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Continued: Modern furniture from Minnesota

  • Article by: CHRISTY DESMITH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 19, 2013 - 8:43 AM

Commercial design projects for private businesses and public spaces comprise about half of Loll’s business. Twin Citians can admire the company’s loungers at Theodore Wirth Park and at the Hennepin County Library in Maple Grove.

And if you ever make it to Seattle, check out Loll’s power-washable chairs, tables and benches inside the Seattle Public Library, a landmark modern building designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. The building has been newly outfitted with “a few hundred pieces” of Loll furniture, said Benson. “Obviously that’s a big feather in my cap.”

Loll Designs, 1325 N. 59th Av. W., Duluth; 877-740-3387; www.lolldesigns.com

Rapson-Inc.

Rapson-Inc. makes and sells furniture designed by Ralph Rapson, the great modernist architect and beloved University of Minnesota professor. The company was launched by Toby Rapson shortly following the 2008 death of his famous father and operates separately from the family-owned architecture firm, also based in Minneapolis.

“I’ve always thought of what we’re doing as an extension of what Ralph was doing with furniture at the end of his life,” said Chris Reedy, president of Rapson-Inc. “It was very exciting to him that modernism was alive and well and there were people here in Minnesota at the forefront of bringing it back,” explained Reedy.

Rapson, for example, admired the affordable modern designs coming out of Blu Dot, which was launched locally in 1997. He ended up partnering with the company to design a playful steel-mesh lounger. Blu Dot continues to sell this chair, known as the Dwell/Rapson Lounge, and it continues to be popular. “I know Ralph had a great experience working with Blu Dot,” said Reedy, a veteran marketing consultant who got involved when he purchased a Rapson-designed house.

Here’s the coolest thing about Rapson-Inc.: Not only is the company recreating Rapson classics like the Greenbelt Rocker and the Greenbelt Lounger, originally released as the Rapson Line for Knoll in 1945; it’s also preparing to produce new pieces based on the drawings Ralph left behind. Because Toby is also an architect, he is able to resolve any practical matters that crop up, such as tweaking the joinery for the company’s high-end manufacturers in North Carolina and upstate New York.

“Ralph drew a lot of designs that never entered production,” explained Reedy. “For example, a lot of people bought the Ralph Rapid Rocker,” which was released by Ralph’s firm before his death. “We’re getting ready to come out with the ottoman for that, based on Ralph’s sketches before he passed away.”

Rapson’s designs have always enjoyed global fanfare. The company was quick to secure agreements with retailers in Germany and Australia, but “we’re selling mostly in the U.S.,” said Reedy. “The Greenbelt line with its natural wood seems to be a great fit for the California market.”

Not surprisingly, Minnesota is also one of Rapson-Inc.’s hottest markets. You can find Rapson rockers and loungers at Forage Modern Workshop and Danish Teak Classics, which has also helped prototype some of the unrealized drawings. “Ralph built such a wellspring of goodwill,” said Reedy. “I think that’s one of the reasons people here have been so supportive.”

Rapson-Inc.; 612-276-3500; www.rapson-inc.com

Christy DeSmith • 612-673-1754

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