Editor Obsession: Prague's Modernist Mecca

by Lucinda Hahn


"I think the unifying feature of Modernista," says Janek Jaros of his elegant store, "is that it concentrates on the first half of the 20th century — furniture, furnishings, decorative objects." And why wouldn't it? In its pre-World War II golden age, Czechoslovakia was a hotbed of Modernist design, powered by the Czech Cubists — designers like Pavel Janak who applied the principles of cubist painting to architecture and furniture; Jindrich Halabala, a pioneer of functionalism; and architect Adolf Loos. Admirers can relive this Modernist heyday by meandering down the cobblestone streets of Prague's Old Town to Modernista. (More than one Hollywood A-lister has done so.)

Here, old is new again. The store's Cubist Collection are reissues of some of the most important works created between 1910 and 1920 — handcrafted from the same materials and using the same techniques as the originals in Prague's Museum of Decorative Arts. In addition to other coveted reproductions — among them, Loos' sensually curved chaise lounge (pictured) and Halabala's iconic, tubular armchair — Modernista painstakingly seeks out and restores originals, much to collectors' gushing delight. Speaking of collecting: In the post-Communist era, the Czech Republic has reclaimed its design chops, and Prague's emerging artists may be its future legends. With that in mind, Modernista carries a finely curated collection from prodigies such as Rony Plesi, whose objets and vases of rare vaseline glass glow in a yellow-green, otherworldy hue.