The word icon is defined as a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something. It’s not a descriptor that should be used lightly, but has applied to everything from architecture to celebrities to art–and of course, home décor.
But what is it about a modern design piece that takes it from a simple object to a veritable design icon? The ones we’ve chosen below do exactly as the definition says for the modern era. They represent innovation, originality, harmonic form and function, and all the things in between. These works are instantly recognizable and created by some of the most renowned names in design.
From the early mid-century to today, here are some of the most iconic modern design objects that symbolize the best in design.
Saucer Bubble Pendant from George Nelson Bubble Lamps
Random Light by Moooi
101 Pendant from Le Klint
Saarinen Round Dining Table by Knoll
The Saarinen Round Dining Table from Knoll is an iconic, masterful creation from world-renowned Finnish designer Eero Saarinen. Responsible for the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Washington Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C., Saarinen created this dining table with the same neo-futuristic vision exemplified in his other works.
PH Artichoke from Louis Poulsen
Flowerpot VP7 Pendant Light by Verner Panton from &Tradition
The Flowerpot VP7 Pendant Light by &Tradition embraces the open, modern mentality of Copenhagen-based architect and designer Verner Panton. Created in 1968, this lamp became synonymous with the Flower Power movement in the late 60s, and two deep-draw metal shades are matched together with a modern, organic feel that is simple and statement-worthy.
Bourgie Table Lamp from Kartell
Eames Lounge Chair with Ottoman from Herman Miller
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman are considered among the most significant and collectible furniture designs of the 20th century. When the set was introduced in 1956, there was nothing else like it. The design was completely new and merged comfort with a clean, yet welcoming aesthetic. Today, the pair remains a true icon of modern design. Built by hand, just as it was originally, the meticulously constructed set includes rich wood veneer shells with supple leather upholstered seating.
Tolomeo Classic Table Lamp from Artemide
Mantis Wall Lamp from DCW éditions
Twiggy Floor Lamp from Foscarini
Type 75 Task Lamp from Anglepoise
PH 5 Pendant from Louis Poulsen
Semi Pendant from Gubi
Atollo Table Lamp from Oluce
After its creation in 1977 by Vigo Magistretti, it wasn’t long before the Atollo Table Lamp was awarded Italy’s highest honor in design: The Compasso d’Oro in 1979. Composed of a trio of simple geometric shapes—cylinder, cone and sphere—the Atollo silhouette manages to be both essential and bold. It’s what we expect, and don’t expect from the classic table lamp. Magistretti’s Atollo is an icon of Italian design and can be found in museums around the world.
La Lampe Gras No 205 Table Lamp from DCW éditions
Bernard-Albin Gras was a designer far ahead of his time. He designed the GRAS lamps in 1921, intended for use in industrial environments and office. The lamp was simple, robust and ergonomic, with no screws or welded joints in its form. The GRAS lamps were incredibly original for their time, and won the affection of design pioneer Le Corbusier. Today, Lampe Gras is available in several colors, materials and configurations and fits modern lighting needs as well as it did nearly a century ago.
Arco Floor Lamp from Flos
CH24 Wishbone Chair from Carl Hansen
Hans Wegner’s classic dining chair design, the CH24 Wishbone Chair is a versatile modern dining chair. The solid wood frame, easily identifiable back and paper-cord seat are all there, giving the CH24 Wishbone Chair a timeless modern style.
Nelson Ball Clock from Vitra
With the diversity of materials used and their sculptural shapes, George Nelson’s clocks embody the joie de vivre of the 1950s. To this day, his wall clocks remain a refreshing alternative to the usual timekeepers.
Aalto Vase from Iittala
Alvar Aalto’s first sketches for his vases were playfully called “Eskimo woman’s leather trousers.” Nature played a great role in Alvar Aalto’s life and creativity. The Aalto Vase – Rain takes a team of seven skilled craftsmen working as one to create and is an icon of modern design.
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