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Classic and Modern Designers Throughout History

Classic and Modern Furniture Designers Header

Furniture design has changed much throughout history, as society attitudes, and the innovations of designers have made different types and fashions of furniture possible. From classical Victorian, and Post-Victorian furniture, to today’s modern furniture designers have shaped how we live through their impact on where we live, work, and play. The following are the key designers from the 20th century who’ve impacted furniture design.

1900-1909

  • Chair by Charles R Mackintosh 1903Charles Rennie Mackintosh – Charles Rennie Mackintosh created the Glascow Style of design. Charles was originally an architect, but in an era where most such endeavors were commissioned he began to incorporate his style both into architecture and complimentary furnishings, as well as sculpture.
  • Marcel Lajos Breuer – Marcel Breuer was born in the Hungarian city Pecs, in 1902. Marcel both studied and later taught at Bauhaus. Marcel was one of the early modernists, moving furniture design away from Classical, and Victorian style influences.
  • Josef Hoffmann – Josef Hoffmann was an Austrian architect, designer, and a draftsman. He is widely recognized for his groundbreaking and artistic chairs; many of which are now in museums. He was known for working largely on intuition rather than planning out designs. 
  • The Stickley Brothers – Still a recognized leader in quality furniture today, the Stickley Brothers, Albert, Charles, Gustav, John, Leopold, began by manufacturing wood furniture in Upstate NY. The Stickleys began simply working to assemble furniture in their Uncle’s business and moved on to each define themselves with their own designs. The Stickley Company remains a recognized leader in designer furniture today.

1910-1919

  • Chair by Frank Lloyd Wright 1903Frank Lloyd Wright – Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect and interior designer. He is also well known as an educator in the field of design during his lifetime. He pioneered the movement now known as the Prairie School of architecture. He was also instrumental in developing the concept of Usonian homes. During his career he designed everything from rooms to skyscrapers, and was known for his attention to the interiors of the buildings he worked on as an architect.
  • Gerrit Rietveld – Gerrit Reitveld was a Dutch Minimalist architect, and also a well-known designer. As a boy, Gerrit, contracted to design furniture for local clients. When he left his father’s shop in 1917, his designs took on their own style, and launched his design, and minimalism career.
  • Eileen Gray – Eileen Gray was born in Ireland in 1878, and became a well-known furniture designer. Her influence on furniture design was well established in its day, and prevails in current furniture design. Known primarily for her interior design, and private personality, she also was an accomplished artist having completed more than 45 architectural projects during her lifetime.
  • Jean Badovici – Jean Badovici was born in 1893 in Romania, and studied architecture, and worked as an architecture critic in Paris. Jean was an editor for the French avant-garde architecture magazine L’Architecture Vivante. While his own designers were few, he worked extensively with other designers like Eileen Gray, and had a dramatic impact on design and architecture throughout his career.

1920-1929

  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Germany in 1886, and was a well-known architect and designer. He was more often referred to by his surname Mies by his colleagues. He sought minimalist and modern designs which he felt were representative of the post-World War I era.
  • Charlotte Peeiand – Charlotte Perriand was born in France, and went on to become a well-known designer in Paris. Her first known collection was called ‘Bar Under the Roof’, and consisted of anodized aluminum, and chromed steel. She is known both for her career, as well as her debut at Salon d’Automne in 1927.
  • Charles-Édouard Jeanneret – Charles-Édouard Jeanneret was born in 1887 in Switzerland. Better known as Le Corbusier during his career, he became a pioneer in both International Style, and Modern Architecture. A large amount of his work was dealing with the design requirements of residents living in crowded cities. 
  • William Edward Cook – William Edward Cook was an expatriate from America who lived in Russia, Rome, Paris, as well as Majorca Island. He is best known as a patron of architecture, and design. He was an early patron of Le Corbusier.

1930-1939

  • Alvar Aalto – Avar Aalto was a Finnish Designer and Architect, born in Finland, who moved to Helsinki. He was most involved with Nordic Classicism, and International Style.
  • Jean Prouvé – Jean Prouvé was a self-taught architect & designer from France. He began as a metalworker, and contributed in applying manufacturing technology to aesthetic architecture. Rather than adopting a specific discipline, Jean established himself in architecture, interior design, an industrial design.
  • Hans Coray – Was a Swiss furniture designer, and also artist. Hans was born in Wald, Zurich and completed a doctorate in Romance languages. He is considered a pioneer in industrial design, and known for the simplicity of his model.
  • Jorgé-Ferrari Hardoy – Jorgé-Ferrari Hardoy was an Argentinian artist and designer. Jorgé studied city planning with Le Corbussier. He was active in design, architecture, and city planning throughout his lifetime. 

1940-1949

  • Eero Saarinen – Eero Saarinen was a Finnish American architect, and designer. He was born Finland in 1910 on his father’s birthday. As an architect he designed the St. Louis Gateway. His tulip chair was used as the design basis for the original Star Trek television series.
  • Chaise Lounger by Charles and Ray Eames
  • George Nelson – George Nelson was an American writer, architect, and designer from Oklahoma. George was born in 1908, and was one of American Modernism’s founders.
  • Charles & Ray Eames – Charles & Ray Eames were well known American furniture designers, especially known for the Eames Lounge chair and ottoman which was featured in several films.
  • Gottlieb Saarinen – Gottlieb Saarinen was born in Finland, and latter migrated to America. While in Finland, he was the architect of Helsinki railroad station. He designed several headquarters for American companies, including the well-known Tribune building, which is the headquarters of the Chicago Tribune.

