March 29, 2024

"The 25 Most Defining Pieces of Furniture From the Last 100 Years."

"Three designers, a museum curator, an artist and a design-savvy actress convened at The New York Times to make a list of the most enduring and significant objects for living."

It's the 29th day of the month, but I still have 1 — and only 1 — free access link to the New York Times to give to you: HERE

#1 is the original beanbag chair, the Sacco chair.

#3 is something I actually have: the Le Corbusier Chaise Longue à Réglage Continu. The designers say things like "it addresses how our bodies are meant to sit" and "it’s also comfortable," and that's what I thought looking at it, but the truth is, I almost never sit/recline in it. It doesn't properly take account of how the body sits. Do you want your arms hanging over the edges, like Alexander the Great in his coffin?

Check out the whole list — I bet you have #15 — all on one page, with lots of pictures and explanations.

I want #21 — "Yes, they’re little peens."

Laughed out loud at #22.

Possibly the best furniture article. Better than an entire coffeetable book... about coffeetables (and other tables and chairs and sofas).

49 comments:

Joe Biden, America's Putin said...

I have that cheap white k-mart plastik chair.

tim in vermont said...

"It’s also been read as a taunt lobbed at the male-dominated art scene of the era and the ultimate subversion of a domestic object by a female artist: an armchair overrun with limp penises. "

Probably limp penises were the only kind she was familiar with.

Old and slow said...

I've got the Monoblock, the Ergon, and the Eames side chair, but who doesn't?. I'd have included the Eames Lounge and the Noguchi table.

MadisonMan said...

Of course we have #15. But I'm more fond of the Ghost Chair, even though I've also always thought it looked way too fragile. So I've never purchased it. I'm trying to recall if I saw it in the Design Within Reach catalog at some point. Not sure.

rhhardin said...

Treadmill, bicycle exerciser and rowing machine.

Wince said...

Althouse said...
I want #21 — "Yes, they’re little peens."

"Do you like cigars? Try this one... How did you know I have dry leprosy, that it's not contagious?

I didn't
."

Achilles said...

What are we defining? The person that owns the chair? Certainly not the furniture that is the most popular or used.

"#1 is the original beanbag chair, the Sacco chair."

Nobody uses these except rich old people.

#1 is the couch. #2 is the TV stand. #3 is probably the gaming chair or something similar.

Recliner needs to be in there.

This is just a list of expensive crap with long names to make people feel better than the little poeple. Like owning a prius.

Mr. O. Possum said...

Great book on chairs "Now I Sit Me Down" by the Mr. Mxyzptlk of books Ritold Rybczynski.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

I think it's interesting how so much of the furniture designed pre-1970 has been knocked off over the years, yet the vast majority of the post 1970 designed furniture isn't. (Even to the point that I can remember the Nakashima table being considered one of the trashiest things you could have in your home.)

dbp said...

#6 I would have dented shins for as long as I lived with the Table With Wheels.

#9 I never knew that making the legs the same thickness as the table top was, a thing. I've made 5 different coffee tables, 3 all-wood (birch, cherry and maple) and 2 with inset granite tops. All have this ratio: It just looked right and some of the joinery was easier.

Mr. O. Possum said...

An original 2001 space station Djinn chair was in the news. (And here.

Of course.

Sydney said...

That lounge chair looks like it was designed for gynecology exams.

Kate said...

My mother had a Butaque chair, although I had no idea it was anything special. A little scratchy, to be honest. Thanks for sparking a pleasant memory.

MayBee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R C Belaire said...

Over the years, I've probably made 6 or 7 Parsons Table knock-offs -- some square, some rectangular, some oak, some maple. They're pretty simple/easy to construct, and fit in just about everywhere IMO.

And thanks for supplying the access to the article!

Roger Sweeny said...

My strongest takeaway was how little artists care about the people who actually use their designs (as opposed to fellow designers, critics, professors, and magazine and book assigners).

Ice Nine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whiskeybum said...

#6 - Table with Wheels - really?? A small slab of glass and 4 casters that sits 5 or 6” off of the ground? Looks like a “what can I make with these left-over parts from my IKEA project” piece of furniture.

And the comment in the article refers to it as “high-tech”. It is anything but high tech. It’s a tripping hazard, is what it is.

Temujin said...

