50 Iconic Types of Chairs in Design History

Wassily Chair

Designed to mimic the curving shape of a bicycle handlebar, this type of chair has been a design staple since Marcel Bruer first constructed it. One of the best examples of Bauhaus design, furniture company Knoll (who owns the design) states that this chair was named for Wassily Kandinsky. He was known as an abstract painting pioneer and was a colleague of Breuer’s at the Bauhaus school.

Finnish American architect and designer Eero Saarinen famously hated the sight of many table and chair legs in a room, calling it an “ugly, confusing, unrestful world.” In an attempt to streamline these necessary supports, Saarinen developed the Tulip collection, which trades four legs for one central pedestal, supporting a sculptural seat reminiscent of its namesake flower. The chair has been produced by Knoll since 1957.

Related Story: How the Tulip Chair Revolutionized Furniture Design

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Hans Wegner Wishbone Chair

Wishbone Chair

In the 1940s, Danish designer Hans Wegner saw a series of photographs of Chinese tradesmen—and became fascinated with the chairs on which they were sitting. He set about creating his own version of the Ming chair, incorporating a curved, bent-wood armrest and the namesake back, which had a pronged wishbone shape that allowed for a more graceful silhouette. He introduced the chair with Danish manufacturer Carl Hansen & Søn, whose craftsmen perfected the 100 steps it takes to make, including the weaving of 395 feet of paper cord for its seat.

Related Story: Everything to Know About Hans J. Wegner’s Wishbone Chair

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Ming Chair

Ancient Folding Chair
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Given that the Ming dynasty ruled China from 1368 to 1644, a wide range of furniture styles emerged from that period. Toward the later years, the nation saw the production of intricate, carved wood furniture, much of it produced—thanks to discoveries in joinery—without the use of nails. The curved backs and folding seats of the Ming era would become especially influential in later furniture designs.

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Herman Miller Eames LCW Chair

Eames LCW Chair

After graduating from the prestigious Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, designer couple Charles and Ray Eames moved to Los Angeles, where they began experimenting with new materials and processes for making furniture. Part of this experimentation resulted in what they called the “Kazam! Machine,” a mechanism for pressing sheets of thin wood veneer together and bending them. The LCW Chair, introduced in 1946, is the result of this process—its back and seat are shaped to accommodate a sitter of any size.

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Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair

Eames Lounge Chair

While the Eameses are best known for creating types of chairs that were inexpensive and could be easily mass-produced, their now-ubiquitous lounge chair and ottoman were the couple’s take on luxury. They endeavored to create the most comfortable chair possible, one that had the warm, worn feel of a “well-used first baseman’s mitt.” Herman Miller released the seat in 1956 in wood and black leather; it’s now available in a slew of upholstery options and finishes.

Related Story: The Story Behind the World-Famous Eames Lounge Chair

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1006 Navy Chair

You’ve likely seen this type of chair at your local big-box store: Widely knocked off, the original Navy chair was first introduced by Pennsylvania brand Emeco in 1944 for use on warships. It’s the result of a signature, 77-step (!) process in which welders melt recycled aluminum to form the sturdy, lightweight chair.

Panton Chair

In the 1960s, designer Verner Panton began to experiment with an innovative new product: plastic. Captivated by its flexibility, the Danish designer created a type of chair that looked more like a sculpture than furniture (but was also extremely comfortable). The result is the cantilevered, S-shaped Panton chair, which was the first ever molded plastic chair when it was released by Swiss manufacturer Vitra in 1967.

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Louis XIV Armchair

Louis XIV style walnut armchair
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The furniture from the reign of France’s Louis XIV—the ruler who oversaw the construction of Versailles—is characterized by intricate carving, rare wood, and heavy upholstery, like in this walnut seat with a dark brocade fabric. Telltale signs of Louis XIV-style chairs include straight backs, curved armrests, and crossed stretchers, which can either be H- or X-shaped.

