A Design History Lesson – 20 Famous Vintage And Iconic Chairs You Should Know (And Keep An Eye Out For While Thrifting)

OH, MAN. Right here’s a enjoyable factor about me: I at present have TWENTY-TWO CHAIRS inside my 1,100 sq. foot house, the place I dwell alone. I completely don’t want and can’t presumably fathom why or how one particular person can someway amass TWENTY-TWO CHAIRS, however, nicely…I simply love them. (To be truthful – and in addition to possibly show that I’m principally sane – I’m within the midst of slicing ties with about half of them as a result of I’d prefer to take pleasure in actions like “strolling with out bumping into one thing” and “opening my closet door with out finishing a spherical of calisthenics.”)

However all this chair hoarding means one factor: in the case of seating, I do know my stuff. So in the present day, I wish to stroll you thru the precise names of 20 iconic chairs – some you’ll know, and a few could also be new to you – together with some enjoyable details, so you’ll be able to discuss to your pals such as you’re one of many consultants on Antiques Roadshow. (“Please cease speaking about furnishings on a regular basis,” your pals will beg, however they’ll love you anyway, as a result of that’s what buddies are for.) And to be clear, we’re NOT speaking Adirondack chairs, or Peacock chairs, or Butterfly chairs, or any of the chairs that everybody can title – these are the design deep cuts. YOU’RE GONNA LEARN SOMETHING AND YOU’RE GONNA LIKE IT. (I hope.) Let’s go, yeah?

Up Collection 2000

design by arent&pyke | photograph by anson sensible | through home & backyard

Beginning this off with one in every of my all-time favorites: the Up Chair (or the Up5, if you wish to get actually particular), which was designed by Gaetano Pesce in 1969. It’s so trendy and enjoyable and cheery and playful and…oh wait, it was truly designed to appear to be “a feminine determine tied to a ball-shaped ottoman, symbolizing the shackles that maintain ladies subjugated.” DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING, DID YA?


design by shelby girard | photograph by kylie fitts | through intelligent

Some enjoyable historical past: Eero Saarinen (yeah, like, the man who found out the entire “tulip base” factor) first designed the Womb Chair on the request of Florence Knoll, who was uninterested in sitting in “one-dimensional” and “slim chairs.” “I need a chair I can sit in sideways or some other method I wish to sit in it,” Knoll mentioned, and like…woman, SAME HERE. Florence will get it, ?

So the Womb Chair – initially simply known as the “No. 70” – was completed and launched within the Forties, but it surely didn’t undertake the now-famous nomenclature till Saarinen hit the media circuit with this speaking level: “It was designed on the speculation that a large number of folks have by no means actually felt comfy and safe since they left the womb.” NOW YOU KNOW.


design by remy renzullo | photograph by isabel parra | through elle decor

KLISMOS! I’m positive you’ve seen them within the wild for years, however the precise title could also be new to you. Consider Klismos chairs just like the Windsor chairs of historical Greece – there are tons of various types and colours and cuts, however the precise form (flared leg, curved again, concave backrest) stays the identical. The sort of chair dropped out of favor for over ~2000 years (NBD), however Klismos popped again on the ~design~ scene through the 18th-century neoclassical motion and slowly labored their method again into properties world wide. (Should you actually wanna break your mind this morning: it’s type of wild to think about chair shapes from in the present day nonetheless being common within the 12 months 4022, proper?)


design by patricia bustos | photograph by catherine gratwicke | through the westmoreland gazette

I do know that Ekstrem chairs are a daring assertion piece that may encourage some fairly hostile reactions – to nobody’s shock, I’m on workforce #obsessed – however are you prepared for the plot twist? THEY WERE DESIGNED TO BE ERGONOMIC. The designer, Terje Ekstrøm, wasn’t simply making an attempt to lean into the 80s postmodern motion, as many assume – he truly made the prototype for the Ekstrem within the Seventies in an try to create a chair that’d be BETTER for the way folks truly want to sit down, as a substitute of counting on how chairs of the 40s and 50s allowed folks to sit down. It took him about 12 years (!!!) to discover a producer keen to take an opportunity on the Ekstrem, and now they’re an iconic piece of design historical past.


