Many design objects are even more famous than the people who created them. Here we present the classics and their creators. Did you know that almost all of these beautiful and useful items of furniture can still be purchased today?
1. Le Corbusier: Chaise Longue LC4
Hardly anyone knows the name Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris. But almost everyone has heard of Le Corbusier. Born as the first in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1887, he died as the latter in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, in 1965. In between lies a life as an architect, urban planner, painter, sculptor – and furniture designer. He took his pseudonym at the age of 33, in reference to the name of his great-grandmother. 17 of his buildings are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At least as well-known as these buildings is his chaise longue, colloquially often simply called the Corbusier Chaise Longue, which he designed back in 1928. It became famous when the Milanese furniture manufacturer Cassina started production in 1965. The chaise longue with its adjustable steel frame is considered to be the perfect combination of geometric simplicity and ergonomic purpose. Consequently, there are large numbers of copies on the market. An original costs between 600 and 4,500 Swiss francs depending on the version (leather, fur).
2. Eileen Gray: Adjustable Table E 1027
The Irish designer Eileen Gray (1878-1976) didn’t actually intend to put her adjustable side table into production: she designed it for herself – for breakfast in bed. Today, however, E 1027 (or a copy of it) is more often found in the living room than in the bedroom, and the adjustment function is rarely used. It’s a pity really, because the flexible little table can be pushed up against practically any bed. In keeping with the designer’s character, the small table known as the Eileen Gray is quite plain. The designer lived in seclusion and sold only small quantities of her furniture during her lifetime, although she was regularly praised in the highest possible terms in the specialist press. She only became world famous at the end of the last century, not least because the Museum of Modern Art in New York added the side table with the glass top to its collection in 1987. An original, which can be recognized by a transparent adhesive on the glass plate and embossing with the designer’s signature in the frame, costs around 600 francs.
3. Robert Adam: Chesterfield Leather Sofa
An extra-comfortable upright seat: that was the desire of the 4th Earl of Chesterfield. In around 1770, he is said to have commissioned the Scottish furniture maker Robert Adam to build him a sofa that would meet both these requirements. Adam, considered the father of British classicism, had studied ancient monuments in Italy for a long time. His designs combined ancient and English traditions. Although there is a whole range of Chesterfield seating furniture with the typical leather diamond pattern, the sofa is Robert Adam’s most famous legacy. Yet in the early 20th century, the term “Chesterfield” was used in England to describe any type of sofa. It is still not protected as a name or manufacturing process. The prices for a Chesterfield sofa therefore vary greatly.
4. Hans Coray: Landi Chair
In 1939 the national exhibition, popularly referred to as “Landi”, took place around the lower basin of Lake Zurich. The Romanist and architect Hans Coray from Zurich Oberland was 36 at the time and until then had worked mainly as a painter. He nevertheless took part in the “Landi” competition to find a light, stackable, weatherproof and, if possible, aesthetically pleasing chair. The lightweight minimalist aluminum chair made Coray a pioneer of industrial design virtually overnight. The Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein reissued the chair some 75 years later. In 2004, Swiss Post honored the Landi Chair with a one-franc stamp. The item of furniture itself costs a little more, namely around 600 francs. For almost half of this amount, it is available as a 1:6 scale design object.
5. Michael Thonet: Bentwood Chair
In the 1830s, Michael Thonet experimented with what was then a new technique, the bending of solid wood. In 1842, Fürst von Metternich brought the master carpenter to Vienna, where he created the so-called Viennese coffee house chair, which then became the foundation for his company’s economic success – and is now a design icon. It is regarded as the starting point of the history of modern furniture, because Thonet’s bending method allowed serial production for the first time. The chair without armrests is still produced today in the family business in Frankenberg in North Hesse. It costs between 600 and 800 francs, depending on the version.
6. Ettore Sottsass: Tahiti
A rather colorful lamp. The stylized duck head of the Tahiti lamp, designed in 1981, is one of the figureheads of the Milanese design group “Memphis”. The group defied the functionalism of the furniture industry and consistently opted for desire, color and fantasy. That’s why “Memphis” items have a high recognition value. Born in Innsbruck in 1917, Sottsass was one of the group’s co-founders. Although he was no fan of functionalism, his Tahiti lamp is by no means impractical. The duck head can be turned and the light can be adjusted as required. Ettore Sottsass later worked with Olivetti and designed the first Italian computer, the “Olivetti Elea”. Even today, the red Olivetti Valentine typewriter is still better known than the computer. It is available online as a vintage model (price depending on the condition). Used Tahiti lamps can be found from about 1,600 francs.
7. Trix and Robert Haussmann: Wogg 12 Stripe Sideboard
Trix and Robert Haussmann are probably the most best-known Swiss designer couple in the world. Born in 1933 and 1931 respectively, both studied in Zurich. Robert at the University of the Arts, Trix at the ETH. They met at Expo 1964 and went on to become a couple and a team. Their first joint work was the Fun Chair. They liked to play with optical illusions and other similar effects, which gave them a reputation for being a bit eccentric. They subsequently came up with designs for major companies like Teo Jakob, De Sede or Wogg. As they consistently refused to adapt to the spirit of the times, they never appealed to the taste of the general public. They were on the other hand acclaimed by avant-garde art. In 2013 the joint work of Trix and Robert Haussmann was awarded the Grand Prix Design by the Federal Office of Culture. The Wogg 12 Stripe Sideboard is available for around 10,600 francs.
8. Alfredo Häberli: SEC Shelving System
Alfredo Häberli was born in Buenos Aires in 1964 and moved to Switzerland with his parents in 1977. At the age of 35, he opened his own studio in Zurich’s Seefeld area, where he worked for BMW, Georg Jensen, Vitra and Zanotta. The SEC Shelving System for Alias originates from a previous partnership with Christophe Marchand. Completely free of gimmicks, it is based on a modular structure consisting of aluminum profiles. It can be extended indefinitely with steel, acrylic and glass components, all available in different heights, widths and depths. The prices vary accordingly.
9. Franco Legler: Basket Chair
Swiss-Italian designer Franco Legler was 29 when he designed the Basket Chair – for an Italian restaurant called “The Basket” in his hometown of Locate in Bergamo in 1951. The stackable, lightweight yet stable rattan chair is extremely comfortable. Legler commissioned local basket makers and metalworkers to produce the first 52 chairs. The chair soon became famous around the world and in 1953 received the Good Design Award from the Museum of Modern Art. You can order the Basket Chair for around 440 francs.
10. Charles and Ray Eames: Elephant
In 1945 Charles and Ray Eames designed a toy elephant made of plywood. Just two prototypes were built. The American couple nevertheless became famous for their pioneering work with plastic, which enabled them to produce inexpensive seat shells for their chairs. In 2007, to mark the 100th birthday of Charles Eames, Vitra launched a limited edition of the elephant. The demand was so great that this cross between a sculpture, seat and children’s toy went into series production. It is available for both children and adults and can be made of wood or plastic. The prices range from 200 to 1,500 francs.