Sometimes, an iconic piece of furniture comes along and changes everything around us. If a painting is meant to be looked at and fashion meant to be worn, furniture is meant to be lived in—slept in, worked in, sat in. It dictates how we interact with our surrounding spaces, how we go about our every day. Even during the most mundane moments: George Nelson’s collection for Herman Miller, for example, created the template for cubicles, now omnipresent in office buildings around America.
But what are these pieces that have not only entered our homes but our collective consciousness? Vogue asked 22 interior designers and professionals to find out. Their answers ranged from the simple farm table to Gaetano Pesce’s Space Age-esque Up chair. Some of them are akin to priceless works of art: Take Yves Klein’s Table IKB. In 1961, Klein painted a canvas with International Klein Blue, a colour he invented himself. (The work now sits in MoMA.) Two years later, after the artist’s death, his widow shepherded a coffee table filled with the same ultramarine pigment to market, based on the late artist’s prototype. Yet, unlike fine art, design is a medium where form almost always follows function: You can still set your coffee mug upon a Table IKB—although we’d recommend a coaster.
Below, a list of the most iconic furniture designs in history, as chosen by the experts.
This iconic cocktail table was done by Yves Klein, one of the most influential, prominent, and controversial French artists to emerge in the 1950s, also known as a forerunner of Minimal art as well as Pop art. Klein’s table is similar to his suspended pigment pieces, which were the genesis for this piece. The form of the table is very simple, very elegant, and meant really to disappear. The pigment is all. And since the pigment is loose, it does invite comparison to Klein’s belief in pure space: The eye penetrates what seems to be a limitless depth. Yves Klein is remembered above all for his use of a single colour, the rich shade of ultramarine that he made his own: International Klein Blue. His table has become one of the most iconic and recognizable pieces of furniture transcending into art of the 20th and 21st centuries. —Gilles Clement, Gilles Clement Designs
Vladimir Kagan is one of my favorite furniture designers from the 20th century. His mid-century modern pieces defined the curves of the era. In my own modern projects, curves tend to soften the sharp lines of the architecture, adding warmth and personality to the space. His stunning serpentine sofa is as relevant today as ever and still one of my favorite upholstery pieces. —Sara Cukerbaum, Principal Designer of SLIC Design
The Wiggle Chair by Frank Gehry is hands down one of my favorite design pieces ever. It’s simple, sturdy, yet so playful in look, and I absolutely adore the experimental nature of using cardboard—it truly epitomises design in perpetuity. It’s also a study on how to use more environmentally-friendly materials. —Kelly Wearstler
George Nakashima’s New lounge chair is an iconic example of American-Japanese design. Through the use of a free-form arm, which accentuates the wood’s natural characteristics, he reveals nature’s beauty. The form of the chairs and the hand-carved spindles are a reference to a traditional American design, the Windsor chair. —Robert Aibel, founder and codirector of Moderne Gallery
Innovative: all foam. Designed for delivery as a flat pack—open the box, and the chair grows out of a flat disc. So cool. —Robert Finger, Fogarty Finger
The first time I saw Herman Miller’s historic Eames Lounge in person was when I was a young girl. At the time, I was too young to fully comprehend the timeless, transcendent heritage of this high-quality lounger, but my age did not prevent me from recognizing the Eames chair had strength in presence. I knew it was something beyond special.—Keita Turner, Keita Turner Design
The use of humble materials to create elegant and iconic pieces of furniture is extremely hard to do. Charlotte Perriand was able to create beautiful, functional furniture with as little design as possible. I personally am very attracted to this approach to design, and Perriand’s work continues to speak to me and help shape what I do. This philosophy is particularly effective when designing large-scale hotel projects (like she did for Les Arcs) as it allows you to convey something interesting and elegant to guests without opulence. —Robert McKinley, Studio McKinley
Angelo Mangiarotti’s Eros side tables are as good as it gets. You couldn’t invent anything more primitive—just two pieces of stone, held together by friction without any fasteners or attachments—but the way that the attachment is detailed makes a very basic idea into something whimsical, even sensual. —Nicholas G. Potts
Noguchi’s lanterns are potentially my favorite items to use in almost every project. Made with traditional Japanese craft techniques, the lanterns are made of a wire structure and a rice-paper envelope, which gives them a beautiful glow of light. Though they have been used so many times, they still manage to keep their iconicity. Perhaps it’s their modesty, low price, uniformity, and simplicity that makes it easy for a designer to integrate them into almost every project. —Noam Dvir and Daniel Rauchwerger, BoND
The klismos chair is undoubtedly one of the design world’s most iconic pieces, having been reintroduced into interiors repeatedly for over a thousand years, starting with its great ancient Greek beginnings. It was first seen in fifth-century B.C. depictions of the furniture on vases and bas reliefs and later in similar views on Roman pottery and etchings. The chair fell out of fashion for hundreds of years; however, during the second neoclassical revival, it returned with great aplomb, dressing the drawing rooms and salons of all fashionable society from the 1780s till the late 1830s. At the turn of the 20th century, the Villa Kerylos in the South of France led the fashion again for Grecian-inspired interiors, and the klismos hit the scene once again.
