Dezeen Magazine

Rover chair by Ron Arad

Dezeen's A-Zdvent calendar: Rover Chair by Ron Arad

Ron Arad said he "hardly designed anything" when creating his readymade Rover Chair, which is next up in our festive A-Zdvent calendar.

The Rover Chair was produced using discarded seats from vehicles made by the now-defunct British car company of the same name. The seat is set to make a return to production as an updated version next year.

Israeli-born designer Ron Arad made his first Rover Chair in 1981 after he grew tired of his job at an architect's practice in north London.

"I went to a scrapyard behind the Roundhouse on a mission to find a car seat that I would make a domestic chair out of," Arad told Dezeen. "I knew I had to choose one [model of car] and the Rover won because it was a nice fitting leather chair that was fixed to the car at four points so it was easy for me to fix it onto the frame."

Arad adapted tubular steel Kee Klamps that are commonly used in milking stalls to make the frame for the chair, which features curving sections that form the armrests clamped to horizontal supports.

"I hardly designed anything – it was all readymade," Arad added. "I felt it was more to do with [Marcel] Duchamp and found objects than it was with [Jean] Prouvé or [Marcel] Breuer and with furniture design, but I was wrong because I once found a photograph of a chair by Prouvé that looks amazingly like it."

The first chairs were manufactured by Arad at his studio in Covent Garden and Rolf Fehlbaum, the chairman of design brand Vitra, was one of the first people to turn up and buy one. A year later Arad said fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier knocked on the door and asked to buy six.

"After that it became – by my standards in those days – a bestseller and I couldn't get enough of them so I employed two people with a van to scour the country's scrapyards and get every Rover seat they could get their hands on," Arad recalled.

Rover chair by Ron Arad

He worked with a local upholsterer specialised in automotive trimming to renovate the seats and continued producing the chair under his One Off label until 1989.

"It was so successful it was boring so I declared the last hundred," Arad said. "I kept the first two and they were in the house and my daughters grew up on them and the cat sat on them. Then, when they were exhibited at my show No Discipline at the Pompidou Centre I was told off for touching my own chair without wearing white gloves."

The earliest versions were made using red seats from the Rover P6 and the designer claimed he thought all Rover seats were red before eventually discovering the more common beige and black versions.

"I've noticed in auctions that a red one fetches twice as much as any other colour," added Arad, who is one of the only collectible contemporary designers on the art market according to French auction house Artcurial.

The designer said that he is currently developing a new version of the Rover chair for Italian brand Moroso, which could be ready in time for next year's Milan furniture fair in April.

"It's going to be different - it's going to be like the new Mini to the old Mini, like the new Fiat 500 to the old Fiat 500," explained Arad. "At first glance you'll say 'Ah, there's a Rover chair' and at second glance you'll see differences."

"I have to have a really good reason to redesign it not as a readymade, but it has to have a lot of the original Rover chair. It's a very interesting exercise."

Dezeen is publishing an A to Z of iconic chairs to count down the days until Christmas. Catch up with the list so far »