Retailer Spotlight: Markanto

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted February 04, 2013 in Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, Florence Schust Knoll, German Modernism, Markanto, mid-century, Midcentury Rocking Chairs, Modernism Cologne, Ralph Rapson, Rapson Architects, Rapson Greenbelt Rocker, Rapson-Inc.

We here at Rapson-Inc. are very excited to introduce our latest retailer, Markanto. Based in Cologne, Germany, it has established itself as a premier European retailer of unique designer furnishings, both current and vintage, and ships across the EU.

Now featuring Rapson Greenbelt® Line, Ralph Rapson is the latest Cranbrook Academy alumni whose designs are sold at Markanto. (In the 1940s-50s, the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan was known as the hotbed of American modernism. Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Ray and Charles Eames, and Florence Schust Knoll are a few of Rapson's best-known classmates and colleagues from his Cranbrook years.) 

Sven Vorderstrase, the Markanto owner/manager, graciously took time for an interview with us just as Markanto's Rock It Baby exhibition in Cologne was in full swing:



I am always interested as to how people get their start in the business. How did you become interested in modern design?

In the 90s of the last century I was personally already interested in design classics. I loved the Bauhaus design, specially the tubular steel furniture, which was very popular at this time. Getting deeper and deeper in this stories, I recognized many other great designers, their creations or their stories.


I see Markanto opened in 1999. How has your business evolved over the years and where would you like it to go in the future?

At the beginning we had another business model: The idea was to be a platform for vintage design originals for dealers and collectors (like maybe today Deconet or Designaddict). We had over 1.000 vintage products published at this time on our web page. But the time was too early; dealers did not update us with information or response; and for many dealers the web was an enemy! But today we still offer a nice collection of vintage originals for museums and collectors.

So we started one year later as a second step with a web shop of design classics in current production. We were the first online dealer for many important design brands like Knoll, Vitra or Zanotta in the German market. Then we started our own re-editions, too – this include the re-edition of the carpet collection from Knoll International by Sigrid Wylach. She designed in the 70s for almost every furniture group of Knoll a special carpet, and this collection was very popular in Europe. But this collection was not sold in America, that's the reason that the nice collection is not published in the literature about Knoll.



And nearly every year we make now a special version of a design classic with one of our partners, like a limited version of the Ball clock from George Nelson with Vitra, an Art Deco version of the stool 60 with Artek or  a collector version of the seating object Otto by Peter Raacke (one of the first furniture in cardboard from the 60s).


I love the Rock It Baby exhibition you organized for January 2013. What feedback did you get from attendees about the Rapson Greenbelt Rocker?

Thank you for the compliment! In the last years we made already some exhibitions about STOOLS for example or last year about architects chairs in co-operation with the design museum in Cologne. So the idea came to us, to make this year's Markanto exhibition about rocking chairs, where we show designs by Panton, Tapiovaara, Guhl, Eames, Wegner – and Ralph Rapson. Many people liked the idea of this concept and came to see the exhibition. The Ralph Rapson rocking chairs were  a big surprise – because I think, they were shown for the first time in Germany (because they were never part of the Knoll collection in Germany). 



You have chosen to feature the three Rapson chairs from the Greenbelt line in Markanto. What was it about these chairs that attracted you to them?

I think, that there are not many really good rocking chairs, and the Greenbelt rockers are one of the best designs. I like especially the combination of American walnut and the cotton. It is timeless. We are proud to present the Rapson collection in Germany. 


I know this is a terribly hard question to answer, but if you had to choose a favourite piece or designer, what/who would it be?

That is really not an easy question! I love the period of the last mid century. At this time, many great designers made milestones like Eames with the first plastic chairs, George Nelson with the wall clocks, Eero Saarinen with the Tulip Chairs and many more. But I don't have an all time favourite piece, this changes every quarter – at the moment it is a fantastic vintage radio from Braun.



We really love the Rapson Greenbelt rocking chairs. They have a great story, because they belong to one of the first collections from Knoll, and together with the Jens Risom furniture, they look fantastic and are enjoyable to sit in.


[All photos sourced from and property of Markanto.de]

The Markanto showroom is located in the South of the  city, only 15 minutes away from Cologne Central Station. 

Markanto Depot, Mainzer Strasse 26, 50678 Köln. Germany 
Opening times: every Saturday from  11 am - 4 pm.


Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc. 
  1. I am always interested as to how people get their start in the business. How did you become interested in modern design?

In the 90ths of the last century I was privatly already interested in design classics. I loved the Bauhaus design, specially the tubular steel furniture, which was very popular at this time. Getting deeper and deeper in this storys I reconised many other great designers, there creations or their storys.


  1. I see Markanto opened in 1999. How has your business evolved over the years and where would you like it to go in the future?

At the beginning we had another business model: The idea was to be a platform for vintage design originals for dealers and collectors (like maybe today Deconet or Designaddict). We had over 1.000 vintage products published at this time on our web page. But the time was to early, dealers did not update us with information or resonse and for many dealers were the web an enemy! But today we still offer a nice collection of vintage originals for museums and collectors.

So we started one year later as a second step with a web shop of design classics from current productions. We were the first online dealer for many important design brands like Knoll, Vitra or Zanotta in the German market. Then we started our own reedition  too – this include the reedition of the carpet collection from Knoll International by Sigrid Wylach. She designed in the 70ths for almost every furniture group of Knoll a special carpet, and this collection was very popular in Europe. But this collection was not sold in America, thats the reason, that the nice collection is not published in the literature about Knoll.

