Arena Steel With Rope Weave Armchair
2010s Mexican Modern Armchairs
A Close Look at Modern Furniture
The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw sweeping social change and major scientific advances — both of which contributed to a new aesthetic: modernism. Rejecting the rigidity of Victorian artistic conventions, modernists sought a new means of expression. References to the natural world and ornate classical embellishments gave way to the sleek simplicity of the Machine Age. Architect Philip Johnson characterized the hallmarks of modernism as “machine-like simplicity, smoothness or surface [and] avoidance of ornament.”
Followers of both groups produced sleek, spare designs — many of which became icons of daily life in the 20th century. The modernists rejected both natural and historical references and relied primarily on industrial materials such as metal, glass, plywood, and, later, plastics. While Bauhaus principals Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe created furniture from mass-produced, chrome-plated steel, American visionaries like Charles and Ray Eames worked in materials as novel as molded plywood and fiberglass. Today, Breuer’s Wassily chair, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair — crafted with his romantic partner, designer Lilly Reich — and the Eames lounge chair are emblems of progressive design and vintage originals are prized cornerstones of collections.
It’s difficult to overstate the influence that modernism continues to wield over designers and architects — and equally difficult to overstate how revolutionary it was when it first appeared a century ago. But because modernist furniture designs are so simple, they can blend in seamlessly with just about any type of décor. Don’t overlook them.
Finding the Right Armchairs for You
Armchairs have run the gamut from prestige to ease and everything in between, and everyone has an antique, new or vintage armchair that they love.
Long before industrial mass production democratized seating, armchairs conveyed status and power. In ancient Egypt, the commoners took stools, while in early Greece, ceremonial chairs of carved marble were designated for nobility. But the high-backed early thrones of yore, elevated and ornate, were merely grandiose iterations of today’s armchairs.
Modern-day armchairs, built with functionality and comfort in mind, are now central to tasks throughout your home. Formal dining armchairs support your guests at a table for a cheery feast, a good drafting chair with a deep seat is parked in front of an easel where you create art and, elsewhere, an ergonomic wonder of sorts positions you at the desk for your 9 to 5.
When placed under just the right lamp where you can lounge comfortably, both elbows resting on the padded supports on each side of you, an upholstered armchair — or a rattan armchair for your light-suffused sunroom — can be the sanctuary where you’ll read for hours.
If you’re in the mood for company, your velvet chesterfield armchair is a place to relax and be part of the conversation that swirls around you. Maybe the dialogue is about the beloved Papa Bear chair, a mid-century modern masterpiece from Danish carpenter and furniture maker Hans Wegner, and the wingback’s strong association with the concept of cozying up by the fireplace, which we can trace back to its origins in 1600s-era England, when the seat’s distinctive arm protrusions protected the sitter from the heat of the period’s large fireplaces.
If the fireside armchair chat involves spirited comparisons, your companions will likely probe the merits of antique and vintage armchairs such as Queen Anne armchairs, Victorian armchairs or even Louis XVI armchairs, as well as the pros and cons of restoration versus conservation.
Everyone seems to have a favorite armchair and most people will be all too willing to talk about their beloved design. Whether that’s the unique Favela chair by Brazilian sibling furniture designers Fernando and Humberto Campana, who repurpose everyday objects to provocative effect; or Marcel Breuer’s futuristic tubular metal Wassily lounge chair; the functionality-first LC series from Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret; or the Eames lounge chair of the mid-1950s created by Charles and Ray Eames, there is an iconic armchair for everyone and every purpose. Find yours on 1stDibs right now.