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Charles Stendig Dies at 99; Introduced Fanciful Furniture From Abroad

Charles Stendig, who introduced contemporary and avant-garde European furniture to adventurous Americans in his New York City showroom, died on Feb. 11 at his home in Manhattan. He was 99.

His death was announced by R & Company, a furniture gallery in TriBeCa to which Mr. Stendig donated his design library and corporate archives.

There was a period, beginning in the 1960s, when the American living room went cheerfully haywire, becoming a showcase for space age and Pop Art design. The future had arrived, and it was plastic and fantastic and brimming with optimism, mirroring the mod revolution in fashion. Mr. Stendig had a hand in much of it, seeking out European manufacturers, including from Finland, in the days when cargo shipping was cheap.

Intrepid and gregarious, he was the first and, for a time, the only American importer of the Finnish designer Eero Aarnio’s bubble furniture, like the Ball Chair, a cocoon-like plastic sphere upholstered on the inside and often accessorized with its own telephone. It had a cameo in the 1960s British television series “The Prisoner” as well as in other dystopian classics.

Mr. Aarnio’s Ball Chair, a cocoon-like plastic sphere upholstered on the inside, appeared in the 1960s British television series “The Prisoner.”Credit…via Everett Collection

On one mission, Mr. Stendig flew to Prague, which was then part of the Soviet Bloc, to persuade Thonet factory executives to resume making the 1920s-era bentwood and cane dining chairs that they had stopped producing during World War II; he wanted to import those as well. The catch was that he had to guarantee the production costs for a year, as he told Marisa Bartolucci, a design writer who profiled him in 2016 for the antiques and modern furniture site 1stDibs, where vintage Stendig pieces now sell for thousands of dollars.

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