Iconic Furniture Designs that stand the time

I am sure you have seen these notable, distinguish furniture pieces popping up in stylish homes, magazines, pinterest or instagram posts, but you might not know what they are called and why are they so iconic.

Let me give you a little round up on the most recognizable pieces.


Eames Lounge Chair by Charles and Ray Eames


Eames Lounge Chair
Image: Living Edge

Americas favorite chair. Charles and Ray Eames dominated the furniture design scene in the US from the early 1950s to the 1970s, and they are most known for their Eames Lounge and Ottoman chairs.

Charles and Ray Eames often visited their friend Billy Wilder on his film sets. While working the famed director took a nap between sets on a makeshift lounge chair. This gave the designer duo the idea. Husband-and-wife design team created this iconic piece from a desire to improve the lounge chairs commonly seen in many American basements. The Eames Lounge Chair’s purpose is simple: comfort. The designers said they wanted it to have the "warm receptive look of a first-baseman’s mitt." The smooth curves of molded plywood of the Eames Lounge and Ottoman were unprecedented in furniture design at the time. The chair is upholstered in leather and has an aluminum base.

When the chair and ottoman were introduced first on Arlene Francis' Home Show in 1956, this homely intention led to much greater things. The design has become one of the most instantly-recognizable pieces from the 20th century and still looks just as fresh now as the day it was released. The first completed set was gifted to Billy Wilder and produced by Herman Miller.

Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen


Image: Fritz Hansen

Unmistakably 1950's yet truly timeless. The Egg was originally designed for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen in 1958. The hotel was Jacobsen's largest commission  and he designed almost everything in it, from the façade to the furniture, lighting and cutlery.

The curving organic form of the Egg chair was a an unusual designs at that time. The idea behind the Egg’s form is that it should give its user some privacy while in public spaces. And it works, thanks it its high, cocooning sides. The new design was made using new materials and a new construction method - a foam shell covered by upholstery. Fritz Hansen has been manufacturing the chair since its first release right up to this day.

String Shelving

String shelving

Image: String

Bonnier's public library realized that the majority of Swedish homes were not furnished with a focus on bookshelves, which made it quite difficult for them to sell books. In 1949 they announced a competition where they asked all contributors to submit a design for a shelf with a few criteria. The shelf needed to be affordable, easy to ship and equally easy to assemble. String® designed by a pair of architecture students Nisse and Kajsa Strinning, ticked all the boxes and was announced winner that same year. Naturally, String® became a very common furniture in the Swedish homes during the 1950s. 

 As family life shifted, so did style, prompting production of String to cease in 1974. When Swedish entrepreneurs Peter Erlandsson and Pär Josefsson revived the brand with the Strinnings’ blessing in 2004, customers’ imaginations became a catalyst for innovation. Discovering the shelves were routinely repurposed as shoe racks, they honed in on the hallway, developing a metal design with perforations for all manner of hangers and hooks.

CH24 a.k.a Wishbone Chair by Hans Wegner


Wishbone chair
Image: Carl Hansen


 At the Copenhagen Cabinetmakers’ Guild exhibition in 1947, Holger Hansen, son of cabinetmaker Carl Hansen, met Hans Wegner, a young designer making radical new furnishings: sleek forms inspired by the minimal designs of China’s Ming dynasty. Hansen’s family-run company, hoping to segue into serial manufacturing, took a chance on the young Dane two years later, putting five of his pieces into production by 1950.

One of the greatest piece (although Hans J Wegner designed more than 500 chair in his lifetime) is the wishbone chair, originally called CH24 with an ultra-simple hardwood silhouette that eliminated all nonessential material and a seat made from paper, spun to look like a rope. Each chair takes weeks to build and it is said to have a life cycle of 50 years. The firm still continuously manufacture them.

Panton Chair by Verner Panton
Pantone chair
Image: Vitra

In the later half of 1950s a new material emerged on the scenes of the world that changed the way people lived: plastic. Experimental Danish designer Verner Panton was fascinated with the progressive polymer that could be molded into any shape. His idea was a stackable plastic chairs, produced from a single solid plastic mold. The challenge was to find a manufacturer.

After being rejected by many companies, Miller Vitra agreed to take on the challenge in 1963. Four years and 10 prototype later the chair debuted at the Cologne Furniture Fair. Unfortunately, the material subsequently proved to be far less resistant to aging than was initially assumed, causing the chairs to break. Production was therefore discontinued in 1979. Further advancements in plastics technology and new injection molding options inspired Vitra and Panton to pick up the project again in the 1990s. Working closely together, they developed a new version made of polypropylene. Thirty years after the initial market launch, one of Panton’s key goals was finally reached: the plastic chair as an affordable industrial product.    

Up Armchair by Gaetano Pesce 


Up5 armchair

Image: B&B italia

The chair that shocked the world. Designed by Gaetano Pesce in 1968. He came up with the idea for the Up Chair while in the shower. He had a sponge in his hands, when he pressed it shrank and when released it, it returned to its original volume. This inspired him to experiment with polyurethane. Soon he developed the Up chair, a four-inch-thick disk that, when removed from its PVC envelope, would rise into a cushy armchair.

Yet the material wasn't the most noteworthy feature - it was the shape. Its bulbous shape was inspired by silhouettes of ancient fertility goddesses. He soon also created the accompanying Up ottoman, which attaches to the chair with an elastic cord. It was telling a personal story about how Pesce see a woman. The Up line was discontinued in 1973 due to the harmful Freon gas used to inflate the chair. B&B Italia reissued it a quarter of century later, 2000, with a new cold-shaped polyurethane construction.  

Atollo Table lamp by Vico Magistretti


Image: Oluce

The Atollo table lamp designed by Vico Magistretti produced by Oluce in 1977 is a modern Italian masterpiece that endures the test of time. Its clean geometric form and seemingly floating cap strike the perfect proportions.

Vico Magistretti, who at the time was the leading designer and art director of Oluce, had imagined the lower part as a supporting column of the upper dome, therefore large enough to give stability to the whole. Originally there were two versions: one in lacquered aluminum and the other in opal glass. The goal was to create a soft and diffused light, a light that furnishes and creates a special atmosphere wherever it is. Over the years, Atollo has become the archetype of the table lamp, winning the Compasso d’Oro in 1979 and completely revolutionizing the way we imagine the classic bedside lamp.

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