hiny and sparkly pieces with spotless upholstery and perfectly polished timber; this is the kind of vintage furniture you’ll find at the Okay Art gallery in Basel, Switzerland. Owned by Reha and Nadine Okay, the only old thing at Okay Art is the charming patina on the iconic pieces, and this is because everything has been lovingly restored by Reha and his team of experts. Here, pieces go from the thirties to the eighties, mainly by Italian designers “the most refined”, like Reha says, by Scandinavian designers “the most functional” and Swiss designers naturally “who make pieces meant to last until eternity”.
A glimpse of the small bar which looks onto the street. In the foreground, a lamp designed in the ‘70s by Carlo Nason for Mazzega. Left-hand side, a wicker armchair accredited to Janine Abraham & Dirk Jan Rol, slightly hidden in the back, a floor lamp with built-in magazine rack designed by René Mathieu for French brand Lunel, all items date from the ‘50s.
The son of a furniture restorer, Reha learnt from a young age to use his father's planers, and Nadine has a practical business background. There couldn’t have been a more perfect couple to run this veritable treasure trove (Wunderkammer) in the Swiss design hub.
Okay Art is located in the Medieval town centre of Basel. The gallery is in a tall and narrow building constructed by the famous Basel-born practice Herzog & de Meuron, which still has its main office in the city (and 5 offices worldwide with approx. 400 staff!). After winning a design competition in 1984, in ’93 that the practice was finally able to build on this six-and-a-half metre wide plot. This modern structure seems purposely made for design icons.
In the centre of the gallery, a fantastic mix of different periods and provenances. Left-hand side, Etcetera armchair designed in the ‘70s by Jan Ekselius for Italian firm Crassevig, next to it the All-American CSS (Comprehensive Storage System ) bookcase designed by George Nelson for Hermann Miller. In the centre, armchair with footstool designed in the ‘60s by Danish duo Arne Vodder for France & Son.
“Being in our gallery has to be a unique and memorable experience” this is how Nadine coined “slow furniture”, a phrase used to explain the long restoration process (joiner, blacksmith, varnisher ... specialists who care about preserving these pieces in the best possible way).
The Café rounds the concept off. This adorable corner faces the street, here you can have coffee (strictly Italian) and cakes homemade by Nadine and her mother following old family recipes. The overall tone is emphasised by the tiles which clad the counter, salvaged by Reha and Nadine in Provence.
Original furniture, lamps and accessories designed by architects and designers known to the public, like Charles Eames, Verner Panton, Achille Castiglioni, Hans J. Wegner and Florence Knoll, as well as lesser known names. Reha’s expert eye can spot them in an instant; they are kept in the gallery as well as in the Storage Hall (the warehouse) close by, where Reha and Nadine will gladly take you to. To browse through this treasure, you just need to take a look at the store's smart website, which describes every detail with Swiss precision, and where a fantastic video gives an idea of the restoration process. Without a doubt, Okay Art is for lovers of iconic design!
Cafè & Furniture
CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland
Tel: 0041(0) 41 61 361 40 31
Tue - Fri 9.00 – 12.00 / 13.00 – 18.00
Sat 10.00 – 16,30
Closed on Sundays and Mondays
Courtesy Okay Art
Credits Portrait: Basile Bornand for www.tageswoche.ch