1950-1959

  • Gió Ponti – Gió Ponti was an Italian designer, and publisher. He was also a very well established designer of furniture, and industrial designer. He is known for his Monument to the Fallen. He was a major architect behind many buildings in Milan.
  • Swan Chair by Arne Jacobson 1958
  • Harry Bertoia – Harry Bertoia was also a well-known furniture designer from Italy. He was born in San Lorenzo in 1915. He began his career in 1939, opening a metal shop, and teaching jewelry design. In 1950 he moved to Pennsylvania, setting up a studio there. He is famous for his ‘Diamond chair’ sculptor of lattice and molded metal work.
  • Arne Jacobsen – Arne Jacobsen was a Danish architect and designer. He is mostly known for the Danish Modern style of architecture. In architecture he was a proponent of functionism. He applied the concepts of functionism to his popular chair designs.
  • Isamu Noguchi – Isamu Noguchi was a Japanese American landscaper, architect, and designer. He is known for many public sculptures. One famous sculpture, featured at the New York World’s Fair, was designed using parts from Ford cars. 

1960-1969

  • Verner Panton – Verner Panton was born in Denmark in 1926. Verner was one of the most influential furniture and interior designers in Denmark, and heavily influenced sixties styles. Many of his models are still in production since this era of style has regained appeal.
  • Robin Day – Robin Day, who is best known for his injection molded polypropylene stacking chair, which is still popular and in production, was a 1960s furniture designer. Robin was born in England in 1915. The chair he designed has won the title of a ‘British Design Classic’.
  • Eero Aarnio – Born in 1932, Eero Aarnio was a well-known furniture designer during the 60s. He is known especially for his circular chairs, especially his ‘bubble chair’ but did a lot of variations using circular and spherical designs, and red-white colors.
  • Joe Colombo – Joe Colombo was of the most influential Italian Designers during the 1960s. While beginning as an artist, he moved into interior design early in his career. He distinguished himself with his ‘Elda Chair’, and also with flexible living spaces.

1970-1979

  • Ettore Sottsass – Ettore Sottsass was an Italian architect, industrial designer, and furniture designer. He began by creating industrial designs for office furniture, and typewriters, but eventually decided that consumer product, and corporate policies limited him creatively. Much of his later work dealt with textiles, and lighting.
  • Rodney Kinsman – Rodney Kinsman was popular British furniture designer ad interior designer. He’s best known for sets of chairs that he designed. His Omstak chair was an enormous commercial success, and one of the defining furniture of the era.
  • Paolo Deganello – Paolo Daganello, an Italian furniture designer, was known for chairs, and other furniture. He is especially known for polyurethane foam designs.
  • David Mellor – David Mellor was a British designer, known for contemporary furniture designs. He was born in 1930, and the company he founded continues to be on the cutting edge of furniture design. He is probably best known for his Abacus 700.

1980-1989

  • Philippe Starck – Philippe Starck was born in France in 1949, he is an active leader in furniture, and especially, industrial design even today. His early projects include things like the Microsoft Optical Mouse. Recently he designed the Virgin Galactic Spaceport in New Mexico.
  • Mirror Balls by Tom Dixon
  • Mario Bellini – Mario Bellini is an established architect and designer. Born in 1935, in Italy, he has worked for several established design firms. He also worked for many years with the Manhattan Museum of Modern Art.
  • Tom Dixon – Tom Dixon is a prominent furniture, and industrial designer. Tom Dixon dropped out of the Chelsea School of Art to play bass guitar. Latter he taught himself welding and began designing furniture. He has won several awards both for design and lighting.
  • Shiro Kuramata – Shiro Kuramata is a leading designer from Japan, and one of Japan’s best known post war designers. Born in 1934, he is known for his use of wire and mesh designs, as well as the use of Lucite, a strong plastic material. In addition to industrial designs, he has designed many pieces of furniture.

1990-1999

  • Jasper Morrison – Jasper Morrison is a leading designer from London, England. He holds a Masters degree in design from the Royal College of Art in London. Jasper has established himself as an interior designer, furniture designer.
  • Ron Arad – Ron Arad is an Israeli furniture and industrial designer. Ron was born in 1951 in Tel Aviv. He designed the bookshelf Bookworm which is still marketed today by Italian company Kartell. Most recently he has worked with lighting for Crystal maker Swarovski.
  • Donald Chadwick – Donald Chadwick is known for his modern furniture, especially chairs. Born is Los Angeles, in 1936, he began as an architect working for Victor Gruen, but founded his own company in 1964. In the 90s he was best known as co-creator of the Aeron Chair.
  • Ronan & Erwan Buroullec – Ronan & Erwan Buroullec are known for their ‘Spring Chair. The pair is from Brittany, a settlement in North West France. Most of their work feature ornate woodworking that mimics tree and plat shapes.

2000-2009

  • Johnathan Ive – Johnathan Ive is a leading current industrial designer. Johnathan Ive is best known for his work with Apple Industrial Design Group, an internal division within Apple, Inc. Johnathan Ive was instrumental in the design of several iconic Apple products including the original iMac, the original iPod, and the new iPhone & iPad products.
  • I A Keer – I A Keer is an American Designer focusing on the ‘Art of the Future’. Keer’s award winning designs, and pieces, have been marketed all over the world. Keer is very active in the American Furniture Society.  
  • Issac Mizrahi – Issac Mizrahi, born in 1961, is a well-known fashion, and interior designer. Formerly he was the creative director for Liz Claiborne. Best known for his show for Style TV, he has also worked extensively with collections for companies like Target. 
  • Angelo Surmelis – Angelo Surmelis is a famous furniture and interior designer. He is well known also as a host on channels like Home TV. He has worked in design since 1995, and lives now in Los Angeles. He is German born, and has also designed several movie sets.

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