Top 10: Mid-century modern chairs
Our top 10 favourite mid-century modern chairs### 1) Arne Jacobsen’s ‘Drop’ chair
Designed in 1958 , the drop chair is minimalist and futuristic, almost Dali-esque, like a teardrop moulded into a seat. They were commissioned for the bar and bedrooms of the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. Examples have sold for between $5,000 and $30,000 at auction in the past.
Jacobsen also designed the Egg chair and the Swan chair for the hotel the same year. All these designs were manufactured by Republic of Fritz Hansen.
2) Borge Mogensen’s Hunting chair
This unusual chair was created in 1950 for the autumn exhibition of the Copenhagen Cabinetmakers’ Guild, which had a theme of ‘The Hunting Lodge’. It is a low easy chair, almost like a deck chair with an oak frame, and a piece of leather stretched over forming the seat and back. Examples have sold at auction for $4,000 to $22,000.
3) Charles and Ray Eames Lounge chair and Ottoman
Designed in 1956 by designer couple Charles and Ray Eames, and manufactured by the Herman Miller furniture company, this Lounge chair is composed of three curved plywood shells. It is celebrated for being comfortable and versatile. While the chairs are still manufactured today, it is generally original vintage examples that collectors seek. These have sold for as much as $7,500 at auction in the past, but the majority fetch around $3,500.
4) Eero Saarinen’s Grasshopper chair.
The Grasshopper chair embodies the mid-century modern theme of natural forms coupled with sleek lines and geometric shapes. Saarinen strove to design a reclined, relaxing chair, which also provides support. The Grasshopper was the first chair Saarinen designed for Florence Knoll to manufacture. Vintage examples generally fetch around $3,000-$5,000 at auction.
5) Finn Juhl’s Chieftain chair
The Chieftain chair, designed in 1949, is one of Juhl’s most important and memorable pieces, a chair which changed the future of Danish design. It employed shapes inspired by primitive weaponry, and the seat appears suspended above the frame. Fewer than 100 of these chairs were made initially, but like most of Juhl’s designs, were mass produced later in his career. Most of the Chieftains on the market will therefore be these later productions. While not originals, these were still produced within the heyday of mid-century modern design, and sell for anywhere between $3,000 and $32,500.
6) George Nelson’s Coconut chair
The 1955 Coconut chair looks, as the name implies, like a chunk of coconut. The outer shell is generally white, while the inside leather or fabric cushion was produced in a variety of colours. This chair, along with other Nelson designs, changed the face of American furniture. The Herman Miller Company still produce them today. Original examples fetch around $2,000- $7,000.
7) Hans Olsen’s Bikini chair
Hans Olsen is the wild card in this list, as he is lesser known that other designers from this time and was not part of the mainstream Danish modern furniture school. His 1960s design the Bikini chair deserves a place here for its stylish and sleek form, using bent laminated wood coupled with two pieces of upholstery, leading to the humorously apt comparison with a bikini. It is a bonus that the chair is not as well known as some other mid-century modern chair designs, as original examples are thus very affordable, generally under $3,000.
8) Hans Wegner’s Swivel chair
A rare model from Hans Wegner, the master of Danish chair design, is his Swivel chair. It was designed in 1955 and manufactured by Johannes Hansen. The chair combines wood with chrome pipes and a leather or fabric seat, and a low back rest which indicates Wegner’s consideration of the ergonomics of his design. Originals generally sell for $12,000-$39,000 at auction.
9) Harry Bertoia’s Diamond chair
Artists and sculptor Bertoia created this remarkable chair in 1952. He bent chrome wire, an industrial material, into a work of ‘sublime grace’, turning utility into a work of art. Astonishingly these chairs can be found for under $1,000, and usually no more than $3,000.
10) Verner Panton’s ‘S’ chair
Panton’s ‘S’ chair was one of the most revolutionary chair designs in history. The idea was to create a chair from a single piece of material, and also to make the chairs stackable and therefore easily stored, fitting perfectly into one another. His S shaped moulded plywood chair, created circa 1956, was the first stackable chair. It was followed in 1967 by the Panton chair, made of a single piece of moulded plastic.
Original wooden S chairs have two dates of manufacture: 1956 and 1965. A 1965 example sold for $8,000 at auction in 2006, a 1956 example sold for $52,000 in 2005. Both were manufactured by A. Sommer and distributed by Thonet. Plastic Panton chairs can be picked up for a few hundred dollars.
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