Everything You Need to Know About 6 of Our Favorite George Nelson Pieces

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By Paige Alexus
Not only did George Nelson design the first pedestrian shopping mall and pioneer modular systems, but he also created an extensive number of products that have become representative of American modernism.

As a designer, teacher, and writer, Nelson saw his work as a series of creative "zaps," which he described as being flashes or sudden realizations that he would translate into design ideas. The first true "zap" occurred in the 1930s when he was studying architecture in Rome. He began traveling Europe in order to interview top architects with the hope of getting his written pieces published. This ended up being one of the best decisions he ever made, as it helped kick off his career. 

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George Nelson is shown here in 1965 sitting in a Sergio Rodrigues armchair in Rio. 

George Nelson is shown here in 1965 sitting in a Sergio Rodrigues armchair in Rio. 

After he became Herman Miller's director of design in 1945, he decided to form his own design firm, George Nelson & Associates. From then on, he created a number of lights, furniture pieces, and everyday objects that have become recognizable icons. Below, we’ve gathered some of our favorites and included everything you need to know—plus, you can even shop them.

Lighting the Way


This archival advertisement features George Nelson’s Ball Pendant Light. The beginning of the caption reads: "Airy, lighthearted ‘Bubbles’ and ‘Net Lights,’ designed by George Nelson, make lamps and lighting fixtures that delight the eyes and warm the heart. Their pleasing shapes are fashioned in sturdy, lightweight steel and a special translucent white plastic."

This archival advertisement features George Nelson’s Ball Pendant Light. The beginning of the caption reads: "Airy, lighthearted ‘Bubbles’ and ‘Net Lights,’ designed by George Nelson, make lamps and lighting fixtures that delight the eyes and warm the heart. Their pleasing shapes are fashioned in sturdy, lightweight steel and a special translucent white plastic."

Putting a Playful Spin on Seating

Nelson Coconut Chair
Nelson Coconut Chair
George Nelson was known for encouraging his protégés to get playful and to experiment when creating their designs. After finishing his studies at the Pratt Institute, George Mulhauser joined his team and presented a sketch that eventually evolved into the Coconut Chair.
Nelson Marshmallow Sofa
Nelson Marshmallow Sofa
There’s nothing else like George Nelson’s Marshmallow Sofa. In 1956, the iconic designer turned a traditional sofa into a bold, playful shape that was extremely forward-thinking for its time.

Taking Everyday Objects to a Whole New Level

Nelson Eye Clock
Nelson Eye Clock
George Nelson created everyday objects in the 1950s with the mission of bringing modern design into American homes. The prolific designer worked with Vitra to create a variety of wall clocks—one of which is an eye shape that’s rendered in brass and walnut.