Sure, you know your Mark Rothko from your Jackson Pollock. But when it comes to modern furniture, do you know the classics? Chair design has long been an arena for designers to compete — it’s pretty much the ultimate challenge of form-meets-function. Though most of us think of these designs as “mid-century” pieces, you might be surprised to learn that some of them were created as early as the 1920’s. These ten chairs aren’t just cool looking, they’re highly recognizable and collectible pieces of functional art. Study up on these ten classics (and our favorite knock-offs) to get the designer edge on planning your next swank living room.

featured image by ashley muir bruhn of hither and tither


Eames Lounge and Ottoman
Designed by Charles and Ray Eames, 1956.

Design Within Reach sells the the real thing for $4,859. But you can get a pretty decent Eames Lounge knockoff from LexMod for around $750.


The “BKF” Butterfly Chair
Designed by Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy, 1938.

Circa50 sells the authentic butterfly chairs that you see at places like the Hotel San Jose in Austin and the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs. The original will run you about $450, but CB2 makes a good butterfly replica for $399.

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The “LC2” Petite Modele Armchair
Designed by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand, 1928.

The original LC2 will run you about $4k from DWR, but Hampton Modern makes a pretty cute LC2 knockoff that you can have for $525.

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The “LCW” Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair
Designed by Charles and Ray Eames, 1946.

The Molded Plywood Lounge Chair is about $1,500 from Design Within Reach, and LexMod makes a nice little version for $103.

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Eero Aarnio Bubble Chair
Designed by Eero Aarnio, 1968.

An original Aarnio Bubble Chair is available on 1st Dibs for around $5k, but Target (who ‘d have thought?!) has a really cute bubble for $1,599.

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Saarinen Tulip Chair
Designed by Eero Saarinen, 1956.

You can deck out your breakfast nook with real Saarinen Tulip Chairs for about $1,500 a pop. But we’re not sure we’d know any better if you had a set of these $129 tulip chairs from Poly & Bark.

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Barcelona Chair
Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1929.

Design Within Reach offers Rohe’s Barcelona Chair for over $5,000, but One King’s Lane has a nice Barcelona-style upholstered chair for $1,299.

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Womb Chair and Ottoman
Designed by Eero Saarinen, 1946.

The real deal Womb Chair set will run you about $3,900 from DWR, but we also dig this little womb replica from Stilnovo for around $1875.

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Louis Ghost Chair
Designed by Phillipe Starck, 2002.

Deck out your dining room with real Louis Ghost Chairs for $450 a piece, or save a buck or two with these imitation ghosts from Modway Furniture for $138.

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Eames Padded Management Chair
Designed by Charles and Ray Eames, 1969.

The Padded Management Chair starts at about $2,400 at DWR, but CB2 makes a pretty cute little management chair they call the “mad chair” for $299.

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4 comments
  1. 1
    Chanel Dror | October 2, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Both the Eames Lounge chair and the Management chair are on my bucket list! When you sink your butt into them you GET why they come with that price tag.

    Reply
  2. 2
    Merry | October 2, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    These are all classics, but there is just something about the Barcelona chair that captured my affections the first time I saw one.

    Reply
  3. 3
    Gabriella | October 3, 2015 at 8:12 am

    I’m all about the ghost and bubble chairs, but that womb chair is calling my name. What a perfect little reading spot that would be!

    Reply
  4. 4
    Andrew | May 6, 2018 at 1:44 am

    Great article! Thanks!

    Reply
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