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Modern Furniture, by the glittering simplicity and geometry of polished metal, shaped plywood, rustic wood, plastic, composite fibers, glass, and an ever-increasing range of new materials, is a tremendous departure from all furniture design that had existed before it. Ultra modern furniture made a clean break from dark or gilded carved wood and richly patterned fabrics to give way to sleek minimalist lines, functional designs, and intelligent use of contemporary materials. Prior to the modernist design movement, there was a clear emphasis on furniture as ornament and the Modern movement sought a clean break from centuries of design tradition and focused on newness, originality, and technical innovation to produce furniture that is both beautiful, cool, and functional.
Modernist design seems to have evolved out of a combination of influences: technically innovative materials and manufacturing methods. Modern Furniture has been heavily influenced by iconic pieces by designers whose names would become synonymous with innovation, modernism, mid-century and contemporary design. Famous designers like Heywood Wakefield, Herman Miller, Marcel Breuer, Hans Knoll, Florence Knoll, Vladimir Kagan, Jan and Ton Sanders, and Ray Eames, are names that are most often associated with modern furniture, contemporary furniture, or mid-century modern furniture.
It is a century since many of the high priests of Modernism were born, but at last, we are fulfilling their visions of living in well-designed, simple interiors that are furnished with elegant yet affordable modern furniture, modern lighting, and modern home décor. The taste for all modern furniture is as varied as the designs themselves. For some people, the objects of greatest appeal are the experiments in tubular-steel furniture, the so-called industrial aesthetic, of the Bauhaus designers; for others it is the sculptural and beautifully crafted designs in wood that are associated with the Scandinavians; and there are those who prefer the colourful plastics of the Popera, or perhaps the work of just a single designer.
Marcel Breuer's Wassily chair, is perhaps one of the most iconic furniture designs of all times. He designed the Wassily Chair, also known as the Model B3 chair, while he was the head of the cabinet-making workshop at the famous Bauhaus, in Dessau, Germany. The design of the chair is most interesting in that it is a symmetrical abstraction of wafer thin, geometric planes that appears to be suspended in space. The magic of this is sublime design is to be primarily attributed to Breuer's ingenious use of lightweight tubular steel and minimalist leather straps.
Another highly influential designer is Eileen Gray and her iconic side table designed as a bedside table for the guest room in E-1027, the home she designed for herself (and Jean Badovici) in Cap Martin, France. The asymmetry of this piece is characteristic of her "non-conformist" design style in her architectural projects and furniture. In addition to its fascinating design, this piece also has specific utility: it is height adjustable in order to eat breakfast in bed on it, a request made by Gray's sister during her visits to E-1027.
The Barcelona chair, which has come to represent the Bauhaus design movement in modern furniture, is considered by many to be functional art, rather than a simple piece of furniture. Designed by Mies Van Der Rohe and Lilly Reich in 1929 for an international design fair in Barcelona, it is said to have been inspired by both the folding chairs of the Pharaohs, and the X-shaped footstools of the Romans.
Another iconic piece of modern or contemporary furniture is the Noguchi coffee table, designed by Isamu Noguchi, a sculptor, architect, landscape, and modern furniture designer. Half American, half Japanese, he is famous for his modern Noguchi Coffee Table, recognized by its unique and unmistakable simplicity. Both refined and natural, the Noguchi coffee table is one of the most sought after pieces associated with the all modern classic furniture movement.
Charles-édouard Jeanneret, famously known as Le Corbusier is most recognized for iconic pieces like the "Basculant" (LC-1), the "Fauteuil grand confort, petit modèle" (LC-2, "great comfort sofa, small model"), the "Fauteil grand confort, grand modèle" (LC-3, "great comfort sofa, large model"), and the "Chaise longue" (LC-4, "Long chair", English: "chaise lounge"). The LC-2 and LC-3 are more often referred to as the petit confort and grand confort.
The No. 3316 Aeeget Arne Jacobsen 1957, known as the Egg chair, is one of the most influential post-war furniture designs. Since its conception in 1957, it has remained one of the most popular designs in the modern furniture world. The form of the egg chair is similar to Eero Saarinen's Womb Armchair of 1946, a chair designed with the human form in mind, a vision of modern ergonomics. The Womb chair envelops the person and creates a safe and comfortable place to curl up and relax in.