Innovative use of materials, quality that endures, and a design that never goes out of fashion; these are the three essential features of classic furniture design.
The 20th century was the pinnacle of groundbreaking furniture design. Many functional and beautiful pieces were designed, manufactured and became so popular, they are still produced today. Sadly we don’t have the time to write about every iconic piece, so here we’re sharing just five of the very best modern classics:
- Flos Arco Floor Lamp
Designed in 1962 by Italian designer Achille Castiglioni, the Arco floor lamp is one of the best-known lighting designs today.
Achille Castiglioni was the 20th century’s most pioneering industrial designer. Over the span of his career, more than 150 of his designs were produced by the likes of Flos, Zanotti and Alessi.
The lamp is made from two materials you might not ordinarily put together; stainless steel and white Carrara marble. The marble base gives the lamp a solid foundation and grounds the sci-fi design.
The Arco Floor Lamp currently costs around £1,700 new.
- Knoll Tulip Swivel Dining Chair
The Tulip Chair is an award-winning design by Eero Saarinen. The Knoll Company began producing the chair in the late 1950s and it is still manufactured today. In fact, it continues to be made to the original design, so timeless is the quality and aesthetic of this piece.
The chair’s organic form was designed to free up the busy “undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior” said Saarinen. To create the design he experimented with fibreglass; a little-used material at the time. The seat is moulded fibreglass while the base is cast aluminium with a rilsan-coated finish. The upholstered cushion is attached with Velcro.
Brand new, a single Knoll Tulip Chair costs around £1,100.
- Noguchi Coffee Table
The Noguchi coffee table was designed by Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi in 1944. In 1947 US-based Herman Miller began producing the table. It would later by produced by Vitra in Europe.
The table comprises a base of two identically curved wooden pieces and a heavy plate glass top. The base is designed so that the glass can sit securely, without the need for fastenings.
Isamu Noguchi was a sculptor who described the Noguchi coffee table as his best design. Indeed it was described as ‘sculpture for use’ at its launch. It straddled the line between sculptural art and functional furniture, and continues to do so today.
A new Noguchi Coffee Table costs around £1,600 today.
- Eames Lounge Chair
The Eames Lounge Chair is probably the most famous furniture design of the 20th century. It is a piece that has spawned countless copies – though none match the quality and beauty of the original. The original design is produced today by Herman Miller (US) and Vitra (Europe).
It was designed by husband and wife team Charles and Ray Eames in 1956 for Herman Miller. They designed it in moulded plywood and leather as an ‘updated version of the old English club chair’.
So iconic is this design that it forms part of the permanent collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
An official Eames Lounge Chair can be purchased new for around £5,000. To buy the chair with its accompanying ottoman, expect to spend around £7,500.
- Knoll Womb chair
The unusually named Womb Chair was designed in the 1940s by Eero Saarinen. He designed it under a brief from Florence Knoll, who had recently joined her husband’s furniture company (Knoll Studio).
The brief was as follows; ‘I want a chair that is like a basket full of pillows… something I can really curl up in,’ Florence requested.
Saarinen decided that his design would not rely on pillows and excess padding to provide comfort, instead, a curved inner frame would mould to the contours of the human body.
The chair was produced in 1948 and became an instant success. Providing true comfort and effortless style seems to be a winning combination as the chair remains popular today.
A brand new Knoll Womb Chair costs around £5,500.