Perhaps more than any other piece of furniture, a great chair can transcend its role as functional object. Take the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, one of the most famous furniture designs in the last century. MoMA put one in its permanent collection, and countless others remain scattered throughout pop culture — see: Archer, Frasier, etc. (and more coming, surely). Chairs like this strike a symbolic chord, loaded with history, envy and nostalgia.
While it’s important to give credit where credit is due — the Eames lounger is a design marvel that’s comfortable, attractive and timeless — let us not forget the numerous other chair designs that have made history in the past century, all of which would look equally handsome in your home office or studio today. That is, of course, if you have the dough. Here are eight to know.
Though born in Hungary, Marcel Breuer is most commonly associated with the Bauhaus movement of Weimar and Dessau, Germany, where he studied under Walter Gropius. A renowned architect with many famous buildings to his name, including the UNESCO headquarters and former Whitney Museum of American Art, he is also quietly remembered for this chair, one of his first designs, the patent for which was later purchased by Knoll.
Designer: Marcel Breuer
MR Adjustable Chaise
One of the early pioneers of modern architecture and design, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who coined the “less is more” aphorism, created many stunning pieces of furniture, including the Barcelona chair and Brno chair. Like those, the cantilevered MR Adjustable Chaise, first designed for an exhibit in Stuttgart, Germany, utilizes balance by way of steel tube legs, which were a rarity in the 1920s.
Designer: Mies van der Rohe
LC4 Chaise Longue
Dubbed the “relaxing machine” for the way it contours the human body, the LC4 Chaise Longue, designed by French designers Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret, is renowned for its moveable frame and, thus, its vast number of sitting angles. Since 1965, the chair has been manufactured in Italy by Cassina.
Designers: Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret
Jean Prouvé was self taught in matters of architecture and design, and a pioneer in nomadic architecture — that is, designing homes and furniture with an emphasis on portability. He frequently used sheet metal in his work, as exemplified by this armchair, designed in 1930 for the student residence halls at the Cité Universitaire in Nancy, France.
Designer: Jean Prouvé
Risom Lounge Chair
Jens Risom’s Risom Collection, first known as the 600 Series when it debuted in the early ’40s, was the first line of furniture commissioned and manufactured by Knoll, and its commercial success helped put the American design firm on the map. Simple in its construction, this lounge chair features interwoven cotton webbing around a hardwood frame.
Designer: Jens Risom
The Kjærholm Collection, developed by Danish designer Poul Kjærholm from 1951 to 1967, maintains a place in Fritz Hansen’s permanent collection. In 1958, his sleek PK22 chair, constructed with leather and metal, won Kjærholm the coveted Lunning Prize, which, at the time, recognized the best Scandinavian designers from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
Designer: Poul Kjærholm
Company: Fritz Hansen
Among the most influential designers of the 20th century, with close ties to Braun, Dieter Rams is most famous for his simple, utilitarian industrial home goods. His only furniture designs were for another company: Vitsœ, founded in 1959 by Niels Vitsœ with the name Vitsœ+Zapf. Today the company is based in England and continues to produce Rams’s modular furniture designs, including the 620 chair, made from leather and a warm-pressed sheet-molding compound, which can be compounded into a sofa.
Designer: Dieter Rams
Shell Chair CH07
A rare example of Danish designer Hans J. Wegner’s interest in plywood (most of his furniture designs feature solid wood), the Shell Chair, a.k.a. the “smiling chair,” was designed for Carl Hansen & Søn. It stands sturdy on three legs and remains a graceful example of Wegner’s belief that a chair “should be beautiful from all sides and angles.”
Designer: Hans J. Wegner
Company: Carl Hansen & Søn