When it comes to popular pieces of furniture, there are fads and there are icons. While fads become outdated in a matter of years, icons stand the test of time. These are the pieces of furniture that have dramatically influenced furniture design, spawning limitless copies and riffs. They have earned a cult following for good reason — they'll always be useful and tasteful. From the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman to the Tulip Table, here are the 11 most iconic furniture pieces of all time.
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Designed by Charles and Ray Eames for the Herman Miller furniture company in 1956, this legendary set was originally inspired by the nineteenth-century English club chair. The molded wooden shells are made of 7-ply veneer, while the upholstered cushions are soft leather. The designers wanted the duo to be warm and comforting, like a "well-used first baseman's mitt." American homes have been charmed by the look for over 50 years.
2. Tulip Table
Eero Saarinen was a Finnish American architect and industrial designer known for structures like Washington Dulles International Airport, the TWA Flight Center, and the Gateway Arch. He also conceived quintessential modern furniture pieces like the Tulip Table. Part of a collection also referred to as Pedestal, the item was aimed at eliminating the "ugly, confusing, unrestful world" beneath tables. The result is a sleek, enduring style that was groundbreaking for its time.
British automotive engineer George Carwardine invented an innovative, industrial four-spring lamp in 1932 before he reimagined his contraption for the domestic market. He released the three-spring version of his lamp in 1935, which featured a spring mechanism that provided unprecedented movement and stability that transformed the way we use light fixtures. The same Original 1227 model is produced today.
Both iconic and affordable, the Poäng is perhaps the most recognizable chair from the ubiquitous Swedish furniture maker. The plywood veneer and upholstery piece was created in 1976 by Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura in collaboration with the company's director of design Lars Engman. Nakamura wanted to fashion a chair that would "swing in an elegant way," as to provide "emotional richness" and allow one to "let off stress and frustration."
Florence Knoll and her husband Hans Knoll founded their illustrious office furniture company Knoll Associates in the middle of the 20th century. As a trained architect, Florence designed countless streamlined, geometric pieces for her brand. One of the most enduring is her sofa, which, as you may notice, looks a lot like the "midcentury modern" couches that are en vogue right now. Your living room has Florence to thank for this lightly tufted, angular look.
6. Parsons Desk
French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank conjured up the Parsons table with his students at Parsons Paris in the 1930s. The modernist design features legs that are of equal thickness to and flush with the tabletop, regardless of the other dimensions. This timeless framework has been applied to dining tables, coffee tables, side tables, desks, and more.
A midcentury staple, the Diamond Chair was imagined by sculptor Harry Bertoia in 1952. With the intention of transitioning industrial materials into art, Bertoia used wire to build an airy, grid-like seat. The upholstered cushion completes the epochal piece.
Since its debut in 1962, the Arco floor lamp has been in constant production. Italian brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni created the modern, overhead lamp with a distinct Carrera marble base, an arched, stainless steel stem, and a spun aluminum pendant. Inspired by the pedestrian streetlight, the duo wanted to rethink home illumination.
9. Panton Chair
This S-shaped, plastic chair was conceived by Danish designer Verner Panton in the 1960s. It was the world's first molded plastic chair, which means there was never a chair manufactured out of plastic in one single piece before it. Produced by Swiss furniture company Vitra, the cantilevered, stackable chair recalls the Pop Art movement of the time.
Architect George Nelson is the man responsible for the bubble lamp, a 1952 invention that offers a soft, diffused light. As Herman Miller's design director, Nelson wanted to produce a cheaper version of his beloved silk-covered hanging lamp. He first achieved this by covering a skeleton of steel wires with layers of clear plastic. Now the easy-to-clean, glowy fixture is world-renowned.
In 1959, Danish designer Nanna Ditzel devised the revolutionary hanging egg chair to resolve the issue of having far too many furniture legs in one room. The seat is suspended from the ceiling, floating whimsically above ground, and is made of sustainable, long-lasting rattan. Replicas abound.