Contemporary Furniture – Iconic Design Pieces

Contemporary furniture is never labelled homogenous or humdrum, but rather eye-catching, captivating and thought provoking. A fascinating combination of bold adventurous designs, geometric sculptured shapes, plump leather upholsteries and bright colour palettes have given us some of the most iconic furniture of the 20th century.

One particularly prolific designer, often regarded as the founder of contemporary furniture, was George Nelson. He consistently worked exceptionally well with vivid colour and flamboyant shapes. Apparently, always very disparaging about himself, he viewed his design career as ‘lucky’, being in the right place at the right time. Thankfully, despite his humble disposition, he designed and oversaw creative masterpieces like the Marshmallow Sofa, the Coconut Chair and the famous Ball Clock, to name just a few of the iconic furniture pieces he was responsible for. There’s still an on-going debate as to whether it was Nelson or his co-designer, Irving Harper, who was really the brains and creative contemporary furniture genius and ultimately deserving of the credit for these iconic furniture items.

It wasn’t just contemporary furniture that made a splash – there were some stunning accessories too. In 1948, some eight years before the Marshmallow creation, an unforgettable classic from George Nelson’s studio was conceived; the quirky and kaleidoscopic Ball Clock. This multicoloured clock was produced in metal but had twelve lacquered wooden balls, one for each number. Various colours were available and with even more choices on offer today. Vitra, the only company licensed to sell the original clock design, still produce them according to the letter, but have incorporated a high-grade quartz movement.

The signature piece of iconic furniture from the Graham Nelson studio is unquestionably the playful Marshmallow Sofa designed in 1956. This contemporary furniture masterpiece consisted of eighteen circular pads, upholstered in leather, vinyl or fabric, usually in a single colour but occasionally with a contrasting mix. The evenly spaced ‘floating’ pads made up the backrest, with the actual seat of the sofa and the frame being constructed from a simple steel structure with rubber feet. This 3-dimensional pattern went down in design history as one of the more extraordinary and eccentric pieces of iconic furniture. People either loved it or hated it, but either way it was a huge talking point and made a huge impact in the world of contemporary furniture. With a smart six-pad extension element, two sofas could be fitted together for a real statement, creating a fantastic lengthier version – the longer formation being perfect for the commercial world.

A modern authentic version, like a vintage original, can still be pretty expensive, so if you can’t afford to have George Nelson creation of your very own, a reproduction version of this dynamic piece of contemporary furniture will work just as well.

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