Richard Schultz's iconic outdoor furniture
July 13, 2009 | There are few features more representative of mid-century modern architecture than the patio. Indoor/outdoor living was promoted in nearly every domestic architectural plan of the era, from Richard Neutra's Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs to Philip Johnson's Rockefeller Guest House in New York City. Even so, very few designers devoted their attention to modern outdoor seating. Richard Schultz is a noteworthy exception. Educated as a mechanical engineer and industrial designer at Iowa State University and the Design Institute of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Schultz joined Knoll Associates in New York in 1951, where he assisted Harry Bertoia. While at Knoll he developed many of his own best-selling designs including the Petal table (1960), and what is now called the 1966 collection (originally called the Leisure collection)—a line of outdoor seating that he created for Florence Knoll's own house in Florida.
For nearly fifty years, Schultz has continued to carve his niche in outdoor furnishings. After 1972 he worked at Knoll as a freelancer, and then in 1992 he launched his own company, Richard Schultz Design, with his son Peter. He not only reissues his Knoll classics, but has also developed new designs including the Topiary (1996) and Wing (2008) collections that, although a departure from the minimalism of his early work, are equally refreshing. Examples from the 1966 line are already in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Vitra Design Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum to name just a few. Shultz's work is currently the subject of a small exhibition, Richard Schultz: Five Decades of Design, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through August 23, which includes twelve works that highlight his extensive and continuing career, and showcase this underappreciated side of the modern design movement.
Recently Schultz expanded the prized 1966 collection of tables, chairs, rockers, loungers, ottomans, and carts to include armless dining chairs, as well as new table sizes. The current models, which consist primarily of powder-coated cast and extruded aluminum with vinyl-coated polyester mesh, remain true to the original design but have been improved over the years for added durability and to meet current material guidelines. Products can be viewed on the company's extensive Web site, which also includes a directory of dealers from whom they can be purchased.