Switch Modern Celebrates 20 Years

As part of celebrating its 20th anniversary in October 2022, we thought that it would be fun to share a select group of brands, objects, and moments over the past twenty years that have punctuated Switch Modern's history - from a single brand in 2002 to now over 70 brands representing hundreds of award-winning designers.

2002:  Switch Modern's story actually begins in 2001 as co-owners, Roy Otwell and Doug Henderson, are trying to source a chic, minimalist kitchen for Roy's Atlanta home.  They discover that Poliform is not represented in the Southeast and each decide to "switch" careers by opening Poliform Atlanta.  Their first showroom opened in October 2002 and was located in the newly renovated historic Westside Provisions space in West Midtown.

Exterior photo of Poliform Atlanta located in Atlanta's West Midtown neighborhood that was in the process of being developed 20 years ago.

Upper photo: Poliform's Phoenix kitchen cabinetry.  Lower photo: The Senzafine closet system was designed by Poliform as part of the manufacturer's ever-growing range of innovative solutions for wardrobes and closets.  Poliform's minimalist aesthetic with its clean, unencumbered volumes and seemingly enigmatic "facades" of cabinetry were featured in the inaugural showroom quickly generating a buzz all around metro Atlanta.

2004:  As their new kitchen and wardrobe clients expressed a keen interest in also purchasing furniture and lighting, Doug and Roy open a second location in the same West Midtown neighborhood.  In addition to its now established Poliform Atlanta showroom, this new showroom would now accommodate several different furniture brands. Flexform, Edra, Wittmann were some of these manufacturers that formed the core of this new showroom.  Each of these brands functions as a microcosm for Switch Modern's burgeoning ethos.  While each of these brands is underscored with impeccable workmanship, comfort, and attention to detail, each also represents a fascinating aspect of what Switch Modern would become known for during the ensuing decades.

In addition to Poliform Atlanta, Switch Modern opened an additional showroom in 2004 located on Howell Mill Road in West Midtown.

Flexform exudes comfort and flexibility - all manifest in the range of options in its now iconic Groundpiece sectional sofa design by Antonio Citterio in 2001.  Like many of Flexform's designs, Groundpiece features varying seating depths, a wide range of innovative removable upholstery options, the ability to integrate surfaces into the seating expanse, along with an array of possible modular configurations let alone the variety of available aesthetics with back and loose cushions.

Edra is also about comfort - indeed, the manufacturer actually patented its proprietary GellyFoam used in its soft seating in 2004, the year that its ever-popular On the Rocks sectional sofa was introduced.  Since 1987, Edra has always been about embracing new aesthetics through materials, technology, process, and form - always challenging our preconceived notions of how a lounge chair, sofa, or dining chair can look.  The above early photo of the Switch Modern showroom features several designs that were truly new in the mid 2000s - the Corallo lounge chair (2004) is now included in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection, the On the Rocks sectional sofa (2004) with its polyhedric seating elements and organic worm-like flexible bolsters, and the Jenette dining chair (2005) with its 900 flexible vertical "sticks" that become its back.

Wittmann, too, with its 100+ year history, is also about comfort and workmanship.  Wittmann is a fabulous pastiche of iconic designs from the 20th century as well as 21st century designs from contemporary designers, architects, and artists. This early photo of the showroom illustrates all of the amazing designs that Josef Hoffmann and Frederick Kiesler created in the first half of the 20th century for which Wittmann is the licensed manufacturer by the foundations of these much celebrated designers.

2010:  Switch Modern starts its monthly Spotlight on Design events on a variety of topics, launches its online presence, www.switchmodern.com, and over the next couple of years adds a number of new furniture and lighting brands including ClassiCon, Davide Groppi, Moooi, and Poltrona Frau.

A photo of a monthly Spotlight on Design event in the fall of 2010 with an announcement of the arrival of www.switchmodern.com.

Bell tables designed by Sebastian Herkner, ClassiCon, Germany, 2012.  Herkner's Bell table plays with our preconceived notions of materials by using lightweight, fragile glass as its base paired with the visual "heaviness" associated with a metal top (inset with glass or stone) that seemingly hovers above the base.

