Styles come and styles go, but the most innovative designs transcend the trends, which means the most distinctive styles in all walks of design are bound to come back around again. Right now, all kinds of vintage and retro items are booming, from classic pedestal sinks in the bathroom to antique industrial lights in the kitchen. Mid century modern accent chairs in particular are seeing quite a bit of renewed attention. These shapely, sleek, slightly futuristic chairs have a polished, high-end look and feel. Many luxury manufacturers like Nuevo are producing lookalikes in more contemporary colors and materials, making these big, bold chairs a great way to integrate some of the last century’s most unique designs into your decor.
The Egg Chair
The egg chair is a modern take on the classic high backed chair. But instead of having the traditional contours of an arm chair, it’s designed to look like a shape carved into the shell of an egg (hence, the name), with curved outer contours and soft rounded edges. This vaguely oval shaped chair sits on a post rather than the more conventional four legs, giving the impression that it’s floating and allowing the sleek, egg shape to remain largely unbroken. Contemporary versions of these chairs are typically upholstered in a single bold color (red is the most common), but can also be found in more traditional materials like leather, more unusual ones like denim, or even occasionally patterned materials.
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The Ball Chair
The ball chair, also known as a globe chair, was designed in 1963 by Finnish furniture designer Eero Aarnio and became instantly iconic – the chair of a future we still haven’t quite gotten to. Made of a huge, hollowed out orb with a cushiony inside all set on a simple pedestal base, this classic mid century modern chair lends an instant modern touch to any space you put it in. Once again, the upholstery on the inside is generally made of a bright, solid color and the outside is almost always a glossy white. For an even more futuristic look, the ball chair’s cousin the bubble chair is actually suspended from the ceiling, with no base at all.
The Swan Chair
Similar to the egg chair, and fashioned by the same designer (Danish Arne Jacobsen), the swan chair has bold, curved lines and no sharp edges. Made of three petal-like curves that have that same cut-out look as the egg chair, the swan chair is a bit more petite without losing its sense of drama. Traditionally attached to a metallic four or five pronged base, the swan chair sometimes swivels and is sometimes fixed. Of all the accent chairs on this list, this one has probably seen the most revision, and is frequently available in both plastic and cushioned upholstered versions. To get the mid century modern look in a living room, though, stick with the latter for a cushy, curvy statement piece.
The Selig Chair
Now, the chair pictured here isn’t a true Selig chair, as traditional models have wood frames with more intricate arms with sharp, Z-shaped angles. But contemporary versions can be quite difficult to find, and right now the originals are a hot commodity. The facet of the Selig chair that this modern take captures so well is the contrast between the arms and the angled seat. While conventional chairs – even comfortable loungers – are often designed with fairly rigid right angles, offsetting them here both creates a pleasant interplay of lines that makes the chair looks like it’s floating. As a nice bonus, the reclined position of the seat also makes for a more comfortable sitting experience.
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The Eames Chair
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Designed by Charles and Ray Eames and released in 1956 after years of testing, the Eames chair represents a rare fusion of high design and extreme comfort. Unlike many mid century modern chairs, this style has been continuously in production since its release, and is considered a triumph of design that’s even earned a place in museums like New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Combining molded plywood and leather, the Eames chair certainly isn’t the showiest piece on this list, but it may very well be the most comfortable, offering a unique, retro alternative to bulkier recliners.
The Barcelona Chair
For a really sleek, simple look, you can’t beat the Barcelona chair. Made with a simple, square buttoned back and seat set at a conventional 90 degree angle on top of two X-shaped legs, the Barcelona chair combines stark lines and delicate brush strokes. Unlike many of the accent chairs on this list, the Barcelona is available in multiple sizes, as small as a conventional chair and as large as a full sofa, and is often paired with a matching ottoman. While the curvy X shaped legs aren’t particularly showy, they are exceedingly elegant, conveying relaxed sophistication with the most minimal of style.
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High quality reproductions of mid century modern chairs – especially the most popular styles hailing from the Nordic nations – are still the bread and butter of many modern manufacturers. Many are made in perfect faith to the originals, while others update certain features – materials, color, or subtle design elements to make the designs more accessible in a modern setting. But what do you think of this mid century modern furniture? Are you surprised to find that some of the most cutting-edge modern designs are really half a century old? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!