Like many modernists, George Nelson (1908–86) relished design that solved a problem. And there’s probably no more common design problem than not having enough space. A daybed, the Connecticut-born writer, architect and furniture maker reasoned, is “ideal for the bedroom that has to double as a sitting room.” Nelson’s versatile design — particularly with its slim profile and unassuming legs — fits neatly into a compact space, both in its small square footage and its quiet presence.
Nelson conceived an early version of the daybed for use in his own home in 1941. By 1948, he had perfected the design and presented it to Herman Miller, where Nelson had been director of design since 1947. The furniture maker has called his work as a designer “to do much more with much less,” and the final design for his daybed is the culmination of one of Nelson’s trademark efforts to simplify to the greatest degree.
A single, honed wood platform is supported by four graceful legs, either in wood or a more industrial-looking brushed-steel hairpin. Atop this basic frame rests a boxy foam cushion; side bolsters, which are removable for the quick transition from sofa to bed, are optional.
Nelson famously referred to his moments of creative inspiration as “zaps” — though the term appears to imply immediate, fully formed ideas, the daybed proves that sometimes a moment of genius is really the distillation of a long period of perfecting that idea.
The Nelson daybed is still manufactured by Herman Miller today.
George Nelson Nelson Daybed
Vintage 1960s American Mid-Century Modern Sofas
20th Century American Mid-Century Modern Daybeds