design by simone haag | photograph by timothy kaye

You recognize when folks similar to, have it? (Like how Jonathan Safran Foer, a man who didn’t even wish to be a author, turned his Princeton senior thesis into one of many greatest debut guide offers of all time?) That’s what occurred with the Etcetera chair – the designer, Jan Ekselius, created a prototype as a part of a workshop on the Royal Faculty of Artwork in London within the Seventies, and it rapidly grew to become THE sizzling ticket merchandise of the last decade and a go-to piece for decorators worldwide. (Above is the “lounge chair” model – it’s my private favourite – however in case you ever see an Etcetera chair with a extra compressed form, that’s the normal “simple chair” choice.)


design by lyndsay caleo | photograph by paul raeside | through architectural digest

This can be one of the ubiquitous chairs on the record – we’ve all seen the cheaper knockoffs (normally marketed as “S chairs,” due to the form) AND the newer wicker interpretations, proper? Let me fill you in on some enjoyable backstory (, so you’ll be able to annoy your pals by spouting off esoteric design details on a regular basis): within the late Nineteen Fifties, plastic was choosing up steam in postwar Europe and Verner Panton was OBSESSED with the brand new materials, as a result of it could possibly be moulded into any form AND mass-produced. He actually needed to determine the way to make a chair that was only one piece, but it surely took 15-20 “no’s” from different furnishings producers earlier than Vitra determined to make the leap and produce Panton’s dream chair. It took 10 prototypes to nail down the development – plus, the precise supplies utilized in every chair shifted a bit as expertise superior) – and now there’s a huuuuge secondary marketplace for every kind of uncommon, classic Panton chairs.


design by emma abrahams | photograph by caitlin mills | styling by annie portelli | through the design recordsdata

Enjoyable reality: Mario Bellini’s Camaleonda couch was one of many first-ever modular sofas to interrupt by way of to the mainstream! It truly made its debut in a 1970 exhibition at MOMA in New York, so it was in excessive demand by the point it was truly dropped at market just a few years later. It was initially solely in manufacturing by way of 1979, but it surely was introduced again in 2020 and is now being manufactured as soon as once more. (PS. I’ve been taking Duolingo Italian for a couple of 12 months, and may lastly establish that “Camaleonda” is a portmanteu of “camaleonte,” which suggests “chameleon,” and “onda,” which suggests “wave.” Thanks, Duolingo owl, for bullying me into studying vocabulary phrases day-after-day.)


design by fawn galli | photograph by jeff holt | through architectural digest

That is the primary of some of Pierre Paulin designs and it has a GREAT story. Within the late Nineteen Sixties, the French authorities needed to breathe new life right into a slowly-dying design business, so the Minister of Tradition ended up hiring Paulin to design the President’s personal residence in Elysée Palace. (Are you able to think about something like this taking place in America in the present day? I can’t.) On the time, the chairs have been known as “Elysée chairs” (, due to the placement) and after changing into a cult favourite, the Pumpkin chairs we all know and love have been lastly reissued in 2007.


design by bells + whistles | photograph by madeline tolle | through the brand new york instances

First: I’ve one in every of these in my home, guys! Mine is clad in a leopard-print material (“shocker,” mentioned completely nobody) and it’s UNBELIEVABLY comfy (along with being my cat’s favourite place to snooze). Jaymar’s a Canadian model that’s been round for the reason that Nineteen Fifties, however these Nineties-era chairs – typically known as “cantilever chairs” or “Jaymar tongue chairs,” although they’re impressed by the work of Louis Durot – picked up a TON of steam throughout the final 4 years as postmodern-style furnishings has returned to the mainstream. Jaymar chairs are nonetheless type of inexpensive (mine was about $350 in 2019, which is a steal in comparison with a few of the earlier $5,000-$10,000 chairs!) however changing into increasingly more common/helpful by the day. Should you’re into this model of furnishings (and you want, truly wish to take pleasure in sitting on mentioned furnishings), it is a nice choice.


design by tigmi buying and selling | photograph by alicia taylor | through sight unseen

So easy, so hanging, SO GOOD. The P3 was a Nineteen Sixties design by Tito Agnoli, a Peruvian-born architect who moved to Italy for varsity and labored below just a few iconic industrial designers earlier than hitting his stride as a furnishings and decor designer. The P3 was designed to be ergonomic (are you able to consider what number of of those chairs have been supposed to be each stunning and comfy?) and it’s stood the take a look at of time – we’ve been noticing a huuuuge uptick within the wicker/rattan pattern, so I’ve a sense you’re about to see a LOT of P3s in high-end home excursions over the following 12 months.


design by rachel fortress | photograph by caitlin mills | styling by annie portelli | through the design recordsdata

