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Arguably, you can tell a great bit of design from how well it stands the test of time. Or its shape. Its visual appeal. Its effectiveness.
Almost the same standards for a good furniture piece. So we’ve decided to combine the two and give you a list of what we think are the most iconic furniture design pieces of all time. And, as a lot of these pieces demonstrate, to coin the old phrase - “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
1. Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman
Starting off with a bang; if anything exemplifies 1950’s America, it’s this lounge chair.
Created in 1956 by famous American designers (and married couple) Charles and Ray Eames, it’s become synonymous with the greats in furniture design. Similar to many of the other works on our list, it fits right in with any style or even any decade, whether that is the 70’s, 90’s or now.
Part of New York’s MoMA and the Art Institutes of Chicago’s permanent collections, we’d say it’s a pretty special piece.
2. Arco Floor Lamp
Mid-century furniture is a bit of a running theme in this list. We’re not apologising - they’re just too good. Here’s another - Achille and Pier Giacomo Castigloni’s 1962 Arco lamp.
The flexibility of the lamp’s ‘arch’ makes it adjustable for any setting or room, while the shade’s street-light shape creates as much light as you could possibly need. And those of you who like the current marble trend will like to know that its base is made up of a massive chunk of it. You can see why people love it.
3. Coffee Table IN-50
Looking at this table, you would think that it was designed last week rather than the 1940s. Originally a garden designer and sculptor, Isamu Noguchi created this timeless, minimalist design with simplicity in mind and was inspired by his Japanese artistic education, bringing a bit of art back into design. Unsurprisingly, this table has inspired countless copycat pieces, but don’t they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?
4. E.1027 Side Table
Designed and built for her Saint Tropez villa, Eileen Gray’s 1927 height-adjustable table didn’t conform with the standard designs of the period and reinvented its function.
Its design epitomises the art deco style of the 1920s, but that doesn’t mean to say it would look dated in a modern home; its sleek lines help it fit in just about anywhere. Made for multipurpose usage, whether that be a bedside table or next to your armchair, the E.1027 proves that style and substance are a match made in heaven.
5. Barcelona Chair
You wouldn’t think, looking at this chair, that it was designed in 1929. Tom Wolfe described it as a “holy object,” making its place on this list pretty justifiable. Originally designed for the Spanish king and queen to use as thrones, Ludiwg Mies van der Rohe generated a phenomenon for his design, with its crossing to America making waves in the 1940s. Everyone and their mums wanted this chair. A hint of Spanish medieval style, this chair is worthy of its status.
6. LCW Plywood Chair
As a furniture-designing husband and wife duo go, these two aren’t bad. Another one from the Eames’ makes our list. Ergonomics are key to this chair, and key to why the design has remained virtually untouched since the 1940s. The pair managed to make wood comfortable, whilst its one-of-a-kind shape keeps it visually interesting. Using the same techniques used to create plane wings in WWII, the LCW is built to last, and it’s definitely lasted through the decades. Time magazine labels it as “the chair of the century,”. Who are we to argue?
7. 1227 Anglepoise Lamp
Pretty much the staple in any office space, George Carwardine’s 1934 lamp was designed for the masses, rather than the few (unlike a few of the pieces on this list). Showcasing the best of British design, it was modelled on the workings of a human arm and its pioneering spring engineering allowed it to be manoeuvred into almost any position without crashing down and (probably) smashing a bulb. This lamp set the standard for desk lamps of the future, so it deserves its place with the icons.
8. Juicy Salif
OK, we’re stretching the meaning of the word ‘furniture’ with this juicer, it’s too iconic not to include on this list. The 1990 spaceship-like design was created by Philippe Starck, who originally created this piece while on holiday, on a restaurant's dirty napkin (all the best ideas are).
Whilst some claim that it causes a mess and others call it a work of art, you could say that is the most controversial design piece on this list; as Starck himself supposedly said, “it’s not meant to squeeze lemons, it is meant to start conversations.”
9. Teak Sideboard
What represents the classic ‘60s home better than this? This example is from Denmark’s Arne Hovmand Olsen, circa 1961, and an iconic piece nonetheless. It also seems to be making a comeback with the new mid-century-meets-modern interior design you’ll see around today. This staple has often gone amiss in the design world, but it makes storage stylish. Like the E.1027, its image and purpose go hand-in-hand. We want one for the office.
10. Chesterfield Sofa
One of the oldest designs on the list, the Chesterfield sofa truly demonstrates what it is to be called an icon. Easily recognisable across the globe, it is thought that the sofa was commissioned by the sixteenth century Fourth Earl of Chesterfield, Lord Philip Stanhope (hence the name), with the desire to sit somewhere without creasing one’s suit. This elegant piece can easily make anyone’s home that little bit more upmarket, and definitely one of the greats in furniture design.
11. Louis Ghost Chairs
Just like the Eames, Starck gets another mention. A classic French sixteenth century design reinvented with a modern twist, Starck made polycarbonate iconic. Would you believe that this was made from just one mould too? While a lot of the pieces on this list represent classic design, Starck’s creations inject a bit more fun into iconic furniture, often choosing style over substance (in a good way).
12. Malm Bed
Slight curveball, but many designers cannot deny the simplicity of Ikea’s Malm bed. Massively popular and really epitomising that Scandinavian style everyone’s after, it can easily fit into any bedroom in any house. Customisable, built for storage and available in a range of colours, its uncomplicated style makes it a timeless piece amongst all the other big-name designs on this list. Price isn’t too bad either.
So there we go, our list of 12 (obviously) of furniture’s most iconic pieces. If you think we’ve missed one, or you disagree with any of our choices, why not drop us a line.
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