My personal favorite revival, however, was the one directed in 1960 by T.H. Robsjohn Gibbings, who met a Greek cabinet-making couple, the Saridis. Together they created the Klismos line of furniture, with special care taken to the reproduction of the klismos chair created in many wood finishes and metals. These pieces are now icons of the midcentury movement, wildly collectible and highly prized. Very few designs have lasted in the ever evolving tastes of interior fashion. However, the klismos has been, and undoubtedly will continue to be, a beacon of style and good taste. —Martyn Lawrence Bullard
What I appreciate about Oscar Niemeyer is that his background in modernist architecture gave him a new approach to furniture design. His use of high-quality materials and avant-garde techniques made his pieces iconic right from the beginning and led to objects that are the perfect marriage of sculpture and design. His Rio Lounge Chair is the perfect example, like living art. —Alberto Villalobos, A. Villalobos Design and New York Design Center Access to Design designer
These chairs are everywhere these days—and for good reason. We purchased one for a client, and I fell in love and decided to get one for myself as well. I think these chairs are iconic in that they combine natural materials and classic techniques with a beautiful sense of formality. I can see the influence of Guillerme et Chambron in so many designers working today. This chair is classic enough for the most traditional of spaces but weird enough for adventurous design lovers. —Gray Davis, principal at Meyer Davis
This is the perfect decompression sanctuary in the form of an elevated chaise. The classic form combined on the platform base gives the illusion and feel of levitating off the ground. I absolutely love this vintage style for its simplicity, sleek lines, comfort, and illusion of floating. —Celeste and Satu Greenberg, Tuleste Factory
This is the transition moment from old-fashioned, freestanding office furniture to the panel workstations loathed for decades. Modern, updated functional furniture focused on ergonomics and integrated equipment (files in the desktop, phone in the side). Each piece serves a function and can be clustered based on task. Then the panels are thrown in to help with acoustics. All meant to be reconfigurable and flexible. —R.F.
The Atollo table lamp designed by Vico Magistretti in 1977 is a modern Italian masterpiece that endures the test of time. Its clean geometric form and seemingly floating cap strike the perfect proportions. I love the ambient mood of the direct and indirect lighting. —Erick Garcia, Maison Trouvaille
I love Josef Hoffmann’s upholstered furniture (which doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should). Particularly the Club 1910 chair. They were completely ahead of their time in 1910, and the extremely deep tufted leather still looks fresh a hundred years later, almost like a more tailored ancestor of the Mario Bellini sofas that are everywhere right now. —NGP
The Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair immediately comes to mind. Its streamlined form and durable materials are incredibly versatile and easily work with so many styles, from traditional formal antiques to contemporary furniture designs. The chair also ages beautifully over time and acquires a great patina on its leather. —Heide Hendricks, Hendricks Churchill
I absolutely love a Louis XV daybed. I have put them in dressing rooms, bedrooms, and even living rooms for extra seating or as an extra bed. If I come upon one or hear of one coming on the market, I never miss a chance to snatch it up. —Kathryn M. Ireland
Originating in the Philippines and traditionally made from fast-growing rattan vines, this thronelike chair has since the early 19th century been a favorite of portrait photographers. In the 1960s especially, the chair was a popular destination for the tushies of celebrities of every stripe, from Al Green and Dolly Parton to John Kennedy. Perhaps the most famous image of the peacock chair is the iconic poster of Black Panther cofounder Huey Newton, holding his rifle and spear. I love the peacock chair because it is made from humble natural materials but at the same time bestows a regal appearance to any queen or king who sits in it. —Justina Blakeney, Jungalow
The simple farm table is a humble essential and yet has such powerful and timeless grace. Its organic materiality stands the test of time and is still of significance today, just as it was hundreds of years ago…but for somewhat different reasons, given the climate crisis. Also I love that the farm table is meant to show its wear, its patina and unique character alluding to all the meals shared and stories told on its surface across time and space. —Whitney Frances Falk, founder and CEO of ZZ Driggs
Claude Lalanne was a French sculptor who forged one of the most prolific partnerships of her generation with her husband, Francois Xavier, and became known as Les Lalanne. Torchere Without Leaves belongs to a limited edition of eight and is rooted in the language of nature as a response to modernism. This piece illustrates the unparalleled craftsmanship of Claude Lalanne and also exemplifies how Lalanne’s work sought to challenge the boundaries between art and design, capturing the attention of fashion designers such as Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, and Chanel. —Jennifer Roberts, CEO of Design Miami
Designed in 1957, at the peak of Gio Ponti’s career, the Superleggera chair was marketed as a chair so light even a child could pick it up with one finger. Ever since, it has been reproduced by Cassina, which still fabricates it today. This is a chair that encapsulates an essence of elegant Italian modernism; it’s immediately recognizable and can fit in well in both a minimalist and a more saturated design context. —N.D. and D.R.
These chairs were designed for B&B Italia’s Maxalto series, which had a focus on pushing the boundaries of wood craftsmanship, and they certainly succeeded. Every time I see these chairs at auction or in person, they look practically new, which shows the level of ingenuity that went into crafting them. They are very comfortable, and the palisander wood with ebony inlay makes them striking—truly a set to design a room around. Not many were produced, but you can see the impact of this design in many of the chunky, more simplified styles of dining chairs and barstools designed today. —Will Meyer, principal at Meyer Davis.
This story was originally published on Vogue.com.