Origin Stories Of Design’s Most Iconic Chairs

Words by Jody Hume | 6.26.19
The idiom “part of the furniture” likens a certain person or object to the invisibility of chairs, sofas and tables, implying that furniture itself is unremarkable and unnoticeable. Obviously the inventor of that phrase never owned a design by Arne Jacobsen or an Eames Lounge Chair. Known for their comfort and functionality as well as their aesthetically pleasing designs, these iconic mid-century chairs will not just transform your living space, but also have some interesting backstories to boot. 

The Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair

Arne Jacobsen Swan Chair; Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair; Arne Jacobsen 3300 Series Chair

The Arne Jacobsen Egg chair — aptly nicknamed for the way it resembles an egg from certain angles — was designed by the highly regarded Danish architect in 1958 as part of a commission for the SAS Royal Copenhagen Hotel in Denmark. Jacobsen constructed the chair with a technique he was the first to use: lining the upholstery with a strong foam inner shell underneath. Its unique, cocoon-like shape offers users a small amount of privacy, making it ideal for its original intended use in the waiting area of a hotel lobby, but also offers users at home a tiny hideaway to nestle into with a good book. The lightweight chair has the ability to swivel and recline, and remains today a testament to Danish design. If you’re a fan of Arne Jacobsen, add the Series 3300 chair and his other iconic Swan chair to complete your collection.

The Eames Lounge Chair

Eames Lounge Chair

Herman Miller Eames LCW Lounge ChairEames Lounge Chair & Ottoman; Eames 2-Seat Sofa

The Eames Lounge Chair may represent sleek, elegant luxury, but it was actually based on the exact opposite: a worn-out leather baseball glove. The American husband and wife design duo responsible for the iconic chair, Charles and Ray Eames, wanted the user to feel as comfortable and snug as a hand nestled into a baseball glove. Another aim was to design a modern, chic chair that could be mass-produced and sold cheaply so that it was accessible to the average American. The Herman Miller company entered it into the market in 1956, and the design was hailed as revolutionary for using plywood in a way it had never been used before.  Give your living room the complete Eames revamp (and learn how to spot authentic Eames furniture) by pairing the lounge chair with the Eames LCW Lounge Chair and Eames 2 seat-sofa

The Le Corbusier LC4 Chaise Lounge

LC4 Chaise Longue

LC3 Leather Lounge Chairs; Le Corbusier LC4 Chaise Lounge; Le Corbusier LC9 Bathroom Seat

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, known as Le Corbusier, the architect whose buildings Salvador Dali described as the “ugliest and most unacceptable buildings in the world,” is credited with creating one of the most famous pieces of furniture to date: the LC4 Chaise Lounge. It earned its nickname “the relaxing machine” for the way its form mimics a sleeping body. However, the designer himself admits he had help, namely from a woman named Charlotte Perriand. When Perriand first entered Le Corbusier’s atelier aged 24, he immediately dismissed her, telling her “We don’t embroider cushions here.” Not deterred by his sexist judgments, Perriand invited him to see her work at the Salon d’Automne, an annual design festival, and won him over. Years later, she, Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret worked on the LC4 Chaise Lounge, which today is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Expand your collection of pieces designed by the iconic trio by adding a pair of white leather LC3 lounge chairs or a chromed steel LC9 bathroom seat.

The Hans Wegner Wishbone Chair  wishbone chair Hans Wegner

Hans Wegner Shell Chair; CH24 Wishbone Accent Chair; Hans Wegner CH111 Chair

The Wishbone chair, formally known as the CH24, cemented Danish designer Hans Wegner as one of the leading visionaries in modern design. The unusual combination of curves and sharp angles was inspired by a painting of Danish merchants sitting in the wide-seated thrones of Chinese emperors. The wishbone chair derives its name from the Y-shaped backrest that not only gives the chair its minimalistic aesthetic, but supports the back in a more comfortable way than the heavy, rigid dining chairs that came before. A former cabinet maker, Wegner’s passion for woodwork and understanding of the material is highlighted through the chair’s intricate craftsmanship. Check out Wegner’s other unusually shaped chairs, like the Shell chair or the CH111 chair.

The Harry Bertoia Wire Chair

Jasper Morrison Thinking Man's Chair

Jasper Morrison Thinking Man’s Chair; Bertoia barstool; Verner Panton-Style Modular Sofa

A chair made from wires shouldn’t be comfortable, but anyone who’s sat in Harry Bertoia’s Diamond chair will tell you it feels like sitting on air. Bertoia describes his first working space at Knoll’s factory as “… just a small room. There was not a single pair of pliers, a hammer, a grinding wheel… nothing!” But that didn’t stop him from applying his background as a sculptor to produce a chair made from wires that were individually bent by hand. It was an unorthodox approach, but necessary for Bertoia to achieve his vision of an extremely lightweight chair that makes the user feel like they’re floating. Bertoia incorporated this same wire design into his other furniture, including side chairs, loungers, barstools and tables. These chairs are sculptures of contradictions; how something made from rigid metal can appear so graceful and lightweight is indicative of Bertoia’s innovative design. For more furniture that mimics the Bertoia floating feeling, try the Verner Panton-Style Modular Sofa, or complement the wire theme with a Cappellini Jasper Morrison Thinking Man’s Chair
Beautiful and unique, these iconic chairs reach far beyond their utilitarian purposes and enter the realm of art. Each chair its own masterpiece, you can revamp the comfort of your living space while simultaneously adding to your art collection. 
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