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The Art of Design: Iconic Designer Chairs Everyone Should Know

designer chairs
Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair. Image: Elle Decor

By Tori Campbell

Both aesthetic and functional, designer chairs elevate furniture into works of art. Whether adorning your living room or found deep in an administrative building, chairs inform how we work, relax, and share life together. This is a small collection of some of our favourite designer chairs, though there are hundreds of amazing works that can suit any taste or budget.

Iconic Designer Chairs

Frank Gehry’s Wiggle Side Chair

designer chairs
Frank Gehry’s Wiggle Side Chair

An experiment with scrap cardboard led to one of the most iconic and playful designer chairs from architect Frank Gehry. In the 1970s, Gehry found that if he alternated cardboard’s corrugation he was able to make the stacks strong enough to support the weight of a human. The design of the Wiggle Side Chair intentionally riffs off of the dichotomy between the utilitarian and rough material and the chair’s smooth, curvilinear form.  

Tokujin Yoshioka’s Honey-Pop Chair

Tokujin Yoshioka’s Honey-Pop Chair

Like Frank Gehry’s Wiggle Side Chair, Tokujin Yoshioka’s Honey-Pop Armchair employs an innovative approach to the chair’s material in order to create a standout piece. Made of extremely thin sheets of paper that have been rolled and layered into a honeycomb-like design, the chair is packed and delivered folded completely flat. In order to use the chair, the owner opens the package like an accordion and then christens the chair by sitting in it and creating a unique impression based on the first person who sits in it, melding the structure to the human form.

Ray & Charles Eames’ Lounge Chair

Ray & Charles Eames’ Lounge Chair

Aiming to recreate the feel of a ‘well-used first baseman’s mitt’ within the confines of a luxury chair, Ray and Charles Eames dreamed up the Eames Lounge Chair. A departure from their mass-produced and accessible plastic collections, their lounge chair and accompanying ottoman, first released in 1956, incorporated wood and black leather (though now you can find a myriad of upholstery and finish options) to create one of the most iconic sculptural, luxurious, and comfortable designer chairs.

Verner Panton’s Panton Chair

Verner Panton's Panton Chair
Verner Panton’s Panton Chair

The pioneering Panton Chair, designed by Danish designer Verner Panton, was the first-ever moulded plastic chair in 1967. Panton, inspired by the flexibility and freedom of the newly available plastic, sought to experiment with the material in an effort to create usable and comfortable designer chairs that were more sculpture than furniture. He landed on the now-iconic Panton chair, a cantilevered moulded plastic chair that combined engineering, aesthetics, and ergonomics in a sleek S-shaped brightly coloured form. 

Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair

designer chairs
Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair

When designing the German Pavilion at the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, architect Mies van der Rohe also took on the task of designing the furnishings. In collaboration with German furniture designer Lilly Reich, the two conceived the modernist Barcelona Chair. The leather and chrome chair is often only attributed to van der Rohe, though it is likely that Reich was the mastermind behind nearly all of his designer chairs and furnishings.

Pierre Jeanneret’s Office Chair

designer chairs
Pierre Jeanneret’s Office Chair

Pierre Jeanneret’s Office Chair was originally designed to furnish the administrative buildings in the urban development of Chandigarh, India. The sprawling and ambitious redesign of Chandigarh, undertaken by Jeanneret’s famous cousin, Le Corbusier, led to the opportunity to furnish the resulting buildings. Often referred to as ‘Jeanneret chairs’ the office chairs were mass-produced in the 1950s to fit the needs of the administrative staff, and nearing the end of the 20th century they were circulating India for pennies on the dollar. With the recently reinvigorated interest in midcentury design, these are now coveted designer chairs, and can even be found in the home of Kourtney Kardashian.

Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair

designer chairs
Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair

Designed by Danish functionalism architect Arne Jacobsen for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, the Egg Chair was constructed for the comfort of hotel guests in the lobby. Encapsulating its sitters in a rounded, egg-like frame, the cocooning designer chairs were thoughtfully designed to buffer the sounds that circulated around the lobby, allowing for a perfect place to quietly read a book among the hubbub of arriving visitors. Not only does the chair buffer sound but it also is the result of numerous design iterations, in which Jacobsen sculpted clay models to result in a seat perfectly designed for comfort and aesthetics.

Gerrit Rietveld’s Red-Blue Chair

designer chairs
Gerrit Rietveld’s Red-Blue Chair

Gerrit Rietveld, the designer behind the Red-Blue Chair, was friends with the iconic artist Piet Mondrain…and it shows. Both members of the art and design movement the De Stijl group, the chair evokes Mondrian’s geometric, gridded, primary-coloured canvases in its form and hues. Originally designed in 1918, and coloured in 1923, the Red-Blue Chair pays homage to the De Stijl ideals of horizontal and vertical planes of geometry.

Le Corbusier’s LC2 Chair

designer chairs
Le Corbusier’s LC2 Chair

Designed in 1928 and first exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in Paris just a year later, the LC2 has become an icon in designer chairs. The sculptural chair, made of plush leather and contrasting industrial chrome (or stainless steel) turned heads and created a movement of modern furnishings. Designed in collaboration, the LC2 is the brainchild of Le Corbusier, his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, and French architect and designer Charlotte Perriand.

Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair

designer chairs
Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair

Informed by the angularity and planar tenants of the De Stijl movement, the Wassily Chair, designed by Marcel Breuer was unveiled in 1925 when Breuer was still only an apprentice for the Bauhaus. The chair came to be as an act of reduction, stripping the classic club chair down to its most elemental parts so that its function and form are one. Inspired by the structure of a bicycle and the graceful curves in Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract paintings, the Wassily Chair, as the first tubular steel chair, is an appropriate homage to the painter.

Relevant sources to learn more

Learn more about the honey-pop chair from the MoMA
Check out Elle Decor’s historical wrap up of the Egg Chair
Can’t get enough design? Check out our article on functional art

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