I've always loved stylish, well designed furniture and lighting. I don't know why. My love for well designed furniture eventually led me into the industry where I spent my last 25 years working with a couple of manufacturers who made fine furnishings for both high end residential and commercial use. So I loved this post.

Interesting that their approach to this list was this:"The jurors were determined to avoid what Antonelli described as “the usual collectors’ items by white German, French and Italian males with a smattering of women, no Latin American or Black — and very little Asian — representation.”

I was expecting worse. The list was pretty good. I'm sure some White Male Euro designs were left off that have been very influential. But...equity.

That said, I never owned the Le Corbusier Chaise Longue, but I lived with a woman once upon a time who had one. I loved that lounge. I thought it was extremely comfortable. When we split up, she didn't offer it to me as a 'can you now disappear' gift. And though I thought about getting my own, as time went on, I forgot about it. Today I would have no interest in it. But it is still a classic piece.

The manufacturers I actually repped did fine outdoor furniture. Not the stuff you see at Lowes or Home Depot, or Johnnie's Outdoor World. We're talking stunning designs using various interesting and high quality materials. And the designs and actual work was done all over the world. Furniture is most definitely global, international. (and as in most things, the Chinese don't actually get out in front of style or quality, but they are masters at knocking off others work).

Looking at #12, Louis Ghost Chair, by Philipe Starck- it is still the base for so many variations in the outdoor market. Nice ones. It still looks good.
On the other hand, #15, the Monobloc was the bane of my existence. Properties using this chair were not about to look at my book (and our prices). But, this chair and variations on it are still around, still plentiful.

But my favorite on the list is #17, the Butaque Chair by Clara Porset. This design can be found in an occasional upscale resort or hotel. We used to do custom variations on this design, using outdoor materials (synthetic rattan, teak frame). It was and always has been a gorgeous chair.

Ice Nine said...

So #25 Kuramata was a torture chamber designer?

rehajm said...

The Television. Cowards…

…okay, fine. I’ll play by your rules. The Eams chair. Folding director’s chair. The woven web lawn chair…

Gramma had one of those Corbusier recliner things. We’d play astronaut on the launch pad….

rehajm said...

Eames….

wildswan said...

I have a version of the beanbag chair that has a back. It can be easily moved by an older person to catch the sun in different parts of the room. And I have wood-frame, glass-topped dining, flower-holding, working table. In the garden I have some of those plastic chairs for overflow company but they are real lawn killers, driving right through grass. However I loved "the imitation is the original" as a description of them.
I didn't think the women contributed much, though I liked to see their ideas. They mostly seemed to be versions of "a tiger skin in front of the fire" as in The Pink Panther. Yourself and a man and a surface. Well, it's certainly a classic design.
The other thing the women were contributing was upscale furniture for sitting on a patio, or maybe eating there with friends. Again, the chairs looked great but weren't they just versions of bamboo patio furniture? - which I didn't see mentioned.
I have some coil-spring chairs which I use inside to help my back. Someday, someone will realize that coil-spring chairs help your back because when you shift in the chair you are slightly bouncing and moving your muscles instead of slightly compressing your spine. Over time for an older person with weaker bones, this helps keep your spine uncompressed. There is a fortune waiting for the person who grasps this and designs affordable indoor coil-spring chairs. The ones I use are really patio chairs and are a bit incongruous. But over time they've saved my back and they are all that is available.

rehajm said...

Never realized Rubens was talking to gays. I thought he was just being funny…

wildswan said...

I have a version of the beanbag chair that has a back. It can be easily moved by an older person to catch the sun in different parts of the room. And I have wood-frame, glass-topped dining, flower-holding, working table. In the garden I have some of those plastic chairs for overflow company but they are real lawn killers, driving right through grass. However I loved "the imitation is the original" as a description of them.
I didn't think the women contributed much, though I liked to see their ideas. They mostly seemed to be versions of "a tiger skin in front of the fire" as in The Pink Panther. Yourself and a man and a surface. Well, it's certainly a classic design.
The other thing the women were contributing was upscale furniture for sitting on a patio, or maybe eating there with friends. Again, the chairs looked great but weren't they just versions of bamboo patio furniture? - which I didn't see mentioned.
I have some coil-spring chairs which I use inside to help my back. Someday, someone will realize that coil-spring chairs help your back because when you shift in the chair you are slightly bouncing and moving your muscles instead of slightly compressing your spine. Over time for an older person with weaker bones, this helps keep your spine uncompressed. There is a fortune waiting for the person who grasps this and designs affordable indoor coil-spring chairs. The ones I use are really patio chairs and are a bit incongruous. But over time they've saved my back and they are all that is available.

