The Top 10 Mid-Century Modern Pieces

In this article we select the top 10 Mid-Century Modern pieces of all time. Click below the links to the designers’ profiles detailing their description and history. Find fresh ideas and inspiration

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 – 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

7 – 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

8 – 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

9 – 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

10 – 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

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