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Morettis Yareli Armchair

Yareli Armchair

Comfort was prioritized for the 2nd chair iteration of the middle—Louis XV period (1723-1750). You’ll notice that the newer seat is more padded, the arms and legs are curved, and the back is arched. You’ll know it’s a Louis XV chair if you see a square-ish back shape and curved features.

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Louis XVI Armchair

grayblue lacquered wood cabriolet armchair
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Along with being Marie Antoinette’s husband, Louis XVI was France’s last monarch before the country’s revolution. Chairs designed during his reign are characterized by rounded seat backs—often curved for comfort—and plush seats. A revived interest in classical style makes for details that nod to Greek and Roman decoration, like carved, fluted legs reminiscent of classic columns.

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1stDibs Vintage African Beaded Yoruba Chair

Vintage African Beaded Yoruba Chair

These armchairs, originally handcrafted for royal members of the Yoruba tribes of western Africa, are covered in a pattern created entirely from beads. Designed for ceremonial purposes, these chairs can comprise over 100,000 beads, each hand-applied to the armchair.

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Cesca Chair

In 1925, Hungarian American designer Marcel Breuer introduced the first chair made from tubular steel, the Wassily. Three years later, he introduced the Cesca, a simplified design that marries traditional (the cane seat) and innovative (the cantilevered, steel base). The chair’s S-shaped frame provides just enough bounce to make it comfortable without sacrificing support. This type of chair also happens to be in the MoMA’s permanent collection.

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Mercer41 Butterfly Chair

Butterfly Chair

This type of chair may now be considered a dorm-room mainstay, but the butterfly chair also has quite a colorful design past. It was designed in Buenos Aires in 1938 by the design collective Grupo Austral, a group of three architects who met while working for Le Corbusier. The chair caught the attention of curators at MoMA, who requested a model. In 1947, Knoll began carrying it, swapping out the original black legs for polished chrome—but stopped production in 1951. Now, versions of the chair style can be found everywhere from CB2 to Target.

Related Story: The High-Design History of the Ubiquitous Butterfly Chair

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Eero Saarinen Womb Chair

Womb Chair

When Eero Saarinen began working with Florence Knoll, she challenged him to create the world’s most comfortable chair. What could be more comfortable, he reasoned, than the womb? Enter, the aptly named chair, first released in 1948 and continually produced by Knoll since then.

Related Story: Meet the Chair That Was Designed for Total Comfort

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Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Chair

Barcelona Chair

When tasked with furnishing the German pavilion at the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, German American architect Mies van der Rohe conceived a chair fit for royalty while keeping his modernist aesthetic. The leather-and-chrome seat and accompanying ottoman have been produced by Knoll ever since.

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Kartell Louis Ghost Chair

Louis Ghost Chair

Now you see it, now you don’t! In 2002, designer Philippe Starck put his own spin on the Louis XVI armchair, rendering it in clear polycarbonate for Kartell. The design—which is offered both as an armchair and without arms—became an instant sensation…and spurred dozens of knockoffs.

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Flash Furniture Chiavari Chair

Chiavari Chair

Manufactured in one Italian town since 1807, this type of chair inspired designers from Michael Thonet to Gio Ponti, who riffed on its graceful shape and lightweight constructionin their own modern designs. Brass versions of the Chiavari from the 1970s are highly sought after by vintage sellers.

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Lyndon Furniture Windsor Chair

Windsor Chair

The Windsor chair, characterized by its spindled chair back, has a history as old as the United States. The exact origins of the chair style remain somewhat murky, but they may have first been produced in the 16th century in Ireland and Wales. English settlers introduced them to North America, where they continued to gain popularity. Today, many American models are made by Amish woodworkers.

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Louis Poulsen Era Chair With Caned Seat

Era Chair With Caned Seat

In 1859, German cabinetmaker Michael Thonet created what would come to be the quintessential restaurant chair. Defined by its round seat and bentwood back, the Era chair (sometimes called a Thonet chair) is both lightweight and durable, making it ideal for commercial settings. Notable fans of the chair include Le Corbusier and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

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