Sitting comfortably, especially after a long day, must have been at the heart of human desires since deep antiquity. Considering that the basic design of a chair is pretty simple, it’s astonishing how many variations on the theme have been created through the centuries. Among them are a bunch of timeless classics that will probably still be around centuries from now.
Two of the time-honored classic chairs are the wing back armchair and the rocking chair. These have been around so long for good reason, comfort first and style second. The wing back armchair is still a living room classic that can be updated with striking modern fabric designs for today’s taste. For a patio, or to place next to a fireplace, there is nothing quite as classic as a rocking chair. It’s an invitation to chill out, and a cottage style staple.
Wing backs and rockers go back hundreds of years, but every era has produced classic chairs that have been reproduced ever since. Club chairs evoke the elegance of Edwardian art nouveau and the art deco style in the first few decades of the twentieth century. Today they have moved out of their possible origins in the gentleman’s club and are a stylish addition to contemporary homes.
If the name Michael Thonet means nothing to you, you’re not alone, but you will instantly recognize a Thonet chair. This Austrian designer and cabinet maker’s bentwood chairs with woven cane seat are legendary. The famous No. 14, also known as the bistro chair, sold 50 million in the seven decades after it came out back in 1859, and it’s beautiful curved lines have made it a winner ever since. Experts in the design world call it “the chair of chairs”.
The mid-twentieth century brought a break with the past, as modernist architecture and furniture design took off. Influenced by industrial design, tubular metal frames and new forms created a new pantheon of classic chairs. Le Corbusier’s metal and black leather chairs and sofas were revolutionary and have inspired chair design ever since.
Another innovation in the world of chairs was the use of steam-bent plywood that characterizes the classic chairs made by Eames, an American husband and wife design team. Similar high-end style chairs created by Arne Jacobsen are also timeless classics, with his Model 3107 chair said to be the most copied chair design ever made.
Wicker and rattan chairs have been popular through every era of furniture design. That is partly because its flexibility as a material allows it to incorporate any given style. Rattan and cane chairs echo the classic Thonet chair. You can buy classic wing back chairs, rockers and club chairs. Designers have also created designs that are perfect for contemporary living, but also capture the essence of classic chairs through the ages.