Dieter Rams and Vitsœ

606 shelving and 620 lounge chairs on display at the Dieter Rams exhibition at JF Chen. Photo courtesy of Esoteric Survey

In 1959, while working for the flourishing German electronics manufacturer Braun, Dieter Rams received the green light to design furniture for a Danish entrepreneur, Niels Wiese Vitsœ. Rams and Vitsœ were introduced by fellow designer Otto Zapf and they founded the company Vitsœ+Zapf to exclusively produce Rams’s furniture designs. Otto Zapf left the company in 1969, from which time it was known as Vitsœ.

They wanted their furniture to last longer. They wanted to avoid built-in obsolescence. They would not pander to fashion. Their furniture would be discrete, and it would be adaptable.

In 1960, Rams worked with Vitsœ to produce a modular storage solution for modern homes. The idea was to design adaptable components that customers could mix and match to create a bespoke storage solution for their needs. As Vitsœ’s present managing director, Mark Adams, pointed out in an interview in 2012, “They wanted their furniture to last longer. They wanted to avoid built-in obsolescence. They would not pander to fashion. Their furniture would be discrete, and it would be adaptable. So that you as the customer could: start with less, add to it, rearrange it, repair it, take it with you when you move and most importantly, reuse it.”

Vitsœ plans the 606 Universal Shelving System for each customer’s needs. This system, like Legos, gives customers absolute freedom to configure their furniture to fit the space they are living in, now or in the future. And because the system is based on a grid, unique configurations retain the identifiable aesthetic.

Rams designed the chair program as a rigorously conceived kit of parts. Separate chairs can be transformed into a sofa and components made today are compatible with a decades-old chair.

The shelving system was designed while Germany was recovering from the second world war. As Rams explained in an interview at the 50th anniversary of 606, “In Germany after the war, homes were smaller – everything was smaller. The old German furniture was large and ornate. I simply wanted to make more space to fit more people.” As with most of his designs, Rams set out to design a shelving system whose aesthetic would follow its function. The aesthetic was limited to sober colors and long-lasting materials. The 606 Universal Shelving System is available in off-white, black, silver and beech. The only materials are aluminium, steel and wood.

Vitsœ also produces Rams’s 620 Chair Programme, an adaptable seating system that is now upholstered in full-grain aniline-dyed leather. Like its sibling, the 606 Universal Shelving System, Rams designed the chair program as a rigorously conceived kit of parts. Separate chairs can be transformed into a sofa and components made today are compatible with a decades-old chair.

The chair’s base is constructed from precision-engineered birch ply and houses a traditional coil-sprung construction. This in turn is over-laid with a rubberized-coir molding (a mixture of torn coconut husks and natural rubber). The arms and backs are made from warm-pressed sheet-molding compound, a material similar to, but stronger than, fiberglass. Inspired by Charles and Ray Eames’s systems approach to their furniture, Rams first came up with his seating system when he was only 30 years old. In 2013 he worked with Vitsœ to re-engineer the chair “down to the last purpose-designed stainless-steel bolt.”

Dieter Rams b. 1932

Dieter Rams is one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th century known for his dedication to precise and orderly design. Born in Wiesbaden, Germany in 1932, he was profoundly influenced by the work of his grandfather, a carpenter. At sixteen he began courses in interior design followed by a three-year carpentry internship. In 1953, he joined Otto Apel’s architecture office in Frankfurt where he collaborated with Skidmore, Owings and Merril on the planning of the U.S. Consulate buildings in West Germany. Shortly thereafter he was recruited by the German consumer electronics manufacturer Braun in 1955. In 1956, in collaboration with mentors from the Ulm School of Design, his design which displayed the mechanics of the SK4 radio and record player through transparent plastic put his design work on the map.

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Auction Results Dieter Rams

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