The masters of modern furniture
Good design comes from good designers. Great design comes from the likes of the old masters such as Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Charles and Ray Eames, Eileen Gray or even relative newcomers like Emaf Progetti.
Their designer furniture sets them apart from the rest, not only in terms of shape, texture, material and manufacture, but in concept as well. For those unfamiliar with these names, their designer furniture is legendary. Each has contributed immeasurably to what we know today as modern furniture.
Born out of the Modernist Movement in the early 1920s, some of the initial designer furniture we have come to know as Modernist came from the groundbreaking work of Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe, who along with Walter Gropius, are considered the pioneers of modern architecture.
Their interest in modern designer furniture was an obvious outgrowth from their architectural interests. For example, Le Corbusier began his first experiments with furniture with his cousin Pierre and architect Charlotte Perriand. This resulted in the now famous Le Corbusier Chaise Lounge. With its graceful lines and emphasis on function over form, the chair was years ahead of its time and still looks fresh even 70 years later.
At the same time, Mies Van der Rohe was making his own mark in designer furniture. Already a successful architect in his own right, he created the Barcelona Chair for the German Pavilion at the 1929 World’s Fair in Barcelona. It became an instant sensation and formed the basis for many other designer furniture pieces by Mies Van der Rohe.
Though familiar to most of us today, modern designer furniture was a radical departure from the furniture of the early 20th centure, which was made almost exclusively of light and dark woods. In contrast, these modern pieces were finished in chrome, leather and brushed aluminum.
Perhaps no one else’s designer furniture broke new ground as much as the work of Charles and Ray Eames. The couple’s boundless talents spanned multiple disciplines, but their work with formed plywood furniture that was economical to produce and breathtakingly beautiful continues to influence designer furniture even today. In fact, their Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman is easily recognizable, even in its many incarnations and imitations.
Born in 1878, Eileen Gray’s influence on designer furniture is equally impressive. Often overlooked by others for her contributions, Gray’s Bibendum Chair is one of the most recognizable pieces of designer furniture of the 20th century. In 1968 the chair, which is named after the Michelin tires character, was put back into production along with the E 1027 table because of the resurging popularity in Gray’s designs.
Of course, other visionaries have created modern designer furniture that has stood the test of time and taste as well. Arne Jacobsen created the Egg Chair for the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen and Eero Aarnio designed the famed Ball Chair and Bubble Chair.
Even now, an entirely new generation of designer furniture visionaries is becoming the new masters of modern furniture design, guided by the deep founded belief that function should always determine form.