The 1926 design of Bibendum Chair, inspired by the Michelin Man, set its creator apart as an art-deco furniture pioneer
Sitting in the Bibendum chair is like wrapping oneself in an armour of soft leather. This circular pod, which comprises two rolls and a base on top of chromium-painted steel tubing, is all seat and no legs.
The chair was designed in 1926 by Eileen Gray, an Irish-born designer who had a major influence on design and architecture, yet, according to the Design Museum, “never fitted in”.
She was one of the first women to study at Slade School of Fine Art in London, after which she went to Paris to practise lacquer work. The armchair was one of her most successful works and a hit with critics. It set her apart as an art-deco furniture pioneer.
As the name suggests, the inspiration for this design is drawn from the Bibendum, otherwise known as the Michelin Man, which — since 1898 — has been the Michelin Group’s logo.
The rolls of the chair mimic Michelin’s inflatable body rolls, which themselves mimic tyres.
It was Gray’s “feminist answer to Le Corbusier’s Grand Confort armchair”. Gray wanted a chair as comfy as Le Corbusier’s square design, but “softer, rounder, and more feminine”.