Narr said...

I don't know about Kuramata but Wassily must have been hoping for a contract from the Gestapo or NKVD when he designed his famous implement.

David53 said...

No electric recliners? I’m disappointed.

hawkeyedjb said...

Right up there with "the 25 most exciting things that happened in Canada."

MayBee said...

No Eames Lounge? No Barcelona? No lazy boy?

Zavier Onasses said...

Many chairs. Many downright ugly and/or impractical appearing.

Missing is the kneeling chair. After double hernia repair ca. 2000, sitting in a conventional chair beyond 20 minutes was intolerable. Ninety deg. angle between torso and legs compressed the groin impeding fluid flow and healing.

No one else in the office understood or liked the chair, but it allowed me to keep working at a normal desk.

Web search pops up generous variety for sale, so there is a modicum of demand. I would rank the kneeling chair above some of the expensive and impractical atrocities shown - unless expensive and impractical is the defining essence of furniture in the last 100 years.

Ralph L said...

I had a high quality beanbag in bright yellow in the 70s. It was quite comfortable--until I overheated. My skin can't deal with synthetic materials.

NeggNogg said...

It's interesting how many of them are just goddam ugly.

stlcdr said...

Form and function meet with Modular shelving and the 'monobloc' plastic chair. They are with us, today, with very little change.

victoria said...

I am now, and always have been a huge fan of Nakashima. To see him immortalized in this article is perfection.

Vicki from Pasadena

PM said...

That was a nice walk, thanks.

Oligonicella said...

Anyone designing a chair w/o arm rests doesn't like people.

I always envision them as prunes sitting bolt-upright with their hands neatly tucked into each other nestled protectively atop their groins.

gilbar said...

my parents bought #7 for my bedroom back in the mid '70's
it wasn't very practical (you had to completely empty a shelve to move it (and have 2 other people to help)

Oligonicella said...

hawkeyedjb:
Right up there with "the 25 most exciting things that happened in Canada."

Almost did a spit take on that.

Rabel said...

True story.

Older fellow in the locker room at my gym sat down naked in one of those monoblock plastic chairs. When he tried to stand up his scrotum had slipped down between the slats which spread when he was sitting and returned to form when he tried to stand.

He could not free himself and was in considerable pain. Others had to assist. Close personal contact was necessary.

Just glad it wasn't me - either as the principal or the assistant.

Leland said...

Number 5 is common but no longer safe with just 4 legs; you need 5.

Like most listicles, you can always argue about what is in and out, but this one seems to include "defining pieces" that are quite common and way too many that are not, such as 12. It barely lasted a decade. What did it influence? Cheap plastic patio furniture? If so, 15 did it better.

21, if you had a similar thing with slightly shorter and wider lumps and bumps, you could call them boobs and it would still be a sexual armchair.

My dad bought something like 23, but instead of "cylinders", it had two square pads. It sat the same.

They didn't pick 25 to pad the list to 25, and I don't see how it belongs. I'll tell you two items not included that do belong: The steelcase desk and the metal swing arm desk lamp.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Influential? They're kidding, right? At least half of them disappeared without a trace.

And...no Swedish Modern? (Mid-century modern, in today's parlance.)

rehajm said...

Oh good lord. Cannot unsee Rabel’s story.

Larry Sellers said...

This list must have been produced by Communists. They begrudgingly included one Eames chair?

Larry Sellers said...

This list must have been produced by Communists. They begrudgingly included one Eames chair?

Lawnerd said...

I have a secret to share. If you enter the url of a NY Times article into google translate, (the aspect that translates entire web pages) it bypasses the subscription lockout and you can read the “translated” article. Works with many other subscription based websites and online news papers.

FleetUSA said...

A must visit (even just on the web) is Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France. Classic pristine beauty using light and form.

Michael said...

What a lot of foolishness. Showing off how clever they are. Epater la bourgeois! We’ll stick with modern Stickley, thank you.

Smilin' Jack said...

Reading this from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy gave me a few chuckles.

Bob said...

I'm disappointed that Salvador Dali's Mae West Lips Sofa didn't make the cut.