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Mid-Century Chairs 101

Last weekend, there was this hurricane on. Oh, did you hear? Hurricane Irene, yes yes, quite. Well. I think the peeps at Netflix were onto something, because that very week, the powers that beflix at the Netflix decided stream the entire series-so-far of Mad Men, thus forcing all of New York City to hold crazy Mad Men marathons while waiting out the bad weather. Because, what else were we going to do? Back up our hard drives? (Shoot, I forgot!)

As I watched episode after episode after episode with my husband, I started to get a little drooly for all those gorgeous set pieces. Those straight-backed sofas with those slender arms. The brass fixtures. The turquoise telephones! It started to get to me so bad that for a minute there I was ready to chuck out my Hollywood Regency style button tufted sofa and start from scratch with something more streamlined, maybe upholstered in something tweedy.

We all know a mid-century design when we see one, but I thought it might be kind of fun to do a round up of my favorite mid-century chairs, and a little lesson on their designers.

We’ll call it: Mid-Century Chairs 101. After the jump.


  • EERO AARNIO BUBBLE CHAIR 1 of 16
    EERO AARNIO BUBBLE CHAIR
    Eero Aarnio is a Finnish designer. He designed his Bubble chair (the suspended, clear version of the Ball chair) in 1963. His designs are not only famous for their fun shape, but also because his chairs began the movement to replace fiberglass (a not terribly safe material) with that old favorite, plastic.
  • EERO AARNIO BALL CHAIR 2 of 16
    EERO AARNIO BALL CHAIR
    Due to the graphic, geometric aspect of Aarnio's designs, the Ball and Bubble chairs were used often on movie sets, including one of my favorites, Sleepless In Seattle.

    (H and G. Hi and goodbye.)
  • EERO AARNIO IS CUTE 3 of 16
    EERO AARNIO IS CUTE
    And this picture makes me feel really happy.
  • HARRY BERTOIA DIAMOND CHAIR 4 of 16
    HARRY BERTOIA DIAMOND CHAIR
    Fun fact: Harry Bertoia initially began his career as a jewelry design and metal work instructor. (Wikipedia says he even created the wedding rings of Ray and Charles Eames.) He later moved to Pennsylvania to work under Hans and Florence Knoll, where he created this little beauty.

    I have sat in these suckers a few times and I have to tell you, they are dang comfortable.
  • HARRY BERTOIA 5 of 16
    HARRY BERTOIA
    Harry wins in my book. I love a good pipe/cardigan combo.
  • EAMES MOLDED PLASTIC ARMCHAIR 6 of 16
    EAMES MOLDED PLASTIC ARMCHAIR
    Chances are, you've seen this chair a time or two. Maybe in a living room. Most likely in a nursery. They are ubiquitous, and for good reason. Holy moley, are they pretty. You feel like you may topple backwards in them, and they're a little stiff to sit on, but shhhh. They're pretty enough that doesn't matter.
  • EAMES LOUNGE CHAIR 7 of 16
    EAMES LOUNGE CHAIR
    Cute pug aside, this lounger is about the end all be all of Mid-Century chair covetousness.

    Fun fact: Ray and Charles Eames designed this lounge to have a perfect 15% recline, which is believed to be the most comfortable angle.

    Another fun fact: there are no visible bolts or screws on this bad boy. Now that's called good design!
  • RAY AND CHARLES EAMES 8 of 16
    RAY AND CHARLES EAMES
    Did you think Ray and Charles were brothers? You and me both. Turns out, Ray and Charles were husband and wife. Ray's real name is Bernice Alexandra. Of the Mid-Century designers, Ray and Charles stand supreme. They are responsible for both the chairs shown here, as well as the bent plywood chair, the la chaise (somewhat resembles swiss cheese), the aluminum management chair, and the walnut stool. They are all classics, still high in demand to this day.
  • LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE BARCELONA CHAIR 9 of 16
    LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE BARCELONA CHAIR
    This is one swanky leather chair. It seems to work as seamlessly in a sparse industrial space as it does in an ultra-feminine living room.

    The Barcelona chair was designed in the 1970s and won the Museum of Modern Art award in 1977. The distinctive features of this chair are the button tufted leather cushions and the elegantly crossed metal legs.
  • MIES VAN DER ROHE 10 of 16
    MIES VAN DER ROHE
    Born in 1886, Mies van der Rohe was one of the pioneers of the Mid-Century style, and a definite proponent of minimalism. He called his style "skin and bones," and believed that the space created around his pieces was the most important design element.
  • ARNE JACOBSEN EGG CHAIR 11 of 16
    ARNE JACOBSEN EGG CHAIR
    The Egg chair was designed in 1958 by Arne Jacobsen for the Radisson hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark.

    It was also designed as a couch, but very few were ever made.
  • ARNE JACOBSEN 12 of 16
    ARNE JACOBSEN
    Arne is known as the pioneer of the Danish Modern style. Born and raised in Copenhagen, Arne was exiled from Denmark during WWII due to his Jewish background.
  • CHARLES POLLOCK EXECUTIVE CHAIR 13 of 16
    CHARLES POLLOCK EXECUTIVE CHAIR
    Charles Pollock designed this chair for--who else?--the Knoll company, in 1965. The chair's outer shell is constructed of black polypropylene, its frame is extruded aluminum, and it looks dead sexy in an office setting (less so when it is burnt orange though).
  • CHARLES POLLOCK 14 of 16
    CHARLES POLLOCK
    Charles Pollock studied design at Pratt Institute and worked under another famous Mid-Century designer, George Nelson.

    From what all I've been able to research, Charles Pollock is . . . maybe? . . . the brother of famous modern painter Jackson Pollock.
  • EERO SAARINEN TULIP CHAIR AND TABLE 15 of 16
    EERO SAARINEN TULIP CHAIR AND TABLE
    Eero Saarinen's Tulip chair and table were designed in the 1950s, also for the Knoll company. It may look familiar to you if you watched the original Star Trek series.

    Fun fact: Saarinen originally wanted to create this chair in fiberglass, but the stem of the tulips kept breaking. Eventually they were manufactured of cast aluminum on the bottom and fiberglass on the top, and rilsan-coated to create a matching finish.
  • EERO SAARINEN 16 of 16
    EERO SAARINEN
    Another Finnish designer named Eero, Saarinen also won the Museum of Modern Art award (in 1969). He left Finland at the age of 13 to live in Michigan, where he studied sculpture and furniture design at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where his father taught.

    Fun fact: Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Knolls also studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

 

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