20 most iconic Mid-Century modern pieces of all time

The most iconic Mid-Century Modern pieces of all time 

Find here the 20 most iconic Mid-Century Modern pieces of all time

1 – Arco Floor Lamp by Pier & Achille Castiglioni

Piero collaborated on a wide variety of projects with his brother Achille and their lighting designs were particularly successful for brands such as FLOS, Arredoluce, and Artemide still in production today. Their focus was on producing highly functional lights that were as practical as aesthetic. A number of their works are held by the MoMA in New York, and others can be found in significant design collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Kunstgewerbe Museum (Zurich), the Museo del Art (Prato), the Denver Art Museum, and the Vitra Design Museum. Their most famous piece is undoubtedly the Arco floor lamp.

Achille Castliglioni: Lampada Arco
Castiglioni bothers: Arco floor lamp

2 – The ball chair by Eero Aarnio

The BALL CHAIR (1965)was One of Aario’s first major productions: a sphere supported by an aluminum stand, open on one side to allow a person to sit within. The internal part of the chair was covered in foam upholstery with a bright fabric finish. Aka the Globe chair, it was made with molded fiberglass – typically, in shiny white – but available in other colors like red, black and orange.

Eero Aario: ball chair aka globe chair
Eero Aario: the Ball chair aka Globe chair

3 –  The Shell chair by Hans Wegner

CH07 LOUNGE CHAIR aka THE SHELL CHAIR: In 1963, initially the public was not willing to embrace the three-legged chair, which was first exhibited that year in Copenhagen. But as time passed the SHELL CHAIR became one of the most iconic pieces of Wegner’s prolific chair design. The design was a shell chair which represented an edged piece of the woodwork with simple materials used.

Hans Wegner: Shell chairHans Wegner: Shell chair

4- The coffee table by Isamu Noguchi

The famous coffee table designed for Herman Miller is one the most famous pieces by Naguchi. The simplicity of the table is unique: the table is made with just a single piece of wood (the supporting element) and a one single piece of transparent glass.

Sailko, Isamu noguchi per herman miller inc., tavolino in-50, 1945, CC BY 3.0
Sailko, Isamu Noguchi per herman miller inc., tavolino in-50, 1945, CC BY 3.0

5 – The Swan Chair by Arne Jacobsen

Jacobsen designed the Swan Chair (and the Swan Sofa) as specialty pieces for lounge areas and lobby of the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen in 1958. The curvy design of the chair and the sofa contains a synthetic mold, covered by a layer of foam upholstered in fabric or leather with an aluminum four-star swivel base in satin polished aluminum. This design is in continuous production by Fritz Hansen since it was introduced. It comes in a variety of upholstered colors and leather as well.

Arne Jacobsen: swan chair
Arne Jacobsen: swan chair

6 – La Chaise by Charles & Ray Eames

The sumptuous La Chaise of 1948 featured the sensuous curves of a reclining body or pouting lips.

Charles & Ray Eames: La Chaise
Charles & Ray Eames: La Chaise

7 – The side Chair by Harry Bertoia

The Side Chair is among the most recognized achievements of mid-century modern design. This ever-popular chair – which is still produced by Knoll – is made of polished steel wire, sometimes vinyl coated, and covered with cotton or with elastic Naugahyde upholstery. The original set was composed by the an “armchair” (the Diamond chair) as well as a side chair and a barstool (see picture above) made with the same mesh wire frames.

Harry Bertoia: Side chair
Harry Bertoia: Side chair

8 – Model No. 670 Lounge chair & Ottoman by Charles & Ray Eames

MODEL No. 670 LOUNGE CHAIR & OTTOMAN: likely the most iconic piece of Mid-Century Modern design. Based on a 1940 prototype, the chair was released in 1956 and has become a must-have piece for generations. 

Charles Eames: Lounge Chair & ottoman
Charles Eames: Lounge Chair & ottoman

9 – The Artichoke lamp by Poul Henningsen

Poul Henningsen’s eloquent designs have developed a whole new lighting theme based on scientific analysis of light diffusion. Working from the idea that direct glare from an electric light source was harmful to well-being, Henningsen created lampshades from separate elements, formed and constructed to obscure the bulb, directing light downwards, and producing a lighter, more reflective effect. Like in his artichoke lamp (see below), Henningsen used various colored shades of glass with frosted surfaces to minimize the amount of harsh white light emitted and create a golden shade.

Poul Henningsen: artichoke lamp
Bengt Oberger, Poul Henningsen: Artichoke lamp, CC BY-SA 3.0

10 – The Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen 

The Egg Chair is Jacobsen’s signature piece and has become an icon in modern furniture design. This chair was commissioned for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1958. The wavelike shape of the Egg chair as well as the four-star aluminum base demonstrates Jacobsen’s ingenuity to create furniture with a simple yet elegant construction.

Arne Jacobsen Egg_chair3d
Arne Jacobsen – Carioca, Egg chair3d, CC BY-SA 3.0

11 – The Classic chair by Hans Wegner

MODEL JH 501 ROUND CHAIR: aka the CLASSIC CHAIR is probably one the most iconic pieces of Hans Wegner. The chair was made of a sculpted wooden frame and woven cane seat and it was his re-interpretation of an classic Asian chair.