Ah, sure, the web’s present cult obsession. (When your furnishings has a hashtag, you’ve made it. #togotuesday is VERY enjoyable on Instagram.) Togo debuted in 1973, received a bunch of prestigious design awards, and it’s been manufactured and bought ever since – that’s a SUPER uncommon feat (in case you hadn’t clocked a bunch of the sooner items going out and in of manufacturing). Michel Ducaroy, the designer, as soon as mentioned his inspiration was “a tube of toothpaste folded on itself like a tuba and glued at each ends,” whereas the Togo was additionally described as having “a crumpled, ‘new child’ look with Shar-Pei wrinkles.” Seeing as I, too, could possibly be described as a “crumpled new child with Shar-Pei wrinkles,” I’ve an actual smooth spot for this one.


photograph by grant more durable | through dwell

One thing traditional for ya! Everyone knows the eponymous Eames chair, however I needed to place a reputation on this little man – say hey to the LCW. (That stands for “Lounge Chair Wooden,” which is a hilarious and concise abbreviation that I like.) Ray and Charles Eames (a married couple, not brothers!) have an enchanting and prolific historical past, however within the Forties they have been manufacturing plywood leg splints for the US armed forces throughout World Warfare II (plywood was lighter and extra pliable and cozy than steel, which had been used beforehand). After transport practically 150,000 splints and mastering the plywood bending-process, the duo resumed work on the LCW…and the remainder, as they are saying, is historical past. The chair got here to market in 1946 as a near-instant hit (it was lighter and sleeker than all the favored upholstered chairs on the time), was bought till 1957, and was introduced again into circulation within the mid-Nineties. NOW YA KNOW. (PS. The person I’ve a crush on despatched me like 5 photos of LCW chairs – together with this one! – after I discussed them, which clearly made me have a BIGGER crush. I’m dwelling my design weblog dream proper now!!!)


design by sally mackereth | photograph by stephan julliard | through vogue dwelling

Our man Pierre Paulin is again with one other iconic furnishings design!!! He created the primary model of this chair (technically known as “the F580”) within the Nineteen Sixties, after which spent 9 years tweaking the design until he launched the official Groovy chair in 1973 (whose official title is “the F589,” in case you’re questioning!). Are you able to consider ONE GUY had so many unimaginable and groundbreaking designs in that noggin?


Emily Henderson Trends New Postmodern 35
design by sarah sherman samuel | photograph by jason frank rothenberg | through domino

Oh man, these are trendy and enjoyable and cheery and playful and…JUST KIDDING, I wouldn’t try this to you once more. There’s no catch right here! The Chiclet (most likely probably the most well-named chair on this bunch, I believe – it simply suits, ?) was designed by Ray Wilkes within the Seventies, and it was JUST just lately reissued. Wilkes as soon as mentioned this about his design course of, which I like: “The actual fact is, I like whole simplicity. It’s the philosophy of my life. An architect as soon as advised me that I used to be a real minimalist. And minimalism isn’t simply straight strains – an important factor is the shape, and the simplicity of constructing it.” BIG FAN, Y’ALL. (PS. Wilkes’ Rollback chair is my DREAM desk chair and if anybody has one, I’ll purchase it from you. I may have a cost plan, but it surely’d be price it.)


design by jocelyn o dickson | photograph by greta rybus

Prepare for a shock: This chair was first created within the Nineteen Twenties. WHO KNEW, RIGHT? It’s nonetheless so trendy and recent – the MoMa has described it as one of many 10 most vital chairs of the century – but it surely was truly first manufactured by Michael Thonet (spoiler: there’s a 90% likelihood you’re saying his title incorrect) primarily based on a design by Marcel Breuer, who was SUPER impressed by the development of his bicycle. The title “Cesca” didn’t come alongside till the Nineteen Fifties, although, when a brand new producer named the chair after Breuer’s daughter, Francesca. CUTE, RIGHT?


design by oliver m. furth | photograph by roger davies | through elle decor

OH MY GOSH. Get a load of these little baseball bat-lookin’ legs, guys! That is one other one in every of my favourite tales – for a very very long time, NO ONE KNEW who the heck had designed this chair, and it was promoting at auctions for pennies (spoiler: pairs of those chairs are actually promoting at auctions for like, a downpayment on a home. Possibly even a full home, relying on the place you reside, if homes are bought for $220,000, which is how a lot a pair of those chairs went for in 2013!!!).

