Why Your Home Needs a Willy Guhl Hourglass Planter

Elizabeth Pash
·3-min read
Photo credit: 1stdibs
Photo credit: 1stdibs

From House Beautiful

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Elizabeth Pash, designer and owner of Elizabeth Pash Interiors & Antiques, shares one item you should be on the lookout for when shopping for antiques. This week, it's Willy Guhl planters. We are aware that many are currently practicing social distancing, but we will continue to publish vintage shopping content (and ideas for online sources) in anticipation of the day we are all able to return to our favorite markets!

Whether it's a full garden, lush patio, or even just a collection of indoor houseplants, gardening, greenery, and plants of all kinds have never enjoyed more popularity. So, now seems as good a time as ever to go down the rabbit hole of one of the best-designed planters of all time, which comes courtesy of Swiss furniture designer Willy Guhl.

Born in Stein am Rhein in 1915, Guhl was one of the first industrial designers in Switzerland. He trained as a carpenter before studying at the Zurich School of Applied Arts, where he later went on to teach for 39 years, retiring in 1980. Many of his former students became leading designers in their own right, including Robert Haussmann, Kurt Thut and Bruno Rey.

Guhl first made his mark by experimenting with new materials and creating pieces in simple, yet elegant forms. He designed a wide range of objects and furnishings, from chairs to door handles, church pews and vases. He is probably best known for his chairs, especially the Loop Chair.

In 1951, the Swiss company Eternit commissioned Guhl—along with his students at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich—to create a line of attractive and durable planters, which can be used indoors or out. These planters were made using concrete, and the end result was elegant, yet strong and sturdy. Of all the designs by Willy Guhl, my favorite is the Hourglass planter. Its silhouette is graceful and refined. To me, its appeal is timeless—it feels modern and contemporary, and brings an unexpected element of fun to even the most traditional room.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Pash
Photo credit: Elizabeth Pash

While any Willy Guhl piece is worth considering, the planters are among the most versatile. I love to look for these planters in my travels.

Each one is always a bit different. Some are more smooth and white, while others have developed a bit more patina, because they have been exposed to the elements. Don't have a green thumb? Fear not—these planters look fabulous with or without plants—and they also look fabulous in groupings.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Pash
Photo credit: Elizabeth Pash

Guhl also designed simple, concrete bowls, which can be used as planters or centerpieces. They're perfect as an object of interest on a table or etagere, beautiful in their simplicity. Another iconic Willy Guhl production is his Handkerchief Planter resembling the folds of a handkerchief. Although made of concrete, it appears light and airy.

These Willy Guhl creations are not easy to find—and there are a lot of knockoffs. If you find the real deal, go for it!

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