The 20th Century was arguably the most inspired and exciting design era of the modern age. From Charles and Ray Eames in America, to Robin Day in England, to Hans Wegner in Denmark – talented and innovative designers were popping up all over the Western design scene. Between them they created a more functional and aesthetically pleasing world for us to live in.
So much so that it was a real challenge to put this list together! But here at Layer we love a challenge, and have done our best to step up to the mark to help our fellow design lovers! So, without further ado, here’s our pick of 10 iconic classic design pieces that you need to know…
Eames Chair Wood (ECW)
20th century design cannot be discussed without the Eames’ being mentioned. They were highly influential, innovative and inspiring. It is almost impossible to decide on which of their pieces to feature here, but the one that simply must be mentioned is the Eames Chair Wood. “The best for the most for the least” was an infamous saying of theirs, and this is certainly what they achieved with the ECW. A functional and highly attractive design for a fair price – it became a chair that almost all middle class Americans owned. Now they are much harder to come across (and noticeably more expensive), but if you do manage to snap one up you’ll be the proud owner of a truly iconic design.
As we mentioned, it’s impossible to choose just one iconic Eames design, so we’ve just had to choose another! The Eames hang-it-all is a perfect example of how they wanted to create functional but fun pieces. With its many useful hooks it is highly functional, and suits the purpose perfectly, but it is also fun to look at and the coloured version adds a paint splash effect to any room.
Eero Saarinen chair
Saarinen was another mid century heavyweight, and became famous for using sweeping architectural curves in his pieces. He made some glorious table and chair designs during in his time such as the ball chair, the womb chair, and the Knoll tulip tables, but here at Layer we are particularly in love with his Knoll tulip armchairs. Don’t miss out on this stunning design!
Neil Morris cloud table
Neil Morris was a pioneer in wood design, and became particularly well known for his innovative work using laminated wood to shape chairs and tables. He was commissioned to fit the inside of Queen Elizabeth II’s cruise liner and won multiple awards for his designs. His most popular design has to be the cloud table – a fun and gorgeous take on wooden occasional tables.
George Nelson clock
George Nelson was one of the founders of American Modernism and spent much of his working life as Director of Design at Herman Miller whilst also running his own studio. Like many of the other mid century designers on this list, it’s tricky to choose just one of his designs to feature, but our favourite one has to be the George Nelson clock. Funky, functional and fun it is a real triumph for 20th century design.
Grete Jalk sofa
Grete brings some girl power to our list. Her designs are simply stunning – with clean, comfortable lines her pieces stand out from the mid century era. With a clear Scandinavian attitude they are both fresh and functional. She designed some gorgeous tables and chairs, but the pieces we are most in love with are her sofas; they are a true icon of mid century design. And luckily enough for our lovely buyers we have one on sale right now – snap it up before you miss your chance, these don’t often sell for under £2,000!
Robin Day polypropylene chair
A true icon of the mid century, and indeed of today, is the Robin Day polypropylene chair. You will have sat on one a school, during conferences, and if you attended the Mexico Olympics in 1968 you will have sat on one there too! This is a design that hasn’t been changed since the 60s, simply because there is no need to improve on it. Read more about Robin Day and his work on our full feature article here.
The sunburst mirror is a real design icon. After heaps of searching we’ve had trouble finding exactly who designed it first, but it’s a symbol that’s been used since the early ages. Both ancient and modern, it is a true design classic and we are simply obsessed with them here at Layer! (Just check our Instagram to see!).
Designed by Isamu Noguchi – a Japanese American industrial designer – in 1939, the Noguchi table can most certainly be classed as iconic. Defined by its graceful curves, rosewood legs and heavy glass table top, it is a stunning piece of design.
Hussmann lips sofa
This outrageously fun design is a true icon. The “Marilyn” Pop Art Lips sofa by Karl-Heinz Hussmann was inspired by the art installation by Salvador Dali based on the image of Mae West, and was produced in very low numbers. Made in the 1990s, it is the newest piece featured on our list.
Have we missed any iconic design classics from the list? Which pieces would make your top 10?
Post by Lucy Victoria Jackson, our wonderful contributing writer. You can read more about her work here.