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Golden age: iconic chairs of the 1950s

 

Though the chair has been with us for eons, it underwent a transformation during the 1950s. Led by European and American designers, this “Golden Age” saw chair designs that were revered and still in mass use almost 70 years later. Take a look at 4 of these iconic chairs - you might even recognise some of them!A Golden Age of Interior Design

Chair Fact 1: Chairs get their name from the 13th-century French word “chaere”.

That means, despite their existence long before their naming, chairs have only been known as “chairs” fairly late in human existence.

Chair Fact 2: Did you know that chairs aren’t mentioned in the Bible once?

Although uncommon, chairs were a part of many ancient civilisations. The Egyptians used seats as a sign of status. The Greeks made a seat used by everyone and anyone. And through the ages, the humble chair changed and evolved with each society.

As the world recovered from the tragedy of the Second World War, interior design would take the chair through another revolution. Designers emerged with stunning creations, transforming largely functional furniture into masterpieces accessible to anyone. In particular, the 1950s were a “golden age” of iconic chair design, and their influence is still felt today.

Today, we’re going to examine four of the most iconic chairs devised during that decade in the mid-twentieth century.

Eames Lounge Chair

Officially titled Eames Lounge (670) and often accompanied by the Ottoman (671), the Eames Lounge Chair is an instantly recognisable classic.

Inspired by the Traditional English Club Chair - a full, comfortable leather armchair - the Eames Lounge follows a similar design. It’s generous shape and luxurious comfort embodies the American spirit of the mid-50s.

It took years of development from Charles and Bernice “Ray” Eames - a husband and wife designer team in the US - before the lounge went into production in 1956. It debuted on an NBC Home show that year. This iconic chair been in continuous production ever since and remains just as popular.

Fun Fact: Despite appearances in “Frasier” and “House”, perhaps its biggest claim to fame is that Robert Downey Jr reclines in an Eames Lounge Chair while pondering during “Iron Man 2”.

Tulip Chair

Another 1956 creation, the Tulip Chair is as opposite to the Eames Lounge as a fish is to a bird - other than that they’re both animals, everything else is different.

An iconic chair that would’ve been at home in the 1960s spacey Jetsons cartoon, the single stalk design tackled the messy “slum of legs”, as Saarinen considered them. His grand plan was to mould the chair as a single piece of fibreglass, but it wasn’t strong enough to use as a base. The result: an aluminium base with fibreglass upper body, coated in a finish to make the chair look a single unit.

The chair was the brainchild of Eero Saarinen, a Finnish American architect and industrial designer (who collaborated with Charles Eames on at least one occasion). And although the Tulip Chair is still a classic to this day, his best known work is actually the St. Louis Arch.

Fun Fact: with its futuristic curves and use of artificial materials, the Tulip Chair was considered “space age” by many.

Teddy Bear Chair

Designed in 1951 by none other than the “Master of Chairs”, Hans Wegner - the Teddy Bear Chair is another of Wegner’s fuller designs. Its name comes from the expansive shape and armrests that are almost like big “bear paws”, hugging those who sink into it.

Produced for 18 years, the Teddy Bear Chair then was taken out of circulation for decades before production resumed in the early 2000s. Like the Eames Lounge Chair, the Teddy Bear Chair (otherwise known as the Papa Bear Chair) is often accompanied by an Ottoman.

Fun Fact: this iconic chair was one of the first post-Second World War to be fully-upholstered.

(Golden) Egg Chair

In this “golden era” of interior design, no other iconic chair lives up to the name like the Golden Egg Chair, a 50th anniversary counterpart to the Egg Chair.

Conceived in 1958, the Egg Chair was designed specifically for the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, which still use them today. Arne Jacobsen, another leader in the “Danish Modern” movement, designed the curves of the chair as a deliberate contrast to the “straight line” surfaces which dominated the building.

But that’s not the only interesting place this iconic chair has popped up. As a result of their up-market appeal, McDonald’s have used them in their European restaurants to attract more sophisticated customers.

Its enduring popularity led to a 50th anniversary edition known as the Golden Egg Chair.

Fun Fact: the Egg Chair was used by Will Ferrell when he sat in his cavernous office in “Zoolander”.

So there you have it: 4 of the most iconic chairs created in the midst of the mid-century modern movement. All were different specimens of our humble chair, yet all were critically and commercially lauded for their boldness.

Do you have a favourite chair design? And if not, did one of these strike a chord with you?