Is This The Original Butterfly Chair?

The Original Butterfly Chair

What nobody told you about the classical masterpiece

The Model Was An Inspiration From La Tripolina

 

The first butterfly chair was designed in 1938 in Buenos Aires by three architects named Bonet, Kurchan and Ferrari (BKF).

They were inspired by a model from the late 19th century called “La Tripolina”. Tripolina was a foldable chair made of wood and Italian leather.

You can read more about Tripolina in The New York Times.

Tipolina outlines

La Tripolina (1881)

Only three armchairs were made

 

The three architects made three armchairs in total. No more, no less. One of them is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York today. The second is at the Frank Lloyd Wright house Fallingwater.

Nobody seems to know where the third one is. If you know, please let us know in the comment section below.

fallingwater original BKF_sketch

BKF At Fallingwater, Pennsylvania

The armchair was considered a copy of Tripolina

 

Knoll bought the rights to produce the armchair almost ten years later. It was mass produced and quickly became famous. The demand for the BKF went through the roof and many companies began to produce “copies”.

Knoll tried to defend their right to be the only producers of the BKF. They failed to defend this right though, since the courts decided that the “original piece” itself was actually a copy of the older model Tripolina.

Court ruling

There is no original butterfly chair

 

So is this an original butterfly chair? Well, yes and no.

The first three pieces were made in Argentina, a country that was very far away from Europe and USA. Had it been designed in Europe or in the United States, it is not impossible that it wouldn’t have even been approved as an authentic model in the first place.

We think it’s good that it was designed in Argentina, since it permitted the architects to make an improvement upon Tripolina. Thanks to them, there is a free market for manufacturers to create the best of what is considered by many to be most successful design of the 20th century. It gives you the possibility to find great versions of this classic in terms of comfort, style and quality.

In a way, you can say that all of them are authentic in their own way.

It’s all about comfort and quality today

 

The world has enjoyed almost 70 years of open rights to manufacture the classical masterpiece. Every producer makes it slightly different and there is really no “original” BKF today. It’s all about quality and comfort in the market.

If you want to determine if a BKF is good, you should look for quality and comfort, rather than originality. You want to be able to spend hours in your butterfly chair for many years.

This is the Swedish Butterfly Chair

Swedish BKF With Child

Photo By Luumutar

We pride ourselves with the fact that we produce a very comfortable, high quality BKF. It is a slight redesign of the version created by the first architects, with special consideration for comfort. The redesign was made by Lars Kjerstadius in Sweden over 20 years ago and we therefore call it the Swedish Butterfly Chair.

Lars is very passionate about his work. He is constantly thinking about how to make the best BKF in the world. Even today the product is better than the one that was produced last year in our facilities.

We guarantee that when you buy our armchair you will be very happy with it for many, many years.

2 BKF chairs lambskin & leather
Showing 2 comments
  • Chad Mellon
    Reply

    I have a butterfly chair frame that I found on the side of the road 15yrs ago. I have kept it in hopes of finding a cover one day. It’s not a new foldable version… It’s welded and has the original (cracking) rubber feet. After reading your article… I realize it’s not an original… But is probably very old. Also, it’s wide but a bit smaller than the largest versions. Circa50 is a maker of covers and they show 3 size options. I think mine is a b size. Would love opinion on where to get a new cover made.

    • Nils
      Reply

      Hi Chad,

      You can read 5 things you need to know before you buy a butterfly chair cover here.

      As the article mentions, I think it will be difficult to find a matching cover unless you go to a saddle maker or an upholsterer to have it custom made according to the size of your frame. If you are not looking for a perfectly matching cover, and are ok with risking it hanging loosely and perhaps not being so strong either, you can purchase a cover from any manufacturer of butterfly chairs.

      My recommendation is however that you purchase a new chair instead. As you said, your chair is not an original and buying a new frame is really not expensive.

      Good luck Chad!

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