Setting out to compile the most popular classic chair designs is not as easy as you might think. Search for furniture design classics, and you’ll find a large number of armchairs, lounge chairs, dining chairs and chaise longues competing for iconic or legendary status.
There is no shortage of interior designers, manufacturers or devotees of good design out there banging the drum for their favourite piece, but there were four chairs that stood out for me in particular. Granted, there are a great many design classics from the 20th Century but the amount of discussion (and imitations) of these four pieces suggests that they stand above the others.
I’d love to hear about which pieces are your own favourites, perhaps I have missed a key piece? Or, alternatively, do we focus too much on the design classics of the past?
Le Corbusier: LC4 Chaise Longue – Cassina
The LC4 is often seen as a Le Corbusier piece, but it was also designed by Pierre Jeanneret (his cousin) and the architect Charlotte Perriand. The design is functional, as it was intended to work in harmony with the body, but its subtlety and proportions make it beautiful at the same time.
It is manufactured under license by Cassina. In 1964, while Le Corbusier was still alive, the company acquired exclusive worldwide rights to make his furniture. Many copies are available today, but Cassina is still the only manufacturer authorised by the Le Corbusier Foundation.
Charles & Ray Eames: Lounge Chair & Ottoman- Herman Miller
Designed by Charles & Ray Eames in 1956 and manufactured by Herman Miller in the USA, and Vitra in Europe.
This piece of furniture is recognised around the world and is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The words ‘iconic’ and ‘legendary’ are often used with reference to this piece but it is hard to argue when it has made its way onto so many film and TV sets over the years.
The design, in its classic form with black leather and rich rosewood (now no longer available) appears warm and comfortable, unlike the more minimal forms typically found in high design. Although the padding is generous, the use of clips on the inside give the plywood backing a clean, pure look unsullied by screws or bolts.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Barcelona® chair – Knoll
This piece has outlasted the building it was designed for- the German Pavilion for the International Exposition of 1929 and remains extremely popular today. It’s pure compositional structure epitomises Modern architecture and design and is symbolic of the Bauhaus movement.
It is a large chair, and as with the Eames lounger, features a reclined seat angle.
It is manufactured under license by Knoll. Also widely copied, it has been the subject of lawsuits in the U.S. where companies claimed the design was in the public domain and imitations were legitimate.
Arne Jacobsen: Egg™ Chair – Fritz Hanzen
The Egg™ Chair was designed in 1956 by architect Arne Jacobsen for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. Its curved, fluid shape was a counterpoint to the building’s “glass cigarbox” form, and achieves its purpose as a lounge chair with minimal padding.
Famously, Jacobsen designed the every last element of the building, right down to the Cylinda ashtrays and AJ line of cutlery. The chair was designed for the hotel’s lobby and reception areas with a complementary footstool.
It is manufactured under license by Fritz Hansen.