’s huge commercial potential, took over in 1947 and demand went through the roof.
But, shortly after, counterfeit chairs began appearing in their millions. Knoll was forced to stop production four years later, in 1951.
So, who makes the Butterfly Chair now?
Swedish furniture brand Cuero manufacture premium Butterfly Chairs today. The brand has spent over 15 years perfecting the original design.
The result is a more comfortable and luxurious design than ever before. Cuero’s Butterfly Chairs are larger and wider than vintage designs and can be sat in for many hours at a time.
What material is the Butterfly Chair available in?
Cuero Butterfly Chairs are available in Italian leather, premium hemp canvas and Icelandic sheepskin. Knoll’s Anniversary Edition is made of felt.
The leather Butterfly Chairs (Pampa Mariposa) are made from the finest quality Italian leather using hides that are 4mm thick for comfort, durability and stability. Cuero only uses the top 0.1% of leather in the world for their designs. The chairs are guaranteed to hold their shape year after year. They come in shades ranging from creamy nude and tan to rich chocolate and black.
The canvas Butterfly Chairs (Canvas Mariposa) are made from hemp, a material that breathes, helping to keep the sitter cool in summer and warm in winter. It’s an ideal choice for both indoors or out and comes in three natural shades.
The sheepskin Butterfly Chairs (Iceland Mariposa) are made from resilient Icelandic sheepskin. They’re plush, snug, stylish and a true showpiece whether you choose a wild ‘shaggy’ design or a smart, shorn one.
Knoll’s 80th Anniversary Edition Butterfly Chair is made from smooth thermoformed felt and is available in anthracite, burgundy, light grey and green.
Why should I buy a Butterfly Chair?
Well, aside from being the owner of a design classic, you’ll be able to sit, relax and lounge-like never before. The Butterfly Chair may be simple in its construction - a ‘sling’ of fabric draped over a minimal steel frame - but they are one of the most comfortable lounge chairs around. They’re great for all the family, and kids especially enjoy climbing into the hammock-like frame.
But the best part? A Cuero or Knoll Butterfly Chair will be with your family for years to come. The impeccable quality of the design and the materials mean they can be passed down from generation to generation, getting better with age.