The Most Important Pieces of Mid-Century Modern Furniture to Know

Mid-century modern is revered because its feels timeless. The aesthetic is marked by clean and simple lines with few extraneous details. Kicking off (roughly) in the 1930s, mid-century modern marked a period when people wanted good-looking furniture at moderate price points. Nowadays, the original designs from this era are hardly affordable, but their swagger lives on. In order of inception, these are 15 of the most iconic mid-century modern pieces of furniture.

Wassily Chair

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Designed by: Marcel Breuer
Year: 1925

Wassily Kandinsky, this chair’s namesake, was the first person to be blessed with seeing Marcel Breuer’s tubular steel chair, the first of its kind. Breuer, a product of the Bauhaus movement, took the standard club chair and pared it down to simple, straight lines. The Wassily chair doesn’t fall squarely into Bauhaus or mid-century modern, and that’s because the chair’s inception came at a time when designers were beginning to transition from the former to the latter.

Buy Now: $2,893

LC3 Grand Modele Armchair

lc3 chair

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Designed by: Charlotte Perriand
Year: 1928

For such a dense and commanding chair, the LC3 is minimal in its design. A tubular steel frame supports a square build, which is thick, plush and inviting. The Le Corbusier group, of which Perriand got her start at, nicknamed the LC3 as a “cushion basket,” an apt name for a chair that is all cushion and little else.

Buy Now: $6,105

Cesca Chair

cesca chair

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Designed by: Marcel Breuer
Year: 1928

Sequels usually suck unless it’s Marcel Breuer following up his Wassily Chair with the Cesca, named after his daughter Francesca. Like the Wassily, the Cesca is made of bent tubular steel and either comes upholstered or finished with wood or cane. The contrast of hard steel and natural materials creates a chair that is both pleasing to look at and nice to sit in.

Buy Now: $931

Barcelona Chair

barcelona chair

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Designed by: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Year: 1929

Designed to sit in a Spanish throneroom, the Barcelona chair is a seat fit for royalty. As it was nearly a century ago, the chair is still made with Spinneyback cowhide leather, an African sapele frame and loving hands.

Buy Now: $6,479

Aalto Stool 60

stack of stools

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Designed by: Alvar Aalto
Year: 1933

Today, the Aalto Stool 60 looks like nothing more than a simple stool. But at its debut in 1933, the Aalto Stool was a breakthrough in the design world. Its three-legged design is fashioned by bending straight, solid birch into an L-shape to give the stool its stability. Available in an array of colors, the Aalto Stool may not elicit the same oohs and aahs as it once did, but if you know, you know.

Buy Now: $238

George Nelson Platform Bench

bench surrounded by plants

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Designed by: George Nelson
Year: 1946

Don’t relegate the Nelson Bench to the seating category. Nelson’s multi-use bench is a seat, table or art piece. The slatted wood top sits on hefty wood legs, making this a presence in any home. The horizontal lines are a reflection of Nelson’s history as an architect, who designed the bench to make a statement without being a statement piece.

Buy Now: $1,195

Noguchi Table

noguchi table in living room setup

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Designed by: Isamu Noguchi
Year: 1948

The Noguchi Table is art you can eat on. Its interlocked legs are formed by two pieces of solid wood topped by a thick plate of glass. As simple as it sounds, the Noguchi table is a beautiful piece of furniture, which leaves everything on the table since there’s no hiding from the transparent tabletop.

Buy Now: $2,295

PP501 The Chair

wegner the chair

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Designed by: Hans Wegner
Year: 1948

Hans Wegner dubbed his PP501 chair “The Round One.” It gained notoriety for being used during the first televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. The made-in-Denmark chairs have some Scandinavian design callbacks like its naturalistic frame and streamlined structure, but Americans adopted a new distinguishing name for the Danish design: The Chair.

Learn More: Here

Eames Shell Chair

array of colorful shell chairs

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Designed by: Charles and Ray Eames
Year: 1950s

There are Shell Chairs, and then there are Eames Shell Chairs. Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen sought to create a lightweight single-piece chair shell. After 11 years of experimenting with materials, Charles and Ray Eames made their now-iconic Shell Chairs from fiberglass. The chairs are currently available in recyclable plastic, eco-fiberglass or molded wood. Tread carefully with knock-offs – there are many.

    Buy Now: $695

    Knoll Sofa

    living room scene seen through window

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    Designed by: Florence Knoll
    Year: 1954

    The Knoll Sofa is clearly the inspiration for the new wave of mid-century modern sofas littering the internet. The Knoll’s streamlined design suits every living room aesthetic, and its no-sag seat suspension gives each sofa the same longevity as its design.

    Buy Now: $9,349

    Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman

    eames lounge chair

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    Designed by: Charles and Ray Eames
    Year: 1956

    Charles and Ray Eames’ eponymous lounge set is arguably the most significant piece of furniture to come out of the mid-century modern era. An updated take on the club chair, the Eames Lounge Chair features a baseball mitt-like shape to fully envelop the body. For over 60 years, this iconic lounger has been the calling card for furniture enthusiasts and those with a little too much cash to spare.

    Buy Now: $7,995

    Marshmallow Sofa

    marshmallow chair

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    Designed by: George Nelson
    Year: 1956

    While it doesn’t resemble your standard Jet-Puffed marshmallow, the Marshmallow sofa does feature similarly soft and squishy round cushions. Each of the 18 cushions is removable for cleaning and interchangeable for ensuring even wear across all cushions. It’s a bit bolder than most mid-century modern furniture, as it acts as a turning point in the design era towards 1960s pop art.

    Buy Now: $5,285

    Pedestal Table

    saarinen dining table

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    Designed by: Eero Saarinen
    Year: 1957

    A farewell to legs. Saarinen’s approach to his pedestal collection was to eliminate the need for furniture legs. The Pedestal Table emits strong sculptural vibes — the stand strongly resembles the shape of molded clay — a result of the designer’s history as a sculptor.

    Buy Now: $4,417

    Egg Chair

    egg chair

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    Designed by: Arne Jacobsen
    Year: 1958

    Arne Jacobsen built the egg so Lady Gaga could one day hatch from her literal egg. Jacobsen created the Egg Chair that leaned more toward modern. The chair’s smooth, sculpted shape sits in contrast to the hard geometric shapes of more typical mid-century modern pieces.

    Buy Now: $8,251

    Shell Chair

    20 armchairs

    Design Within Reach

    Designed by: Hans Wegner
    Year: 1963

    From the front, Wegner’s Shell Chair has an upward curved seat, which is why some dub it “the smiling chair.” The low-profile, three-legged chair is as comfortable as it is beautiful, and it’s found new life as a staple furniture piece in Instagram backgrounds.

    Buy Now: $3,980

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