“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design” – Charles Eames
Modernist furniture design has been around for over a century. Why is it that a chair designed in the 1920’s can fit so well with the decor of today? We believe that it’s because the ‘less is more’ philosophy is a universal truth. As design fads and trends have come and gone, modern furniture has withstood the test of time and has become a truly iconic sense of style and taste. If you’re as passionate about modern furniture and the combination of functionality and art as we are, then De Stijl, the Bauhaus and Mies van der Rohe should all ring a bell. If not, prepare for some schooling. Here’s a primer on 5 of the most influential pieces of modern furniture and the designers that created them.
Model B3 Chair – Marcel Breuer – 1925
“I am as much interested in the smallest detail as in the whole structure” – Marcel Breuer
The basis of modern furniture is to create clean, functional furniture which could be easily mass produced.The Model B3 Chair was integral in that it revealed the possibilities of creating furniture with minimal materials. Also known as the Wassily chair, the B3 was designed by Marcel Breuer during his time at the Bauhaus School. An avid bike rider, Breuer’s inspiration came from bicycle handlebars. If tubular steel could be bent to form handlebars then why couldn’t it do the same to make furniture? His end result was a sleek, skeletal chair that changed the way people looked at furniture from then on.
Barcelona Chair – Mies van der Rohe – 1929
“A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier” – Mies van der Rohe
Mies van der Rohe was a pioneer of the modernist architectural movement. The Farnsworth House and the Seagrams Building are just a few of his great architectural achievements. His contribution to furniture design is just as notable. Intended for the Spanish royal family, Mies drew inspiration from the folding chairs of Ancient Egypt and Rome. The Barcelona Chair does indeed have a throne quality to it and has since become one of the most recognized pieces of modern furniture in existence.
Stool 60 – Alvar Aalto – 1933
“Beauty is the harmony of purpose and form” – Alvar Aalto
Much like van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto was a huge influence on modern architecture. He loved to have complete creative control over his work. Not only did he design the notorious Paimio Sanatorium but he insisted on designing all the furniture pieces to go inside it. Stool 60 is such a simply beautiful piece of furniture. 3 legs and one round seat. But the true genius behind Stool 60 is Aalto’s realization that you can avoid the lengthy process of right-angled wood joints by simply bending the wood. Minimalism at its best!
Nelson Platform Bench – George Nelson – 1946
“Design is a response to social change” – George Nelson
George Nelson insisted on what he called ‘honest’ design. He felt that when designing, you should make an honest visual statement about the objects purpose. This approach is communicated well through his Platform Bench. It’s smooth, rectilinear lines were a novel concept when it was designed in 1946. It captures what modern furniture is all about. Lack of ornamentation and all focus on function, practicality and elegance.
Eames Lounge Chair – Charles and Ray Eames – 1956
“The role of a designeer is that of a very good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests” – Charles Eames
Comfort is priority #1 for this notorious lounge and ottoman combo. Charles and Ray Eames, the husband and wife design duo, were looking to create a lounge chair that every American desired. Their ideal was for the chair to have the “warm receptive look of a first-baseman’s mitt.” The Eames Lounge Chair provided a perfect balance of comfort and style and has become an icon of midcentury modern furniture.
These pieces have inspired so many more additions to the world of modern furniture. Let us know what some of your favorite designs are!