5 designers you didn't know you already love
Today's 'modern' minimalism is based on iconic classic designs
There's a certain style of minimalist interiors enjoying widespread popularity at the moment, particularly when it comes to the chairs we sit on. Unless you're a furniture history enthusiast, today's dining chairs and sofas might appear to epitomise contemporary living - but, in reality, a lot of what you're loving is merely lifted and reproduced from decades gone by.
A perusal of New York's Museum of Modern Art's vintage interiors collection - or that of Paris' Pompidou Centre - today is not dissimilar to an afternoon spent browsing the homeware sections of your favourite high street stores. Here, you'll find world-renowned designer names you already adore but never knew.
And so, when scouring Pinterest for your favourite styles, it helps to know your Thonet from your Eames or Bauhaus designs. You'll pay a pretty penny for the real deal, that's for sure, but if it's just the look you're after, there are plenty of vintage-inspired alternatives on the market - cultfurniture.com is your best bet online. Here are five designer names to add to your interiors vocabulary.
Charles & Ray Eames
In the 1950s, the American Eames brothers carved out a furniture niche that is now inescapable. "Getting the most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least" was their design philosophy.
Most known for their Eames Lounge Chair, their fibreglass rocking chair and their bucket-style dining seats - white with the light wooden legs is the most popular - their creations have come back with a bang in the last five years. This duo became synonymous with mid-century modern furniture design during this era and, today, it's the work of the Eameses that's most often replicated.
Buy it: Vitra Eames Plastic Armchair, €473.10, and chairs, €380.47 each, from nest.co.uk
From Austria, Thonet is most famous for his No. 14 Café Chair, typically referred to as the 'bistro chair' and one of the best-selling styles of the last 160 years. Introduced in 1859, this minimal bentwood shape with an arc of rounded wood at the back became hot property in the 1920s and '30s. The original chair was made using a unique steam-bending technology that took years to master. Most popular in cafés and restaurants to date, the No. 14 is fast becoming the top choice for dining chairs at home as we collectively shift away from the 'modern' styles that dominated the first decade of the 21st century. You'll also find the Thonet No. 14 chair at a lot of weddings; it's creeping up behind the Italian Chiavari chair in terms of formal- occasion popularity.
Buy it: Thonet style chair, €70.80, cultfurniture.com
The French designer's name you certainly won't be familiar with; the Tolix chair style, you definitely will. It was originally designed by Pauchard in 1934, after discovering that sheet metal could be dipped in molten zinc to prevent rusting but it wasn't until 1956 that the Tolix we see everywhere today was tweaked to perfection.
These were conceived as all-weather chairs, perfect for outdoor cafés, and they were particularly popular because you could stack 25 chairs to a height of 2.3 metres. You'll find them in restaurants, bars and hospitals, but today, they're becoming more common in the home.
Buy it: Pauchard-style stool, €49.60, cultfurniture.com
Bauhaus is not a person but an actual school of design in Germany that remains incredibly influential to this day. Many of the students' creations are described simply as 'Bauhaus', but a whole host of significant designers earned their stripes here. Marcel Breuer was one of particular prominence, designing the recognisable Bauhaus Wasilly Chair. And Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and partner Lilly Reich designed the Barcelona Chair; a piece that, in 1929, would plant the seed for the forthcoming mid-century modern furniture movement. From 1923 to 1933, with founder Walter Gropius at the helm, the Bauhaus school was responsible for some of the most iconic furniture pieces to date. In fact, you can probably thank the school of Bauhaus for today's industrial-looking interiors as they sought to showcase the mechanics behind a piece of furniture, as opposed to hiding it. They've even been credited as the design inspiration behind many of Apple's technological offerings. As relevant today as they were back then, these guys were all about the merging of style and function. Bauhaus became known for chairs and geometric nesting tables that were timeless and futuristic - often composed of wood, leather, metal and glass.
Buy it: Barcelona Chair, €947, popfurniture.com
Hans J Wegner
Hailing from Denmark, Wegner was one of the most celebrated furniture designers to emerge in the mid-20th century and is considered responsible for the Danish Modern Movement of the 1950s and '60s that's still adored today. His most famous piece is without a doubt the Wishbone Chair, which remains as popular today as when it first took hold in 1949. The chair is still referred to as a triumph of craftsmanship, with its characteristic Y-shaped back. It's an ultra-comfortable dining chair (or breakfast bar stool) with a simple, clean design. Interestingly, though it appears minimal to the eye, there were more than 100 steps involved in the process of the original chair. Designed for Carl Hansen & Son in 1949, it's available today.
Buy it: Carl Hansen Wishbone Chair, currently reduced to €759 at Arnotts, arnotts.ie
Ahead of their time
Other designs to look out for are Noguchi's coffee table, George Nelson's desk, Florence Knoll's sofa and Arne Jacobsen's Egg Chair. Their eye for sleek shapes and interesting detail continues to influence what we have in our homes well into the 21st century.