1. Home
  2. Furniture

10 Iconic Modern Furnishings That Never Go Out of Style

There are trends that come and go. But some things are timeless. Today’s iconic furnishings never go out of style. These modern tables and seating options were designed with care, and the world has embraced them as showpieces. However, they are more than just revered designs to put on a pedestal. The following ten furnishings are unforgettable when it comes to form, function and comfort. In fact, when you see the pieces below, you will likely recognize one or more of them and say to yourself, “Oh! That’s what it’s called!”

What does it take to have staying power? Check out the tables and chairs below and see if you can answer that question. Is it a certain look? A universally-loved shape? An ability to withstand years of wear and tear? Yes, yes, and yes. But it’s also the innovation illustrated through a unique design created with passion.  And we think you’ll agree that the following furnishing are undeniably unique!

The Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer

Leather and chromium-plated steel beautifully combine in the Wassily Chair, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925. Did you know that this chair was inspired by the design of a bicycle? And that the chair gets its name from Breuer’s Russian colleague Vasily (“Wassily”) Kandinsky? In fact, Breuer created this chair when he was the head of Germany’s Bauhaus Carpentry Workshop in Dessau. While the piece was designed in the 1920s, it rose to popularity again in the 1980s, appearing in many a modern interior. [from StyleCrave]

Beautiful living room with two black wassily chair
Brown Wassily chair in modern living room
Black and white Wassily chair

You can order new versions of the chair today through companies like Knoll. Note the timeless look of these furnishings in contemporary interiors, as shown below. [from Randy Brown Architects]

White Wassily Chairs in a modern space

The Eileen Gray Table

A chrome frame and round metal glass top are highlights of the Eileen Gray Table, also known as the E1027 Side Table. In fact, this piece was designed by Irish architect Eileen Gray in 1927, with the purpose of gracing the inside of the E1027 house (also designed by Gray). On display as part of the MoMA’s permanent collection in New York, the table can be ordered in reproduction form through retailers such as SitBetter.com:

Table by Eileen Gray

In fact, the Eileen Gray Table is another example of a 1920s furnishing that experienced a design revival in the 1980s. The piece’s simple geometry makes it a timeless classic. Below we see the table in a contemporary interior. [from Rex Kelly Mid-Century]

Eileen Gray Table in a modern living room
Elegant living room with Eileen Gray side table and Arc floor lamp
Modern bedroom decor with an Eileen Gray side table

The Cesca Chair by Marcel Breuer

The Cesca Chair’s unique name comes from Marcel Breuer’s daughter, Francesca. Cane and chromium-plated tubular steel together create the chair’s beloved form, which famously lacks traditional legs. Designed in 1928, the original model also lacked arms, though later models featured them, as shown below. [from Live Auctioneers]

Cesca Chairs by Marcel Breuer

As with the Wassily Chair and the Eileen Gray Table, the Cesca Chair was rediscovered in the ’80s, gracing many a dining room and film set. Reproductions of the chairs can be purchased new from online retailers such as Knoll, or through vintage retailers such as Metro Retro Furniture:

An army of Cesca Chairs
Dining table with Cesca Chairs
Traditional dining table with Cesca Chairs

The LC2 Petit Modele Armchair by Le Corbusier

Architect  Chareli-Edouard Jeanneret, also known as Le Corbusier, put his stamp on the world of design, including the interior realm. Jeanneret collaborated with designer Charlotte Perriand and his architect cousin Pierre Jeanneret to create many famous pieces, such as the LC2 Petit Modele Armchair designed in 1928. [from Modern Classics]

Le Corbusier LC2 Petit Modele Chair

Known for its cube-like form, this chair is also famous for the way its frame graces the exterior of the piece. Once again, we have an item that experienced a revival in the ’80s. Remember Maxell’s “Blown Away” ad, in which a man sits low in this very chair as he’s practically blown out of the room by the sound of the stereo system? Yes, this image helped sell many an audio cassette in the 1980s! [from Total Media]

Maxell’s Blown Away ad

But don’t confine this chair to a specific decade. It’s now a modern design staple, as shown in the room below. Note how the substantial nature of each piece makes a grouping sufficient for seating needs. After all, who needs a sofa when you have four of these cushy chairs? At the same time, there is a sofa version of this piece if you’re interested… [from Squeo Architecture PC]