Both ethereal and enigmatic, the Moon suspension light is constructed with hand-applied, overlapping Japanese paper over a polyethylene sphere.  Designed in 2005 by Davide Groppi.

Heracleum suspension light designed by Bertjan Pot in 2010.  The diffuser form of Moooi's Heracleum features thin, branch-like metal rods that power the LEDs directly through layers of conductive material within the frame itself.  This novel technology was developed with fellow Dutch designer, Marcel Wanders, and has been patented as "Electrosandwich."

Archibald lounge chair designed by Jean-Marie Massaud for Poltrona Frau, Italy, 2009.  The award-winning Archibald is the perfect combination of substance and form, boasting a comfortable and enveloping design ideal for mediation and relaxation.  The breath and depth of the seat is balanced by its thin feet for an agile and slender overall effect.

2013:  With an ever-increasing group of European furniture and lighting brands, Switch Modern increases its showroom size by over 500% - developing a 25,000 square foot space in West Midtown.  With the new space, design monthly events have now expanded to talks and exhibitions of international designers; dramatic dedicated spaces were developed for Poliform's kitchen and closet systems; a new, dedicated bathroom design area features brands like Rifra and Agape; a 4,000 square foot outdoor area was built out featuring the designs of Paola Lenti and Gandia Blasco in natural light; and more lighting from several European and American manufacturers, and, of course, more furniture brands were added over the next few years from Agapecasa to Zanotta.

The exterior of Switch Modern's current showroom.  Formerly a warehouse, 25,000 square feet was built out as showroom that features dramatic 18 ft ceilings and windows along its facade facing 14th Street - a major thoroughfare in Atlanta connecting East and West Midtown.

The Adler II dining extension table designed by Peter Draenert and produced by namesake Draenert, Germany, is available in several sizes.  The table top is available in the manufacturer's legendary range of stone options as well as solid or veneered woods - its top is also available in a range of shapes.  The extension versions of the table are enabled through the clever, integrated lifting mechanism in the center that allows the concealed central leaf to be raised once the two halves of the table top have been pulled part.

Spoon bathtub designed by Benedini Associates for Agape, Italy.  Spoon was developed in 1998 with its characteristic and unmistakable egg-shaped form - quickly becoming a contemporary design icon.

Designs by Gandia Blasco and Paola Lenti figure prominently in Switch Modern's light-filled, dedicated outdoor furniture space.

2017: Switch Modern curated and presented a pop-up exhibition of the work of much celebrated artist and designer Jaime Hayon. The exhibition featured a range of designs - furniture, lighting, accessories - that Hayon had created for several European manufacturers from 2006 - 2016.  Jaime Hayon @ Switch Modern included over thirty of Hayon's designs produced by &Tradition, Denmark; BD Barcelona, Spain; Fritz Hansen, Denmark; Moooi, Netherlands; Nanimarquina, Spain; and Wittmann, Austria.

Left photo: Jaime Hayon's Vuelta High Back lounge chair in dark blue velvet. Right photo: Hayon's Vuleta sofa in mesmerizing Irish green velvet is paired with the designer's sculptural and enigmatic Grain Cut table - both pieces are produced by Wittmann, Austria.  In the foreground is Hayon's Formakami suspension lamp for &Tradition, Denmark.

Left photo: Switch Modern's Doug Henderson introduces Jaime Hayon to the crowd - the pair are standing in front of Hayon's Wings bed design for Austrian manufacturer, Wittmann. Right photo (from left to right): Doug Henderson, Co-Owner, Switch Modern; Jaime Hayon; Hartmut Roehrig, former CEO of Wittmann; Roy Otwell, Co-Owner, Switch Modern. Mr. Roehrig traveled from Austria to attend the opening of the exhibition that included several of Wittmann's recently introduced designs by Jaime Hayon.

