Rain or Shine
Half a century outside and still shining, the 1966 Collection is a testament to Richard Schultz's conviction that outdoor furniture should be enhanced by the elements.
Launched in March of 1966, The Leisure Collection – now called the 1966 Collection – was a “breath of fresh air” for the modern design community. Richard “Dick” Schultz had successfully upended the paradigm for patio furniture by positing that rather than weather the elements, “outdoor chairs and tables should be enhanced by them – wind, sun and rain should pass freely through. They should breathe.”
In 1958, once again considering moving on from Knoll, Schultz received an envelope from Florence Knoll, who had recently retired to Florida. The envelope contained rusted bolts and the letter read, “Why can’t we make a chair that actually works?"
The rather terse question signaled an opportunity and a new frontier: modern outdoor furniture that would withstand the elements, season after season. Determined to satisfy Florence Knoll’s request and solve the problem, Schultz set about designing an outdoor line of patio furniture that would be both practical and aesthetically clean. It would have to be consonant with rigorous design standards, be equally appropriate both indoors and out, and be as wear and maintenance free as the latest materials would allow. And most importantly, it would have to disrupt a market which was accustomed, “to puddle-collecting, joint-rusting, hot-seat upholstered products.”
“Most outdoor furniture in those days was designed to look as if it was designed before the French Revolution,” Schultz explained of the cultural context, “with stamped-out metal, bunches of flowers and leaves.”
After field-testing many available materials which proved unsatisfactory, Schultz began to experiment with more durable, weather-resistant materials. Numerous iterations later, he arrived at a rough frame made of copper tubing which held promise. Schultz and his small team improved upon the design with seamless aluminum castings, which were coated with multiple layers of plastic paint specifically designed to be maintenance-free and rust-proof. Of his process, Schultz reflected, “My training was very non-professional, so it was all work with materials and tools.”
Looking as fresh as it did the day it was introduced, The 1966 Collection continues to set the standard for modern outdoor furniture worldwide.