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Classic Furniture Pieces You Still See Everywhere Today
by TJ Anderson
Even if you’re not a furniture design expert, if you spend a lot of time admiring home design blogs/Instagram feeds, you’ll get to know certain iconic pieces — chairs that keep popping up again and again, tables that seem to be on every designer’s must-use list. You may not know the names, but you probably know the shapes — the tulip table, the Eames Lounge.
If you do a lot of online furniture shopping/browsing, too (and I certainly do), you’ll also quickly notice that those designs seem to be in everyone’s warehouse, at wildly varying price points. One shop has that slick fiberglass arm chair for $600, another with seemingly the exact same look for… $70!?
Quick explanation: The world of the furniture replica is big and broad. Longer explanation: I’m probably not the right one to lay it out, what with not being a lawyer, but my general understanding is that copyright laws, when it comes to furniture designs, aren’t as stringent and strict as they could be. So you find your mass-produced versions of iconic furniture designers’ work, just as mass-ly sold.
I won’t dig into the moral quandary here either, because that’s a topic all its own. But for those of you who aren’t academic about home decor, but have a real love for beautiful furniture, I thought a quick primer on some of the best-known, best-loved and most-copied pieces would be fun.
Take a look at these designs, and let me know which ones you recognize. (I’ll put money on the fact that it’s all of them.)
Tolix Marais A Chair
In the ‘30s, this industrial-style aluminum cafe chair was all the rage in French bistros. Today, the design is just about ubiquitous, from coffee shops to dining rooms to coworking spaces, coast to coast to coast. You’ll find similar looking chairs in a lot of places, but you can snag the real thing via Design Within Reach.
Eero Saarinen tulip table
He created bigger designs — like, say the St. Louis arch — but designer Eero Saarinen’s Pedestal tables, which we tend to know better as tulip tables, are certainly the most copied things to come from his pen, smooth and sleek and created for Knoll in the ‘50s to do away with the jumble of legs under an average dining table. The real thing is easily available, though it will set you back — around $5000 or so.
Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair
Another design that’s remained immensely popular since the ‘50s, the Egg Chair was crafted to cradle the seated person’s body, and allow for easy conversation and relaxation, tilting and swiveling on a central column. Paired with its sister footstool, it’s like a comfortable work of art. To get a real one, designed by Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen, it’ll usually run you about $7000 and up.
The Eames Chair and Ottoman
If you’re trying to create a living space that beams luxury with just a hint of masculinity, you’re probably drawn toward the iconic chair husband-and-wife design team Charles and Ray Eames created in 1956. Charles said the intent was to give the warm, receptive feel of a “well-used first basemen’s mitt,” and it’s definitely come to give off the kind of high-end vibe that makes guests think you must have a pro baller’s salary, at least. For an authentic Eames, you’re looking at about $5000. Maybe just as omnipresent, if not more so (and definitely more copied): the Eames Molded Fiberglass Side Chair, a mid-century masterpiece that you may or may not see up in the very top photo. (I love this stuff, but I still find reproductions hard to spot.)
Orange Slice chair
It’s easy to tell that designer Pierre Paulin studied sculpture — his iconic Orange Slice chair, which traces back to 1960, certainly has a sculptor’s curves. An original Artifort one usually goes for around $2000-$3000.
How many modern designs have you seen Mies Van Der Rohe’s famous Barcelona chair in? Lost count when you got to 487,743? It’s easy to see why this design’s remained omnipresent since its debut in the late 1920s, as seating for the King and Queen of Spain: artful lines, exquisite craftsmanship, and a totally singular aesthetic. The real thing can usually be found for around $5,500.
Nelson Platform Bench
Gorgeous simplicity that’s been beloved since the mid-‘40s, the Platform Bench, created by George Nelson for Herman Miller, is for sitting on, or displaying on, or just gazing at. The real deal from Herman Miller starts at around a grand.
Bertoia Side Chair
I can almost guarantee you’ve seen many a replica of this iconic chair by Harry Bertoia since mid-century design has come back to the fore. It’s simple and graceful but with industrial cool — ahead of its time, which might be part of why it’s stood the test of time. From Knoll, it’ll run upwards of $600.
With the bent steel and clean lines, designer Marcel Breuer's famous Wassily Chair is a picture-perfect encapsulation of the then-up-and-coming modern design of the time. And its look is just as thrilling — and hugely popular — today. The one pictured above’ll run you about $2500.
Also known as CH24 chairs, these delicately beautiful chairs were created by Danish designer Hans Wegner in 1949. I see them in homes all the time almost 70 years later, though most are probably convincing copies. You can snag an original Hans Wegner design, made in Denmark by Carl Hansen & Son, for about $600.
LC2 Sofa and Armchair
In the late ‘20s, The Le Corbusier group flipped the furniture design script with these pieces, with the frames on the outside, cushiony comfort contained within. They remain the picture of upscale simplicity, and if I had a spare seven or eight grand laying around, I’d be more than thrilled to have this in my home office.
Any of these pieces among your favorites? A bunch of them are among mine. If there are other classics you love, let me know — I’d love to see some more furniture inspiration!
TJ Anderson is a Nashville Realtor with Benchmark Realty who's helped countless clients both buy a home and sell a home in Nashville, Tennessee. He blogs about Nashville regularly, from Nashville-area....
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