The best way to gain perspective on the aesthetics of a given era is by examining the product designs of the time. To that end, what better piece to examine then one of the most widely-ignored but ever-present? Take a trip down memory lane as we trace the history of modern chairs.
Anonymous, plastic and cheap, the monobloc can be found on many front porches, beachside cabanas and cookouts around the world. A modernist's dream, the chair makes up for its lack of personality with its ability to be mass produced using a minimal amount of materials.
Charles and Ray Eames are two of the most famous chair designers in the world. Their contribution to modern chair design is unparalleled. The Shell chair, which was one of the first industrially-manufactured plastic chairs, comes in a wide variety of styles, including a version with an armrest and an office version (pictured here).
The original Emeco Navy 1006 (pronounced "ten oh six") chair caught the attention of famous modernist architects including Frank Gehry and Norman Foster. Knock-offs can be found worldwide but the authenticity of the Emeco chair is easily verified by finding indentions on the backside of the chair. Today, the company still manufactures the same 77-step design with recycled Coca-Cola bottles. Photo by Armando Bellmas.
Featured in the Stanley Kubrick's stylistic "2001: A Space Odyssey", the Djinn chair, created by French industrial designer Olivier Mourge in 1965, is still a highly-coveted piece in modern interior design.
Eero Aarnio's Ball chair became a modernist staple in the 1960s. Marketed as a "room within a room", this was one of the first chairs that featured a design approach to privacy.
The world's first mass-produced beanbag chair reinvented conventional forms of sitting. The Sacco created by designers Pierro Gatti, Cesare Paolini, and Franco Teodoro has been part of MoMA's permanent collection for over 40 years.
An unorthodox classic, the Mezzadro Seat was invented in 1957 by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni when they decided to attach the seat of a tractor onto a steel bow. The iconic style is part of MoMA's permanent collection and in 2012, the chair was re-issued by The MoMA Store.
Originally famous for designing the Womb Chair, Eero Saarinen created the Armless Tulip Chair in 1956 as part of the Pedestal Collection with the intention to "clear up the slum of legs in the U.S. home". The chair immediately ignited multiple imitations but nothing beats Saarinen's original design which is still manufactured by Knoll.