Hans Wegner for Johannes Hansen, chair JH 501,
Sailko, Hans Wegner for Johannes Hansen, chair JH 501, Copenhagen 1949, CC BY 3.0

12 – the “Eclisse” by Vico Magistretti

In 1967 Vico Magistretti received the “Compasso d’Oro” award for the “Eclisse” (Eclipse) a lamp designed for the Italian manufacturer Artemide

Vico Magistretti: “Eclisse” lamp
Vico Magistretti: “Eclisse” lamp

13 – THE BALL LIGHT by George Nelson

THE BALL LIGHT is among Nelson’s most famous lighting pieces. Here the influence of his friend and colleague Isamu Noguchi is most evident. The Japanese-American Noguchi created a series of paper lanterns which merged Western functionality with the beauty of Eastern sculptures. Nelson’s lighting pieces are less “sculptural” as the paper lantern concept is developed into more symmetrical and simpler shapes.

George Nelson: bubble lamp
George Nelson: bubble lamp

14 – The Tulip table and chair by Eero Saarinen

The four-legged, three-legged, and two-legged chairs have always been common but Eero Saarinen was the one who introduced one-legged chairs known as the Tulip Chairs. With a truly stunning result, the Tulip collection became so iconic that they were often referred to as “the chairs by Eero Saarinen”. These chairs were part of the Eero’s Pedestal Collection (1957) which featured gracefully molded fiberglass chairs and upholstered stools having aluminum pedestal bases.

Eero Saarinen Tulip Chair
Holger.Ellgaard, Eero Saarinen Tulip Chair, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Saarinen Table The Saarinen Table was also a part of the Pedestal collection. This table has a durable aluminum base that coordinates nicely with the Tulip Chairs. Because of their association with Tulip Chairs, these tables are sometime referenced as Tulip Tables. They are still in production and come in a variety of sizes and shapes including round and oval.

Eero Saarinen: table with chairs
Eero Saarinen: Tulip table with chairs

15 – The Boby trolley by Joe Colombo

THE BOBY TROLLEY (1970), designed for the Italian manufacturer BIEFFEplast is a storage system featuring trays and compartments within a mobile unit on gliding castors for mobility.

Joe Colombo (Bieffeplast), Trolley Boby,
Sailko, Joe Colombo (Bieffeplast), Trolley Boby, 1970 ca, CC BY 3.0

16 – THE BALL CLOCK by George Nelson

THE BALL CLOCK: is probably one of the most famous clocks Nelson designed for the company created by the son of Herman Miller: Howard Miller. The clock reminds us of a face of a colorful flower. The series apparently came from the collaboration with few other designers: Noguchi, Fuller, and Irving Harper. Interestingly enough, the latter hinted that also the credit for other iconic pieces from Nelson (Marshmallow sofa?) should not just be lied on Nelson alone…

George Nelson: Ball clock
Sailko, Irvin harper (attr.) George Nelson, ball clock nr 4755, zeeland MI 1948-69, CC BY 3.0Irvin_harper (attr.) per george nelson Ball_clock nr 4755

17 – THE PANTON CHAIR by Verner Panton

THE PANTON CHAIR: In 1960, Verner Panton designed the revolutionary Panton chair. This was the beginning of a long collaboration with the manufacturer Vitra that still produces the seat today. Although the cantilevered chair (in the shape of an S) already existed in 1926, Verner Panton had the astonishing idea of manufacturing it in moulded plastic, once again proving its innovative character by presenting an original monobloc piece. He also wanted the chair to be easily stackable and comfortable. A Mid-Century Modern icon, the Panton chair has enjoyed – since its creation – continuous success while undergoing regular technical changes. It was only in 1999 that the chair was finally produced as Verner Panton wanted it, with a matt finish that makes it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

Verner Panton: the Panton chair
Verner Panton: the Panton chair

18 – The ORANGE SLICE CHAIR  by Pierre Paulin

ORANGE SLICE CHAIR Designed in 1960, the Orange Slice is a timeless work that still seems as stylish and inspired as ever. Anyone who sees several Slice chairs together cannot fail to be amazed by the playfulness of their composition. This chair is composed of two identical shells made of pressed beech, embedded in a molded foam. The base is chrome-plated or powder-coated.

Orange Slice Chair Pierre Paulin
Orange Slice Chair – Pierre Paulin

19 – the BUBBLE CHAIR by Eero Aarnio

BUBBLE CHAIR The most iconic piece by Eero Aarnio is the Bubble chair of 1968. It reminds of a sci-fi object that can even defy gravity, the Bubble chair was suspended from the ceiling by a heavy chain and it was almost entirely transparent. Not only was it radically different from any concept of chair conceived till then: pending from the ceiling rather than supported by the floor but also using a new – and somehow futuristic – material for the time: acrylic plastic. The use of these new plastic materials will become more and more a signature element of the new century modernism.

Eero Aario: the Bubble chair
Eero Aario: the Bubble chair

20 – The Taccia lamp by Pier and Achille Castiglioni

The Taccia lamp is among many bestsellers Pier and his brother Achille for the Italian lamp manufacturer FLOS which are still in production today. A number of their works are held by the MoMA in New York, and others can be found in significant design collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Kunstgewerbe Museum (Zurich), the Museo del Art (Prato), the Denver Art Museum, and the Vitra Design Museum.

Castiglioni brothers: Lampada Taccia
Castiglioni brothers: Taccia lamp