Mexico mid-century modern design: the Acapulco chair

Don't get the cheap, PVC version of this iconic piece of furniture

Acapulco chairs represent iconic Mexican design.
  • Acapulco chairs represent iconic Mexican design.

Many owners of a home in Mexico are furnishing their vacation, retirement or rental properties in mid-century modern.

It is currently one of the most popular styles. Mid-century modern is known for its use of geometric shapes, clean lines and unadorned, tapered legs on furniture. It was popular in the United States from about 1933 to 1965.

As the saying goes, everything old is new again.

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Those who are familiar with furniture designers of this period will remember the names Eames, Miller and Saarinen. Another popular chair of this era was born right here in Mexico — the Acapulco chair.

There are lots of rumors as to who may have initially designed this iconic piece of furniture. Sadly, no one has ever been officially credited for its creation.

History does record that a Mexican designer by the name of Cecilia Leon Dela Barra was the one who claimed to give its name, taken from the hot spot holiday location of the 1950s and 1960s. At that time, this resort location was considered one of the most glamorous holiday settings for the rich and famous.

An Acapulco chair is easily identifiable by both its shape and color. It is hand-made by wrapping and weaving colorful vinyl cords around a pear-shaped metal frame.

In the beginning, steel was used for the structure; however, it tended to rust quickly from the ocean air. Today’s chairs make use of commercial-grade, powder-coated aluminum making them more durable for the climate.

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The vinyl cords of an Acapulco chair are all bright and eye-catching — blues, yellows, pinks, greens and oranges. In the 1950s, plastic was used to make the cords. Today, materials used include PVC (not recommended), HDPE or nylon. These materials make the weave more elastic and comfortable.

The intended result is that when you sit in this chair, you feel like you are floating. The feeling is meant to make you feel like you are in an ancient Mayan hammock with the breeze gently cooling your skin. Over a thousand years ago, Mayans created hammocks out of woven tree bark and plant fibers. The purpose of the weave was to allow air to flow through. And the objective of being off the ground was to be protected from rodents, bugs and snakes.

An Acapulco chair, made with proper materials, can run anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 pesos. Lower-priced options are available, but will not last as long and tend to be made from materials that are not good for our health or the environment. The other reason they cost more is because each Acapulco chair is hand made. It takes many hours to hand weave from a single cord of material.

This colorful iconic chair is easily recognizable, incredibly comfortable and symbolic of not only mid-century modern design, but also Mexican culture. If you are furnishing your home in Mexico in this style, make sure to add in a couple of these stunning pieces.

Furnishing a new condo in Mexico? Contact furniture@solutionsmexico.com for info on where to find reasonably priced, well-made midcentury modern furniture like the Acapulco chair.

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