Modern seating area featuring Le Corbusier chairs

The Nelson Platform Bench by George Nelson

The next featured piece is used in offices, lobbies, and of course, at home! Designed by George Nelson and introduced in 1946 as part of Herman Miller’s first collection, the Nelson Platform Bench features a wooden form that reinforces the function of the piece. Nelson called this strategy “honest” design. Some use the piece as a bench, while others use it as a platform base or a table. The furnishing can be ordered from retailers such as Herman Miller, where Nelson served as director of design:

Nelson Platform Bench

Below we see the piece used as a coffee table in a contemporary space. [from Carl Wooley]

Nelson Platform Bench in a modern living room

The Eames Molded Plywood Chair

This beloved chair was coined “The Best Design of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. How do you top that?! And it’s easy to see why it earned the distinctive title. The form is amazingly sleek, and the piece is as comfortable as it is pretty. [from Design Within Reach]

Eames Molded Plywood Chairs in various finishes

Husband and wife Charles and Ray Eames established their relationship with Herman Miller in 1946 with the design of these molded plywood chairs:

Eames Molded Plywood Chairs

Below we see the chair in a contemporary space, proving that a classic never dies:

Eames Molded Plywood Chair in a modern space

The Molded Plastic Eiffel Side Chair by George and Ray Eames

Over the years, the Eiffel Side Chair has been crafted from a variety of materials. The originals (designed in 1948) were made from metal. In 1950, fiberglass was used to create the chairs, and today’s chairs are made from recyclable polypropylene. The Eiffel Side Chair was originally entered as a prototype in MoMA’s 1948 International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design. It’s hard not to love the eye-catching colors and industrial metal base:

Eames Molded Plastic Chair

This item was the first chair to be mass-produced. As you can see, these pieces still look amazing today in spaces that blend old and new. [from TruexCullins]

Eames Eiffel Side Chair

Molded Plastic Eiffel Side Chairs are sold through a variety of online retailers, including the MoMA Store:

Eames Molded Plastic Chair in a modern office

The Isamu Noguchi Coffee Table

We now feature a table that beautifully merges a wooden base with a glass top. Which is why you probably won’t be surprised to discover that the piece was designed in 1948 by sculptor Isamu Noguchi. [from Herman Miller]

Isamu Noguchi Table

The table has an other-worldly appearance, yet it’s sturdy and solid. A distinct base grounds the piece, while a glass top stands out with its unique form, yet helps reinforce a light and airy feel. Below we see the piece take center stage in a modern living area. [via Houzz]

Noguchi Coffee Table in a modern living space

The Saarinen Tulip Table

Also called the Pedestal Table, the Tulip Table was completed in 1956, originally with a cast aluminum base that was said to be inspired by a drop of liquid. A modern kitchen and dining room staple, Eero Saarinen’s table has become a beloved icon of chic Mid-Century Modern style. In fact, we featured this table in our post profiling the interior design of the hit television show Mad Men.

Saarinen Tulip Table

Today these tables can be purchased from retailers such as Knoll, featuring tops constructed of materials such as marble, granite, laminate and wood. Many have black bases as well. [from David Churchill]

Saarinen Table in a modern kitchen

The Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen

The Egg Chair is a sculptural wonder. Designed in 1958 by Arne Jacobsen, this upholstered piece swivels, and it’s guaranteed to steal the show in any room it inhabits. But perhaps the most delightful aspect of this piece is the way it envelops anyone who takes a seat, creating a sense of comfort and privacy! [from Maxwell Blake]

Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair

The chairs were initially designed for the lobby and reception areas of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. Now they can be found in living rooms across the world. [from Alterstudio]

The Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen

The Egg Chair is a marvel of Danish furniture design. Its Mid-Century style is undeniably popular in today’s world of decor, especially in modern rooms, as well as those that revel in retro flair. [from David Lauer Photography]

Egg Chair in a contemporary space

It’s interesting how many of the pieces above have gone through cycles of popularity. As mentioned, the Wassily Chair, Cesca Chair Eileen Gray Table, and the Le Corbusier LC2 Armchair all experienced a resurgence in the 1980s. They were showcased in modern interiors alongside styles such as ’80s Deco and ’80s minimalist. Do you think these furnishings are all “back” for the long haul, or will some become even more popular in time? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below…

Which one is your favorite?

Kate Simmons

Kate Simmons is a freelance writer and design blogger with a love of all things decor. She spent her childhood writing stories and working on interior design-themed DIY projects. Kate’s published writing reflects her special interest in how design has changed through the decades. Her blog Mirror80 ( http://mirror80.com/) explores the fashion and [...]

You might also like