2018:  Switch Modern curated and presented Dutch Masters: Contemporary Lighting from Holland.  The exhibition featured a range of lighting designs manufactured by Moooi, Flos, and Ingo Maurer, that were created by Dutch designers - Joost van Bleiswijk, Joel Degermark, Richard Hutten, Frans van Nieuwenborg + Martijin Wegman, Bertjan Pot, Raimond Puts + OK-ID, Studio Job, Rick Tegelaar, and Marcel Wanders.  The exhibition also included a very special lighting design by Joris Laarman - our guest of honor at the opening event.

Switch Modern Dutch Lighting exhibition; Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age

Doug Henderson, Switch Modern; Roy Otwell, Switch Modern; Sarah Scheuning, Curator of Decorative Arts, High Museum of Art; Joris Laarman, Joris Laarman Lab.

Upper photo: Dutch Masters exhibition installation detail. : Lower photo (from left to right): Doug Henderson, Co-Owner, Switch Modern; Sarah Schleuning, Former Curator of Decorative Arts, High Museum of Art; Roy Otwell, Co-Owner, Switch Modern; and our evening's guest of honor, Joris Laarman. 

2019:  Proved to be a banner year of programming for Switch Modern! The year kicked off with an exhibition of Tom Dixon's lighting and furniture designs culminating in a talk by the UK designer.  Dixon's exhbition was followed by our exhibition Design Icons: Included in Museums Around the World.. We closed out the year with a concurrent exhibition, From Nuns to Now: A Photographer's Selection that featured the photography of Atlanta icon, Lucinda Bunnen.

Upper photo: Tom Dixon's dramatic exhibition installation featured the designer's fabulous namesake logo super graphic and installation of gold Melt lights. Middle photo: In addition to a plethora of lighting designs, Dixon unveiled his new Fat Series of furniture in Atlanta. Lower photo: Dixon gave a standing-room only illustrated talk to an audience of enthusiastic fans,  Roy Otwell and Doug Henderson with Tom during the event.

Switch Modern's exhibition, Design Icons of the 20th Century: Included in Museums Around the World, opened in October 2019 and concluded in March 2020.  The premise for organizing the exhibition was simple... find objects that were already in Switch Modern's showroom that were designed in the 20th century, still in current production, and were included in the permanent collection of one or more museums around the world.  As a working exhibition checklist emerged, various pieces of furniture and lighting started to cluster into groups that illustrated several prevailing styles or design movements within the 20th century.  What resulted was an exhibition that included 24 manufacturers located in 10 different countries - the associated pieces collectively represented the work of 41 designers. Design Icons featured more than 50 objects from 1902 through 1999 presented in nine temporal vignettes including Josef Hoffmann's designs from the early 20th century, Cubism-informed French design from the late 20s and early 30s, Post War European design from the late 40s, Scandinavian midcentury from the late 50s, Pop and Radical design from the late 60s, Minimalism and High Tech from the early 1970s, and the high-concept designs of 90s postmodernism.  The exhibition's small objects became wonderful microcosms of these design movements and were presented atop an illuminated "runway" within the center of the exhibition - the earliest object from 1924; the last from 1998.  Several of the vignettes were visually annotated with the addition of patterned textiles through Maharam's Textiles of the 20th Century Collection.

Nuns on a Beach, Lucinda Bunnen, 1970.  This photo was captured on the very first roll of film that Bunnen took - it's now included in the permanent collections of several museums.

When we approached Lucinda Bunnen about having an exhibition within Switch Modern's showroom, we invited her to select the photographs that she wanted to include - indeed, a "photographer's selection."  Lucinda ultimately chose 48 pieces that were hung amidst the various pieces of contemporary furniture and lighting within Switch Modern's showroom - the resulting synergy was just amazing.  Not only did it provide the context of how someone would likely live with the work in their home but also included an opportunity to sit, lounge, and relax while taking the time to really explore the photographs in the exhibition.  Lucinda's aforementioned photo, Nuns on a Beach, was the catalyst for the exhibition's title that included this photograph along with work that spanned nearly five decades to the present.

