Can You Identify 13 of the most famous 20th Century chair designs?
Take my simple matching quiz to find out!
What’s your Chair IQ? With the continued resurgence of Midcentury modern design in interior decor over the past 5 years, I wanted to test your knowledge on some of the most famous designs that are still prevalent today. While not all of these chairs are mid century, they were all designed in the 20th century, and some of the lesser known are just as important and famous as the more well-known styles you are sure to identify.
Take your best guess and read about the names, designers and the inspiration below!
20th Century Chair Designs
Chair Names (in no particular order)
A. Tulip Chair
B. Egg Chair
C. Eames Dining Chair
D. Barcelona Chair
E. Stacking Chair
F. Womb Chair
G. Wishbone Chair
H. Grand Confort Chair
I. Parsons Chair
J. Model 3107 Chair
K. Marais A Chair
L. Eames Lounge Chair
M. Wassily Chair
Well, how did you do? Did you get them all? Which ones confused you? You better have nailed the Eames Lounge chair- that one was a gimme! Here we go with the answers…
The Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer was designed in 1925-1926. the Wassily chair is one of the most iconic chairs ever made. It’s actually called the Model B3 chair, not Wassily, which was a name given to the chair years later when it was being reproduced. Inspired by the solid, near-perfect design of bikes, Breuer began experimenting with bent tubular steel. And this sleek chair was the outcome.
The Model 3107 chair was made using bent and molded plywood in 1955, designed by Danish architect Arne Jacobsen. It was designed using a technique invented by the Eames brothers through which plywood can be bent in three dimensions, and is now one of the most reproduced chairs in the world.
Co-designed by Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret in 1928, the ‘Grand Confort’ was referred to as a “cushion basket,” by Le Corbusier himself. With its chrome exoskeleton, the plush, typically leather classic is the ultimate time-tripper: It channels the ’30s and the ’70s and whenever else people desired a modern interpretation of a club chair.
The Womb chair was designed by Eero Saarinen in 1947-1948. This chair was designed exclusively at the request of Florence Knoll, who desired a chair that you could sit in many different ways, such as sideways draping your legs over the arm rests. Originally named No. 70, it soon became known as the Womb chair because of its comfortable, organic appearance. You may also know Eero Saarinen for his famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri!
The Barcelona chair is a chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich in 1929. The frame was initially designed to be bolted together, but was redesigned in 1950 using stainless steel, which allowed the frame to be formed by a seamless piece of metal, giving it a smoother appearance. Although not the most comfortable chair in the world, it’s definitely one of the most iconic of the Bauhaus style!
The Stacking Chair or ‘Panton S’ defies gravity. In the 1960s, Vernon Panton was inspired by a neatly stacked pile of plastic buckets and decided to create an S-shaped plastic chair. It was the first time that a chair was made entirely with one piece of molded plastic and the result is considered to one of the masterpieces of danish design.
The first of one of the ‘gimmes’ on this list, the Eames dining chair, also known as a ‘Shell Chair’, was designed by Ray and Charles Eames in 1950. The molded fiberglass shell can be put over the top of different leg styles; such as the metal Eiffel-style base, or with wood doweling, or on a rocker. This chair was intentionally designed for the ‘International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design.’ This competition, sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art, was motivated by the urgent need in the post-war period for low-cost housing and furnishing designs adaptable to small housing units. Of course this is ironic, as even though you can find reproductions for less than $100, the authentic designs are distributed by Herman Miller for roughly $400 today.
Designed in 1934 by Xavier Pauchard, the Marais A was originally intended as outdoor furniture, made with galvanized steel that could withstand both rain and shine. Robust and easily stackable it’s no wonder that kitchens and cafés all over the world have been eager to use these chairs.
In 1958 Arne Jacobsen wanted to create a chair with 1 thing in mind: a bit of privacy in public. Something we all would appreciate nowadays! The Egg chair is a chair straight from Copenhagen, where Jacobsen designed specifically for the SAS Hotel, but thanks to its iconic, unforgettable shape, it reached the masses.
A Parsons chair is a special kind of upholstered dining chair. The name has nothing to do with the clergy. The chair was named for its origin – it was created in Paris in the 1930s, by a designer at the famous Parsons School of Design. While in no way was the design of a chair radically changed, the main traits of the chair are its naturalism, simplicity and linear look – which are classic Modernist traits that are widely copied today.
Part of an entire series of ‘Tulip” shapes for Knoll, a design shift occurred overnight when Saarinen revealed his attempt at a single-material, single-form chair in 1955. This chair blew up the notion that a chair had to stand on four posts! He had finally solved his long desire to clean up, as he called it, the “slum of legs.” The result was majestically fluid and is often considered “space age” for its futuristic use of curves and artificial materials.
Inspired by paintings of merchants sitting on Ming chairs, Hans Wegner created a lightweight chair in 1949 which features a low backrest and a Y-shaped spine. The wishbone chair requires 14 pieces, with its hand-woven seat pad made out of paper cord.
Probably the most iconic Mid Century design of all, Charles and Ray Eames released the leather and molded plywood lounge and ottoman 1956 after years of development. It was the first chair that the Eames husband and wife team designed for a high-end market and was inspired by the traditional English Club Chair. Charles’s vision was for a chair with “the warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt,” and with an unparalleled comfort and style level, I think they achieved their goal!
How many did you get right?
Love this Quiz? Take my Traditional Textile Quiz and my Blue and White Pottery Quiz to further test your design knowledge!