Furniture company revitalizes artist’s contemporary armchair designs

Originally Published in May 2017

Vzór is a furniture company that produces and sells armchairs based on the designs of Roman Modzelewski. Nearly 60 years after he designed the first fiberglass armchair in Poland, his creations are being produced and sold throughout the country and abroad. Jakub Sobiepanek, a graduate of the Industrial Design department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, founded the company in 2012 with his brother-in-law Michał Woch.

Sobiepanek came across Modzelewski’s designs in college when he wrote his Master’s thesis on Polish industrial designs and the use of contemporary technology and materials. Fascinated with Modzelewski’s creations, Sobiepanek managed to buy the license to reproduce the armchairs and named the company “Vzór,” which is a more universal version of the Polish word “wzór,” which can be roughly translated as  “design.”  

Modzelewski was born in Lithuania in 1912 and was a painter, designer and teacher. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and was a professor at the Łodz Academy of Fine Arts. He experimented with cubism, geometry and texture in his paintings and then began designing furniture in the 1950s. First he made chairs out of plywood and then he worked with plastic. Modzelewski’s paintings and designs can be found in museums including the Museum of Art in Łodz, the National Museum in Warsaw and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He died in Łodz in 1997.

Each armchair model is named using Modzelewski’s initials and the year he designed it.

Each armchair model is named using Modzelewski’s initials and the year he designed it. His most popular chair, RM58, was made of fiberglass—a first for Poland and the world. This was the only model that was produced in a small scale during his lifetime. Today, the chair is made of polyethylene and is available in classic high gloss or in a matt finish.

Both RM58 models are created using a new technique called “rotational moulding.” An aluminium form is filled with a sand-like powder in the desired color and it rotates while it bakes. As the powder melts, it sticks to the inside walls of the form. Once the object cools, it’s taken out of the form and is sanded and polished. Legs are screwed onto the finished product. Vzór was one of the first furniture companies in Poland to use this method.

In addition to the iconic RM58, Vzór will begin to sell an armchair made of plywood, which won second place in the individual furniture category at Warsaw’s Second All-Poland Exhibition of Interior Design, in 1957. The chair will also be available in a polycarbonate version. RM57 is the only upholstered armchair Modzelewski designed and will also be available for sale.

In 2013, Vzór was awarded in the furniture category at the World Interiors News Annual Awards in London. That same year, the RM58 armchair was awarded at the Łódź Design Festival as a “Must Have.” Resellers are found throughout Poland in major cities including Warsaw, Łódź, Poznań and Kraków. Sobiepanek said the company will primarily focus on producing armchairs that have already been shipped to clients as far away as South Korea and the Middle East.