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9 Iconic Chair Designs from the 1980s

Chair designs in the 1980s were part of a tug of war between postmodernist ideals and functionalist tendencies. A number of icons arose out of both camps, alongside several outliers such as Hans J. Wegner’s Circle Chair.

Cassina 654 Torso

A curiously quirky design by Italian architect and designer Paolo Deganello, the 654 Torso is an asymmetric left or right armchair in one iteration and an armchair with a footrest and tabletop in another. Manufactured by Cassina, the 654 Torso was launched in 1982 and exhibits an air of Memphis Milano.

654 Torso with footrest and tabletop by Paolo Deganello for Cassina. Image © Cassina.
654 Torso chairs by Paolo Deganello. Image © 1stdibs, Inc. 2016.

RELATED: 10 Iconic Chair Designs from the 1970s

Bel Air Chair

Designed by Californian designer and ceramist Peter Shire in 1982 and produced by Memphis Milano, the colourful Bel Air chair meshes Memphis with a West Coast style. Shire drew inspiration from many of California’s cultural symbols, including surfing, hot-rodding and the state’s modern architecture. The Bel Air chair’s asymmetrical back resembles a shark fin, and the seat is a combination of painted wood with coloured cotton fabric.

Bel Air chair. Image courtesy of Peter Shire.
An early Bel Air with the original colours. Image via Tunica.

Costes Chair

Philippe Starck designed the Costes Chair in 1984 for Italian “aesthetic lab” Driade. A cafe-style chair (it was originally designed for the former Cafe Costes in Paris), the Costes Chair consists of an enveloping and embracing wood structure with three legs. It is simple and iconic.

Cafe Costes.
Philippe Starck’s Costes Chair for Driade.
Philippe Starck’s Costes Chair for Driade.

Images courtesy of Driade.

RELATED: 12 Iconic Chair Designs from the 1950s

Queen Anne

Designed by American architect Robert Venturi in 1984 and manufactured by Knoll, the postmodern Queen Anne chair draws inspiration from the eighteenth century original. Venturi’s design, in bent laminated wood, presents a silhouette of the classic Queen Anne style.

The Memphis-esque “Grandmother” pattern applied to the Queen Anne chair was designed by Denise Scott Brown. Image © iCollector.com.
Queen Anne was part of a series of nine chairs created by Robert Venturi for Knoll between 1979 and 1984. The Queen Anne chair is pictured in the middle row, second from right. Image via Daniella On Design.

Well Tempered Chair

Designed by Ron Arad in 1986 for Vitra Editions, the Well Tempered chair is an idiosyncratic piece made using sheet steel. Resembling a classic armchair, Arad’s Well Tempered chair pushes the boundaries of form, structure and comfort. Furthermore, the chair manifests a somewhat alien and robotic countenance.

Well Tempered chair by Ron Arad for Vitra Editions.
Well Tempered chair by Ron Arad for Vitra Editions.

Images courtesy of Wright.

RELATED: 10 Iconic Chair Designs from the 1920s

PP130 Circle Chair

Chair maestro Hans J. Wegner designed the PP130 Circle Chair in 1986 at the age of 72. Manufactured by PP Møbler, the chair’s technical and complex design would test the limits of possibility at PP Møbler’s Allerød-based workshop. In true Wegner fashion, the Circle Chair offers a clean and simple form, despite its complicated design.

PP130 Circle Chair by Hans J. Wegner.
PP130 Circle Chair by Hans J. Wegner.

Images via Skandium.

Plywood Chair

Designed by Jasper Morrison in 1988, the no-nonsense and functional Plywood Chair creation was the antithesis of Postmodernism. Initially made for a Berlin-based installation titled “Some New Items for the Home”, the chair was later produced by Vitra. The Plywood Chair’s gently curving back and legs provide the seat with a sensual countenance.

Plywood Chair. Photo by Studio Frei/ Vitra via Jasper Morrison.

Dr. Glob

Philippe Starck designed the Dr. Glob stacking chair for Kartell in 1988. Made using plastic and tubular aluminium, the chair’s design emerged as a way of combining different materials in order to achieve structural rigidity. A product of the eighties, Dr. Glob is a contemporary seat created in true Starck fashion.

Original Dr. Klob chairs. Image © 2016 Pamono GmbH.
Dr. Klob chair. Image © 2000-2016 SEDIARREDA SRL.


Designed by Italian industrial designer Vico Magistretti for De Padova in 1989, the Silver chair’s design was based on the proportions of the famed Thonet chair. A seating system, Silver is available as a fixed chair with or without armrests, a stackable chair, a swivel chair on castors and a bar-mounted chair.

Silver chair by Vico Magistretti for De Padova.
Silver chair by Vico Magistretti for De Padova.

Images © De Padova 2016.

Gerard McGuickin

Gerard is a writer, a thinker and a modern-day gentleman living in a modish neighbourhood in south Belfast. Walnut Grey Design is his popular manifesto of good design. From Gerard’s discerning perspective, design should be aesthetic, smart, honest and gratifying. Moreover, it must be for keeps. A self-confessed urbanite, Gerard is enthralled b[...]

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