After quite a lot of analysis and years of misattribution, somebody lastly found out that the Clam chair was designed in 1944 by Philip Arctander, a random Danish architect who labored on inexpensive housing tasks. (When requested about Arctander, a prestigious public sale home knowledgeable had this to say: “He’s recognized for mainly nothing in any respect when it comes to design.”) Does that make anybody else actually snicker out loud? Like, a very regular man is unintentionally chargeable for one of the sought-after chairs within the design world. WE LOVE TO SEE IT.


design by the archers | photograph by laure joliet | through the wall road journal

BEAUTIES. Keep in mind the Pumpkin chair’s political historical past (with the President of France, and all that?) – nicely, these have the same pedigree: Czech architect Jan Bočan designed these chairs for the Czechoslovakian Embassy in Sweden within the early Seventies. We’ve seen this curvy cane and bentwood silhouette pop up increasingly more often over the previous 12 months or two, as Bočan chairs can shine in each pared again, impartial areas and in daring, art-deco impressed rooms.


design by josh and jenna densten | photograph by eve wilson | styling by annie portelli | through the design recordsdata

What do you do once you’re employed to design an artist’s studio on, uh, mainly NO price range? You determine the way to make furnishings out of corrugated cardboard – or, a minimum of, that’s what Frank Gehry did, after stumbling upon piles of cardboard outdoors of his workplace. (The unique model? Inexpensive and recycled. The brand new model? A liiiiittle much less inexpensive, in case you catch my drift) Gehry spent 3 years engaged on his cardboard assortment, which he known as “Straightforward Edges,” however he finally stopped manufacturing and ceded the rights to the Wiggle chair as he felt it was overshadowing his architectural work. The extra !


design by atelier davis | photograph by alanna hale | through elle decor

Let me set the scene: you’re on Jeopardy, and also you’re answering the final query (, like, the one the place it’s important to write within the reply?). You’re able to put all of it on the road, and whoever is internet hosting now says the next: “This chair, designed in 1971, is probably the most profitable Swiss chair of all time.” You recognize what would occur? YOU’D WIN, since you’d write in “What’s the Rey chair,” and you’ll have been so assured in that reply that you’d have wagered all of your earnings (it was already lots, since you’re very sensible to start with), and now you’re a hometown hero. Significantly, although – the Rey chair, designed by Bruno Rey, is straightforward and iconic. It’s minimalist and clear, however nonetheless trend-forward, which is such a formidable stability to strike. (When unsure, it is a GREAT go-to choice for eating chairs.)


design by kelly wearstler | photograph by the ingalls | through design-milk

How may I shut out a submit with no photograph of the Santa Monica Correct, which is mainly like Xavier’s Gifted College for Kids however for well-known chairs? (Should you’re like, “Hey woman, what the heck are you speaking about” – that’s the X-Males college the place all of the superheroes study stuff, and if it’s any comfort, I additionally needed to google what it was known as as a result of I didn’t wish to write “it’s X-Males college for well-known chairs” like a dope. MY POINT: Principally each well-known chair is within the foyer of the Santa Monica Correct.)

TO THAT END: The Soriana chair was born out of urgency. Tobia and Afra Scarpa (one other well-known design couple!) bought a name in November, asking them to have a brand new chair prepared for Cassina sales space on the Cologne commerce present in January. They got here up with a chunk of furnishings that’s ALL foam, held collectively solely by the upholstery and structurally supported by the small steel body, and ended up profitable an award for its “visible complexity achieved with simplicity.” Typically issues simply pan out, ?

OKAY – I’ve shared 20 chairs and I’m already pushing 3,000 phrases, so I’m going to wrap it up right here in the present day. (Do I’ve one other weblog submit draft with much more iconic chairs raring to go in our backend? OF COURSE!) There’s nothing I like greater than speaking about classic furnishings – “duh,” mentioned everybody – so if *you’re* able to gab some extra about design historical past, then *I’m* able to rumble with ya. Within the interim – have been any of those 20 new to you? (Was it Klismos? I’ve a sense which may be the frontrunner in the case of the entire “chairs I’ve seen however didn’t know the title of” factor.) Do you’ve one in every of these at residence? Do you prefer it as a lot as I like my Jaymar chair, or is it extra of a “look however don’t contact” factor? LET’S TALK ABOUT IT ALL, OK? xx

Opening Picture Credit: Design by Kelly Wearstler | Picture by The Ingalls | through Design-Milk

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