5 Chairs: Modern Design Classics you should know / by Ginevra Held

1.  Lounge and Ottomon Charles and Ray Eames 2. Panton Classic Chair, Vernor Panton 3. Wassily Chair (1925), Marcel Breuer 4. Tulip Chair, Eero Saarinen  5. Chaise Longue, Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, and Pierre Jeanneret

1.  Lounge and Ottomon Charles and Ray Eames
2. Panton Classic Chair, Vernor Panton
3. Wassily Chair (1925), Marcel Breuer
4. Tulip Chair, Eero Saarinen
5. Chaise Longue, Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, and Pierre Jeanneret

Without any arrogance, I promise, I am starting a series of  "You should Know"s for your personal Design Development. The intent of this series is to give you a little bit of cocktail convo knowledge and a lot more confidence in what you know about design.

So to begin, I chose the number 5, not because there are only 5 modern Classic chairs to know, far from it, there are way way more, but because its a nice prime number to start with.  These are the chairs, as the daughter of an Architect, that I have known about my entire life.  That I have seen over and over again, that I have lounged in and enjoyed.  

I hold these chairs to be self-evident, but there are many out there who can't tell an Eames from a Panton from a Corbu. This, my friends, is for you.

Finally, before I describe each in detail, an Interior Design note for everyone:  These are the chairs that can live anywhere. Whether you have a Haussman apartment in the 6th (thats in Paris for Newbs) or a 260 square foot studio in Detroit, these chairs make your space.  Read on and enjoy.

1. Lounge and Ottoman by Charles and Ray Eames, 1956, Herman Miller.

Ahhh, the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, officially known as No. 670.  The holy grail of modern design cool.  If you are trying to impress, and don't know much about design, you should at least recognize this beautiful piece.  Often placed in somewhat lonely looking modern rooms, with little adornment, it was actually designed by two of the most exuberant luminaries of the modern design world: Charles and Ray Eames.  This is an important moment to note that the Eames' house was full of color and design and anything but bare minimalism. The Eames' were commissioned by the United States government to design splints for US soldiers, this led to experimentation with molding plywood, which eventually led to many of their most famous chair designs, including this one.  The No. 670 was originally designed for the Museum of Modern Art's "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition in 1940.  The prototype exhibited there, became one of the many furniture collaborations  between the Eames's and the furniture manufacturer Herman Miller.

2. Panton Chair by Vernor Panton, 1959-1960, Vitra for Herman Miller.

Vernor Panton is probably one of my most favorite designers, and this is my favorite chair.  I saw an exhibit on Panton at the Design Museum in London in the early 2000's.  It was an absolute experience.  I was transported to the '60's and the fun and exuberance of Pop Art Culture.  I was completely enamored by the work of this amazing Danish Architect.  The Panton chair is arguably the most physical embodiment of form meets function meets beauty.  It was the first chair made of an unjointed continuous material, perfect for mass production.  The joint forces of Swiss manufacturer Vitra and American Herman Miller have made its manufacture possible.  Verner Panton wanted design to be fun.  He made these chairs in bright colors and their striking organic form plus their innovative production came to represent Pop Art Culture of the 60's.

3. Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer, 1925-1927, Knoll International.

Marcel Breuer, one of the founders of the all important Bauhaus, designed this fascinating tubular and leather suspension chair, made to be a modern interpretation of the club chair that does away with the typical timber, horsehair and spring construction of traditional chairs.  The Wassily Chair is so named because it was part of Breuer project at the Bauhaus to furnish the appartment of the painter Wassily Kandinsky. The Wassily Chair, leads a group of Breuer designs that explore this suspension collection of metal tubing and leather.  In this time of turmoil, its important to note that the Bauhaus and the innovative designers who headed it, whose works are now considered part of the lexicon of modern design, were deemed degenerates by the German government.  Think about that.

4. Tulip Chair, by Eero Saarinen 1955-1956, Knoll.

This is the tulip chair.  It is awesome. The Entire Tulip collection by Eero Saarinen represents the best in design.  Attractive, practical, innovative, fun.  The miriad of tables and chairs in this collection share the single pedestal support.  By rethinking the traditional four leg support of most tables and chairs, Saarinen opened up the area under these forms and created new open space. This chair is elegant in its form and simplicity, but embraces an organic beauty that keeps it cool and modern for today.

5. Chaise Longue, by Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, and Pierre Jeanneret, 1928, Cassina.

Last, but certainly not least the LC4 Chaise Longue, designed by Le Corbusier, his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand.  The other day, someone, looking at a living room design I did said the "brown chair didn't match."  To which I replied, that "brown chair" is the penultimate of modern design classics.  That chair is the LC4 Chaise Longue.  And that chair is allowed to go wherever it wants. I hold this truth to be self-evident: the LC4 is at home anywhere. I've been napping on my Dad's chaise since, well, forever.  For architects and designers this chair is THE CHAIR.  It represents the fundamentals of the modern design movement of form following function, a pure example of Le Corbusier's idea of a "machine for living".  

As a send off, here is a photo of how I used the LC4.  Like I said, its at home anywhere, with anything.

Ginevra Held Interior Design

Where to buy:
1. Lounge and Ottomon by Charles and Ray Eames, $4,935.00 - $6,435.00 Design Within Reach.
2. Panton Chair by Vernor Panton, the Classic $1,675 and Regular $310 Hive Modern.
3. Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer, $2498 Hive Modern.
4. Tulip Armchair by Eero Sarrinen, $1720 Hive Modern.
5. LC4 Chaise Longue by Le Corbusier, Perriand, Jeanneret, $3,875.00 - $4,810.00 Design Within Reach.