And nearly every year we make now a special version of a design classic with one of our partners, like a limited version of the Ball clock from George Nelson with Vitra, a Art Deco version of the stool 60 with Artek or  a collector version of the seating object Otto by Peter Raacke (one of the first furniture in cardboard from the 60ths).


I love the Rock It Baby exhibition you organized for January 2013. What feedback did you get from attendees about the Rapson Greenbelt Rocker?

Thank you for the compliment! In the last years we made already some exhibitions about STOOLS for exsample or last year about architects chairs in co-operation with the design museum in Cologne. So comes us the idea, to make this year a Markanto exhibition about rocking chairs, where we show designs by Panton, Tapiovaara, Guhl, Eames, Wegner – and Ralph Rapson. Many people like the idea of this concept and come to see the exhibition. The Ralph Rapson rocking chairs were  a big suprise – cause I think, they were shown the first time in Germany (cause they were never part of the Knoll collection in Germany). 

You have chosen to feature the three Rapson chairs from the Greenbelt line in Markanto. What was it about these chairs that attracted you to them?

I think, that there are not many really good rocking chairs, and the Greenbelt rockers are one of the best designs. I like specially the combination of American walnut and the cotton. It is timeless. We are proud, to present the Rapson collection in Germany. 

I know this is a terribly hard question to answer, but if you had to choose a favourite piece or designer, what/who would it be?

Thats really not an easy question! I love more the time of the last mid century. At this time many great designers make milesstones like Eames with  the first plastic chairs, George Nelson with the wall clocks, Eero Saarinen with the Tulip Chairs and many more. But I dont have an allltime favourite piece, this change every quarter – in  the moment it is a fantastic vintage radio from Braun -

http://www.markanto.de/product_info.php?language=en&products_id=1265


Please write anything you would like included in the blog that I may have missed. Also, do you have any photographs from the Rock It Baby exhibition? I would love a photo of yourself as well to feature on the blog - possibly one with a Rapson chair. Whatever you like! Finally, would you give permission for us to use any of the photos featured on your website?

We really love the Rapson Greenbelt rocking chairs. They have a great story, cause they belongs to one of the first collections from Knoll togther with the Jens Risom furniture, they look fantastic and it is enjoyable to sit in.

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Ralph Rapson Design: The Early Years

Share this post Twitter Facebook Tumblr Email Posted May 14, 2012 in Cranbrook, Equipment for Living, Florence Schust Knoll, Hans Knoll, Jens Risom, Knoll, Ralph Rapson, The Rapson Line, WWII

During the late 1930s and early 1940s, while working in the inspiring surroundings of Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, Ralph Rapson produced volumes of sketches of furnishings for modern homes. The Cranbrook ethos demanded a broad-based design education, and Rapson was not unique in designing furniture as well as buildings. Only a few Rapson designs were realized in studio production, including Rapson’s Highback Rocker submission for the 1940 Organic Design in Home Furnishings Competition sponsored by MoMA (see below).

It was Rapson’s friendship with Florence Schust, the talented designer and future wife of Hans Knoll, that brought Rapson designs to the mass market and out of studio production.  The Hans G. Knoll Furniture Company had been established in New York City in 1938. In 1941, the first Knoll modern furniture line was released - the “600 Series”, most of which was designed by Jens Risom, but would later include all the pieces of the Rapson Line for Knoll as well.


[photo credit: Rapson Architects, all rights reserved]

Many people note the similarity in materials and upholstery between these early Risom pieces and Rapson pieces for Knoll. In fact, the use of webbed upholstery was common among the early Modernists because it allowed for clean lines and met the materials restrictions of the times - including wartime, when there were strict limits on the length of wood pieces available as well as metal for springs and upholstery materials. Rapson’s Highback Rocker for the 1940 Organic Design competition used hardwood and webbed cotton and predated the Risom pieces for H.G. Knoll in the same materials, but both designers followed in the footsteps of Alvar Alto, who pioneered the use of webbing to enable a clean form using simple, natural materials.


[photo credit: Rapson Architects, all rights reserved]

In 1944, Knoll and his wife, Florence Schust Knoll, established the Knoll Planning Unit to lead the research/design project he called “Equipment for Living” which was to prepare for a dramatic change in furnishing style and material after the end of World War II. Knoll believed a closer collaboration between stream-lined production and the talented designers was needed to successfully bring quality, affordable modern furniture to the masses. To set the project off on the right foot, Florence looked to Cranbrook for cutting-edge designers. Rapson was the first selected for the Planning Unit, followed by Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen and six others who together designed many of the modern classics associated with Knoll’s dominant role in defining Modern furniture.

Hans Knoll contacted wartime manufacturers in hopes of enticing them to partner for postwar production of modern furniture. Kellet AirCraft Corporation was the first to sign on to the Equipment for Living line but specified that the furniture be constructed of aluminum. In May 1944, Knoll asked Rapson to design a line of outdoor furniture for production at Kellet. Three weeks later, Rapson flew to New York with sketches of an outdoor chair, a side table, a tea wagon, and others in tow. To be constructed of tubular steel, the designs were light and playful. Knoll was reportedly delighted and wasn’t expecting something so exciting. Walter Baermann, the firm’s Head of Design, said Rapson’s furniture had a “personality, a quality that must be kept and not lost, even in the smallest detail.” 

In the end, the financial details derailed the project and Kellet never produced these Rapson designs, but Knoll and Rapson were not deterred. “The Rapson Line” for Knoll had its first footings. Check back for articles following the development and marketing of the Rapson Line for Knoll.

Further reading: King Hession, J., Rapson, R., & Wright, B. N. (1999). Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design. Afton: Afton Historical Society Press.


Caroline Engel for Rapson-Inc.

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