A Brief History of the Hairpin Leg

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The darling of a million interior designer’s social media feeds, the hair pin leg is actually an accidentally beautiful example of form meeting function. 

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Yet another product of wartime design requirements, the hair pin leg was driven by a requirement for a simple, hard wearing product in a period of minimal materials and labour. Invented in the USA in the early 1940s by a young designer named Henry P. Glass, the brief was to create furniture that used less material while maintaining strength and durability. 

 Image: The Side Chair, Charles and Ray Eames, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Image: The Side Chair, Charles and Ray Eames, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Admittedly Glass's original designs, manufactured for a outdoor furniture collection called American Way, have been refined. Originally they were visually rather rudimental, a full steel frame with sail cloth seats and backs to withstand the elements. Through the 50's, designers such as Charles and Ray Eames took Glass's concept and played with its proportions to create truly iconic and influential pieces. And, as with everything, time has refined these designs and now the 21st century version is truly elegant. In terms of function, the beauty of the three leg stool is that it is self leveling, which is why it is so often favoured by draftsmen and engineers as a stable seat upon which to do work of great accuracy.

But, as with anything, cost does reflect quality. Cheaper hairpin legs are often made with hollow tubular steel and are painted rather than powder coated, which, in a couple of years time, will look tatty. In our opinion, if you’re spending money, better right than twice.

At Cord, we believe in creating products that will stand the test of time. Which is why our hairpin legs start with 6 metre lengths of solid steel. Picked up from a steel yard in mid Cornwall, UK, this steel is taken back to the workshop, where it is cut to size, bent to shape and welded to base plates. These base plates can then be fitted either to our four options of wood or to a piece of your own timber, whether that is from a tree in your grandmother's garden, a door from a reclamation yard, or a repurposed piece of furniture. And it is here that you create your own version of an heirloom, that will stand the test of time.

Thanks Henry P Glass.