From Nuns to Now included 48 photos that spanned five decades of Bunnen's work.  Henderson chose to create engaging juxtapositions of photos within groups - then, stepping back, within the context of the furniture and lighting in the Switch Modern showroom.  The synergy of Bunnen's work with the furniture was remarkable.  And, much of the seating provided an opportunity to relax while viewing the work.

In addition to the opening and closing receptions and their associated talks, Switch Modern was delighted to host the artist's 90th surprise birthday party during the exhibition.  This was done under the ruse of her gallerist, Marica Wood, telling her that a collector was in town and eager to meet her and discuss some of the pieces within the exhibition.  It worked!  The guest list included Lucinda's family and friends along with an extraordinary list of artists, curators, philanthropists, and museum professionals.

Upper photo: This dramatic installation of Bocci's iconic 28 Series was part of Switch Modern's opening of the existing showroom - it was refreshed in a plethora of new colors in 2019.  Lower photo: We think that this was the precise moment when Lucinda realized that she was actually not meeting a collector at her exhibition but had just walked into her 90th birthday surprise party.

2020s:  After 2019 that had been filled with amazing programming, 2020 quickly brought an abrupt halt to a number of activities.  With social gatherings and travel curtailed, our showroom became by appointment.  New designs were unveiled digitally or over Zoom calls.  In spite of all of the hurdles, good design always finds a way... Poliform's 2020 Collection was launched featuring Jean-Marie Massaud's Saint Germain and Le Club seating; Lina Obregon's Telar lounge chair for Paola Lenti won a much-coveted 2020 Red Dot Award; and Dutch manufacturer Moooi figured out a way to take an extraordinary chair design (that existed only virtually) and turned it into a physical object.  Like some of the first pieces of furniture from Wittmann, Edra, and Flexform, these aforementioned recently designed pieces are also underscored with new materials and technologies to engender new aesthetics.  Like their counterparts nearly 20 years ago, all are well-crafted, authentic designs.  While manufacturers and their associated objects morph over time, the interest and sincerity of Switch Modern's presenting them - for all of the same reasons - has remained unchanged.

This Poliform vignette features several designs by Jean-Marie Massaud introduced in 2020 including the Saint-Germain sectional sofa that just exudes comfort - a gently rounded, enveloping sensuousness underscores all of the elements in the plump, voluptuous volumes associated with the forms in this seating range; the Koishi coffee table is a clever, sculptural design that beautifully illustrates Jean-Marie Massaud's masterful manipulation of volumes; and the designer's Le Club lounge chairs feature minimalist forms with a generous seating expanse.  On the wall is a large Collector's Edition example of the much-loved, high-concept series of clocks by German manufacturer Qlocktwo that visually use language to express time.

Telar lounge chair designed in 2020 by Lina Obregon for Paola Lenti, Italy.  The unique orientation of the open weave on the Telar lounge chair creates essentially two tiers of braiding for seat and back that infuses the form with a profound visual levity yet ensures tremendous comfort for the user.  While the Telar lounge chair was designed for use outdoors, it is equally at home in an interior space. In March 2020, this novel design won the prestigious Red Dot design award.

Hortensia lounge chair was designed by Andres Reisinger & Julia Esque.  With upholstery composed of 20,000 "petals", the Hortensia lounge chair uses innovative technology and materials to create a thoroughly novel seating aesthetic that was inspired by its namesake flower.  The chair started out as a 3D rendering in 2018 that quickly went viral on social media.  Even though the chair didn't physically exist, its sheer novelty prompted multiple orders.  In 2021, Dutch manufacturer Moooi provided the mechanism to initiate serial production of the design.

October 2022:  We just had a fabulous event in conjunction with Atlanta's Marcia Wood Gallery and rumor has it that a really fascinating retrospective exhibition on seminal designs of the first two decades of the 21st century is on the horizon.  We've added the designs of new brands like Desalto and Bomma along with a number of new vignettes throughout the showroom.  Cheers to what have been 20 remarkable years with many more to come.

For more information about Switch Modern or any of the brands or designers we represent, please contact us at 404-605-0196 or info@switchmodern.com.