How do I recognize a Martin Visser sofa bed?
As a Spectrum fan you are of course aware of it: the Martin Visser sofa bed from 1960. You would recognize it anywhere, and yet there are different versions and comparable models from the same period. How do you recognize a real Martin Visser sofa?
Martin Visser designed his first series of sofas for Spectrum in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His most famous design, the BR 02 sofa, is now a true design classic. In addition to Visser, however, there have also been other designers who have designed similar (sleeper) sofas. However, most of his contemporaries’ versions were only produced for a relatively short period of time, while the BR 02 sofa bed became a design icon in no time and has always remained in production at Spectrum. After all these years, Visser’s BR 02 is still at the top of the design ladder.
But how can you tell if it’s an original Martin Visser sofa bed? Especially when you are looking for a vintage sofa or have a fixer-upper in mind, you want to be sure that it is a real Spectrum sofa. We give you some pointers here.
NAME // In Spectrum’s early years, the designs were given a name that was built up as a code. In the case of sofas, this means that the name begins with BR (Bank Rusten, a sofa bed) or BZ (Bank Zitten, a sofa with a fixed seat).
FRAME // Visser’s BR 02 sofa bed from 1960 has a round frame. This followed his earlier version of the sofa where he used a square tube. Are you looking at a sofa with a rectangular frame? There is no way this could be a Visser design. The frame always has a kink at the height of the backrest at the back so that the frame follows the line of the sofa. The backrest is kept optically ‘separate’ from the frame by means of spacers.
SPRINGS // The first Spectrum sofas were fitted with jute lashing straps. Later, in the 70’s, these were replaced by nozag springs – a kind of zigzag spring – which are held together by strong elastic bands. As of 1988, lashing straps are being used again, thus returning the original production method to its former glory. Today’s straps are made from black elastic material.
UPHOLSTERY // The upholstery of the Spectrum sofas is always tight and angular, so that the straight shapes of the sofa are shown to full advantage. The upholstery is always stuck to the sofa; removable covers are not available. Depending on the model, the relation between the seat and the back can be different. However, there is always a considerable space between the back and the seat, so that the backrest ‘floats’. If you have a Martin Visser sofa and would like to know more about the possibilities of upholstering, click here.
SLEEPMECHANISM // The BR 02 sofa’s sleeper function is created by simply tilting the seat forward with one simple movement, so that the seat lies flat. This lever mechanism is clearly visible under the sofa, and consists of a few separate blocks, to which the seat is suspended, as it were, in the side panels. Visser designed one two-person sofa bed, the BR 49. In this design the second bed is under the seat. The back of Visser sofas is never flat in sleep mode, the sleeper function is only in the position of the seat.
DATE OF PRODUCTION PERIOD // In the 60’s and 70’s the Spectrum sofas were provided with a production date, by means of two digits. The first number indicates the month, the second the year. Depending on webbing or nozag springs, the decade becomes clear. The stamps are placed in the wooden lines on a short side of the seat, and are visible when you look at the sofa from the bottom. For example, a sofa with 37 plus webbing is produced in March 1967, a sofa with 82 plus nozag springs dates from August 1972. Furniture from the end of the 70’s is no longer provided with a visible production date.
In conclusion, if it is a Martin Visser sofa bed, it belongs to the Spectrum collection. Visser never designed for other companies or collections.
If you have a sofa at home or if you are eyeing one, and you are still in doubt, feel free to send us pictures. Images of the underside of the seat and of the frame, in particular, often give us enough information to be able to give you a conclusive answer. Please mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be hearing from us!