Tam Tam

In the landscape of plastic furniture design, the hourglass shaped Tam Tam stool is one of the most iconic. Designed in 1968 by French designer Henry Massonnet, this stool is still today one of the cheapest and the oldest design seats on the market. Costing a mere 10.— French francs at the time of its launch, it is sold nowadays for approximately 30 euros. 

Contrasting with the order and the refinement of the 1950’s rules of design, the sixties expressed a bold exuberance. The furniture design of the sixties carried by the intrinsic properties of synthetic plastics, changed radically by adopting color and fun sculptural forms. The appearance of furniture becomes futuristic and more vibrant. Newly affordable injection-moulded plastic is the material of choice for designers around the world. From the popularity of lucite and newly coloured plastics being used for furniture and accessories, to tupperware’s explosion in popularity in suburbia, advanced technology was the name of the design game. Targeting a younger consumer, the mantra becomes « design for today, not for life ». 

Interestingly the Tam Tam stool was created by Massonnet for himself simply for practical reasons. As an amateur fisherman, he needed an easy to carry stool which could also store things. His manufacturing company founded in 1948 called STAMP specialized in moulded plastic. He launched the stool designed initially for fishermen. At first the commercial production of the Tam Tam had modest success. However, in a twist of fate as often in life, a random picture of Brigitte Bardot sitting on an orange TamTam in St Tropez appeared in ICI PARIS and transformed the simple plastic stool not only into an instant best-seller, but after that into an icon of the late 60s. The icon match had been made between two symbols, the movie star and plastic design furniture, who each in their own way, epitomized the vitality of that decade.

With the petroleum crisis in 1973 many plastic designs were discontinued, yet STAMP managed to continue producing the stool till the 80’s. The Tam Tam later became outdated until 2002 when it was re-issued at the same factory and distributed by Branex. Once again, the Tam Tam became the must-have piece of furniture and a best-seller.  The stool found success with a variety of customers, from the nostalgics of the sixties to a new generation of stylish home owners and is regularly featured in many interior design publications. It was a best-seller at Habitat the reputed chain stores specialized in contemporary furniture and decorative accessories. Drawing from their successful re-edition, Branex expanded the production with additional Tam Tam related products such salt and pepper shakers, lamps, docks for iPod/iPhone, as well as editions with themed printed seats or stools made entirely in coloured transparent plastic or with a metallic finishing.

The quintessential Tam Tam stool has notably been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in NY and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and is easily acknowledged today as timeless iconic design. Its designer Henry Massonnet passed away in 2005, he was buried in his village in Ain under a monument decorated with a replica of his invention in granite.

Fun, economical and ergonometric, the Tam Tam sums up what good design symbolizes. As industrial designer Dieter Rams puts it :  “Good design, is as little design as possible. [It is] back to purity, back to simplicity.” 

My thoughts precisely.

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