For Charles and Ray Eames, the Eames Lounge Chair represents the pinnacle of their elevated, modern style. For architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Barcelona Chair he created with Lilly Reich, minimalist with tufting laid out like a city grid, hints at his background in architecture.
For multidisciplinary designer Gere Kavanaugh, whose storied career spans textiles, typefaces, and showrooms for General Motors, the Gere Easy Chair she designed, released this month by Floyd, represents comfort, California cool, and timelessness.
“The chair is a really interesting concept,” Kavanaugh tells Fast Company. “Every designer of note or worth wants to do a chair; that’s just part of the design mind in your head.”
Kavanaugh in the 1970s [Photo: courtesy Floyd]
Hers is half a lifetime in the making. Kavanaugh, 94, produced a one-of-one prototype of the Gere (pronounced “Jerry”) Easy Chair in the mid-1970s. Regal and relaxed in big sunglasses and a patterned skirt, with her elbows resting over the back, Kavanagh looks like a queen in her throne in a vintage photo of the prototype, which was upholstered in orange fabric. Half a century later, the Detroit-based Floyd is mass-producing it for the first time ever.
“I’m tickled pink about it,” Kavanaugh says. “There has to be the right time for something to blossom, and you can never tell when that might be.”
Made from plywood and Sonotube, the cardboard tubes used to shape concrete when pouring pillars, the circular chair swivels and embraces the sitter with a curving, generous back that’s angled down toward the sitter’s knees.
“It’s really a thinking chair; that’s why I called it the Easy Chair,” she says. “You feel very comfortable in it. It’s an easy chair to sit in and feel comfortable.”
Kavanaugh began experimenting with furniture design while a student at Cranbrook, the Michigan art academy where she was among the first women to earn an MFA, in 1952. Her furniture “was as much about fantasy as it was function,” write the authors of Kavanaugh’s first monograph, published in 2019.
Floyd has been in talks with Kavanaugh for years about reissuing a piece of furniture, but “it took a bit to arrive at what we were going to do,” says Alex O’Dell, Floyd cofounder and COO. Ultimately, going with the Easy Chair was her idea.
Kavanaugh specifically wanted to make sure the chair came in denim, and it does, plus eight other colors, including magenta and persimmon. The upholstery is from Crypton and made of 70% recycled cotton and 30% recycled polyester at the fabric maker’s mill in the Carolinas, something Kavanaugh was excited about (“U.S. manufacturing is coming back,” she says, confidently). But the concept for the chair is pure California, her home. She speaks of the state almost romantically, as a place that’s open to free thinking and experimentation.
“The East is what we call track thinking,” she says. “The Midwest was industrial, the South was agricultural. . . . And then you skip over the Mississippi and there’s this big vast area of the West. But then you come here to Los Angeles and it has a very flexible mind, and they’re so very, very curious.”
Kavanaugh says she hopes people who sit in the chair will be comfortable and able to think more creatively—like sitting in your own personal California no matter where you live.
“If you get in a comfortable place, your mind is more loose and you’ll think more,” she says. “It’s a comfortable place to read.”
Priced at $880, the Gere Easy Chair comes in well below established signature chairs (even on sale for 25% off, Herman Miller charges $5,171.25 for an Eames lounger and ottoman). It speaks to Kavanaugh’s attitude about the importance of accessible good design.
“We should not just have things for the elites,” she says. “You should have nice inexpensive comfortable furniture to live with.”