Look at the Buildings, Buy the Chairs

7 Great Architects and the Chairs They Designed


December 1, 2015 Buying Guides By
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If you’re a design geek or an architecture enthusiast, you likely dream of living in works by Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, or Marcel Breuer. While this is possible, it isn’t exactly plausible. Houses designed by the greats often sell for around $1 million and can go as high as $7 million. The good thing is, you can own a piece of architecture history, designed by the greats, at a lower and more manageable price point. Many architects doubled as furniture designers and crafted some of the most famous chairs in history, occupying museums and celebrity homes across the globe. These are a few of the best, that are readily available for purchase.

Charles and Ray Eames

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Selected Works: Eames House, St. Mary’s Church, Entenza House

Charles and Ray Eames were a husband-and-wife design duo that worked mostly during the mid-twentieth century, with their most famous work being the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, California. The Eames duo is also well known for their industrial design, graphic design and filmmaking. They designed many different furniture pieces over their lifetimes and also developed different furniture-building techniques, such as manufacturing fiberglass furniture, plastic resin chairs and wire mesh chairs.

Eames Lounge Chair: The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman were created in 1956. The original versions of the chair were crafted from five thin layers of plywood which were then covered by a veneer of Brazilian rosewood. Examples of the chair are part of the permanent collection at the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Frank Lloyd Wright

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Selected Works: Fallingwater, Taliesin, Robie House

Frank Lloyd Wright was an architect for about 70 years and lived from 1867 to 1959. He was a leader of the Prairie School of architecture, completing 532 buildings, the most notable of which is Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. In 1991, the American Institute of Architects recognized Wright as “the greatest American architect of all time.”

Peacock Chair: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Peacock Chair was designed specifically for Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel in 1921. The Peacock Chair features a hexagonal back and geometric shaping in the negative space of the legs, reflecting the lines of the famous Peacock Room itself, which featured an angular, pointed roofline.

Oscar Niemeyer

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Selected Works: Cathedral of Brasília, The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum, The Edifício Copan

Oscar Niemeyer was a Brazilian architect who designed a number of public spaces in his native country. Niemeyer is considered to be one of the fathers of modern architecture, along with Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Erich Mendelsohn, Frank Lloyd Wright and Alvar Aalto, among others. Niemeyer won the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963 and, in 1998, the Royal Gold Medal awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The Alta Chair: The Alta Chair was originally designed in the 1970s in collaboration with Niemeyer’s daughter, Anna Maria. It was the first piece of furniture that Niemeyer designed and reflects his use of curves, which are also reflected in his building designs.

David Adjaye

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Selected Works: Sugar Hill Housing, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (not yet finished), The Moscow School of Management

David Adjaye is a Tanzanian-born British architect who really burst onto the scene following the start of his eponymous design practice in 2010. Recently, he won a contest put on by the Smithsonian Institute to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture scheduled to open in late 2015. Adjaye has a BA from the London South Bank University and an MA from the Royal College of Art.

Washington Skeleton Chair: Designed in 2013, Adjaye’s Washington Skeleton chair comes in a handful of finishes — some even suitable for outdoor use. Its lattice structure lends a playful yet sophisticated look, perfect for any home.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

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Selected Works: Barcelona Pavilion, Farnsworth House, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Born in Prussia in 1886, Mies van der Rohe is considered one of the pioneers of modern architecture. He studied under Bruno Paul and Peter Behrens and worked alongside both Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. He dedicated his life of design to trying to create a new design language that would speak to the modern culture the way Gothic and Classical architecture did in their time.

Barcelona Chair: The Barcelona Chair was designed by van der Rohe alongside Lilly Reich. The chair was originally made from ivory pigskin, but was later replaced by traditional leather. The current version, produced by Knoll (which owns the rights to the chair), is constructed from a polished chrome frame that is ground and buffed by hand to a mirror finish.

Eero Saarinen

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Selected Works: TWA Flight Center, Gateway Arch, Ingalls Rink

Eero Saarinen was a Finnish architect who is famous for designing public spaces, including the Gateway Arch and TWA Flight Center. His works grace the pages of practically every architecture textbook, a testament to his revolutionary designs and neo-futuristic style. Saarinen studied sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, which influenced the curves and lines found in his works.

Tulip Armchair: Saarinen designed the Tulip Armchair in 1955. Much like his buildings, the Tulip Armchair has smooth, seamless lines and curves. The chair is made from a cast aluminum base, with a one-piece molded fiberglass upper section.

Marcel Breuer

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Selected Works: Josephine M. Hagerty House, De Bijenkorf Rotterdam, Cleveland Museum of Art

Marcel Breuer was born in Austria-Hungary and left home at the age of 18 to study design. Breuer was one of the first students of Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus, an arts and design school then based in Weimar, Germany. He later followed Gropius to Harvard and continued to study under him, which further shaped his design language and aesthetic.

Wassily Chair: Breuer first designed the Wassily chair while at the Bauhaus in 1925. The design has been in continuous production since then. It was originally inspired by the frame of a bicycle, and is constructed from seamless tubular steel.