Share

Exuberant and experimental, the sixties made an indelible mark on the American consciousness—and the era’s furniture is no exception. From the modular mutability of Joe Colombo’s Tube Chair to the prankish sculptural charms of Pierre Paulin’s Tongue Chair, 1960s living room furniture unabashedly courted futurism and fun. Changing cultural values coinciding with advances in synthetic materials meant the reigning interior motto of the day was quaffable design be damned. Still, 1960s furniture brands such as Lane Furniture, Drexel, and Broyhill offered up accessible versions of the avant-garde designs being churned out by Cologne-grade designers. The takeaway? No matter your preferences, 1960s furniture has something for everyone. For those with mod goals, but no clue about where to start, we’ve compiled the era’s best designs and brands into our 1960s furniture guide. From the fab to the funky, the gang’s all here!

Photo courtesy of Pappas Miron

What is the design style of the 1960s?

The most prevalent design style in the 1960s was modernism. Today, 1960s modernism is generally referred to as Mid-Century Modernism. Mid-Century Modernism was heavily influenced by Danish Modernism, the Scandinavian style that first surfaced in the 1940s. Danish Modernism is best known for its durable wood furniture that aims to unite form and function. 1960s furniture designs incorporate many elements of Danish Modernism, including simple forms, minimalist details, and subtle sculptural forms. During the 1960s, Mid-Century Modernists began to experiment with materials beyond the wood the Danish Modernists had favored. Synthetic materials such as acrylic, plastic, and chrome are all materials that heavily factor into 1960s Mid-Century Modern furniture designs. 

What were the most popular colors in the 1960s? 

When shopping for 1960s furniture, you’re likely to run across brightly-colored upholsteries in sunburnt hues like ochre, avocado, and burnt orange. Pastels such as pale pink and sky blue were also commonly used as accents. Additionally, red was popular during the 1960s. Red was adopted as a stock color for a number of iconic designs, including the Ball Chair and the Tulip Chair.   

Photo courtesy of Pappas Miron

What are some of the most iconic 1960s furniture designs?

Tulip Chair – 1955 – Eero Saarinen

You can’t discredit any 1960s chair that’s made its way into the MOMA—or made Star Trek cameos—but even if the Tulip Chair wasn’t so ubiquitous, its stature would speak for itself. Featuring a molded seat intended to contour to the body hoisted atop a slim pedestal base, the Tulip Chair showcases a sensual, wine-glass-like silhouette. Outfitted in its classic white and red color scheme, this 60s chair is the epitome of sophisticated Space Age design.


Lily Chair – 1959 – Erwine & Estelle Laverne

Take it from Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, you can’t talk about the 60s without talking about plastics. Erwine and Estelle Laverne’s Lily Chair is indisputably one of the era’s best examples of acrylic architecture. A translucent, high-backed, teardrop-shaped seat set atop a swivel base, the Lily chair graced everything from the cover of Harper’s Bazaar to nylon ads in its heyday. Adding to its allure—unlike most of the other seats on this list, the Lily Chair was never mass-produced.

Photo courtesy of Hendrick Interiors

Swan Chair – 1958 – Arne Jacobsen

A chair that has notably never sung a swan song of its own, the Swan Chair was designed for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. A swivel chair featuring a padded back and seat that extends upwards on either side of an occupant, the Swan Chair aims to envelop the sitter.  Jacobsen—who also created the Egg Chair for the Royal Hotel—was driven by the mission to create a chair that would provide the illusion of walls in the hotel lobby’s open floor sitting plan.

Ball Chair – 1962 – Eero Aarnio

Legend has it that Finnish designer Eero Aarnio created the Ball Chair on a promise to his wife that he would create a chair “that when it is put in a shop window, no one will just walk past it.” Undeniably show-stopping, the Ball Chair delivers. Essentially a fiberglass sphere with an upholstered hole carved out in one side for sitting, the Ball Chair is the epitome of attention-getting.

Design by Laura U Dseign Collective / Photo by Kerry Kirk

Shell Chair – 1963 – Hans Wegner

Modular furniture was nothing new in the 1960s thanks to designers like Harvey Probber. Probber had made modular furniture his signature in the 1940s and 50s. However, Italian designer Joe Colombo took the medium to new heights in 1969 with his Tube Chair. Merging modular design with avant-garde sculptural appeal, the Tube Chair features four padded plastic tubes. The tubes clip together with metal clamps. By removing and reclipping, the Tube chair can assume a variety of different formations. The result? The Tube Chair is not only visual art but performance art.

Gondola Sofa – 1960s – Adrian Pearsall  

Co-opting the gondola’s shapely form, American designer Adrian Pearsall unveiled his landmark Gondola Sofa in the 1960s. Set barely above ground level, this sofa features sculptural v-shaped walnut legs and a seat deck that gently curves upward at either end. While obviously indebted to Atomic design, the sofa also feels graceful and elegant, words not normally associated with the antenna-like Atomic designs of the 1960s.

Tongue Chair – 1967 – Pierre Paulin 

From meditations to sit-ins, the 1960s ushered in a wave of pro-floor activities. French designer Pierre Paulin opted to capitalize on the low-living movement with his Tongue Chair. The Tongue Chair features a floor-skimming design crafted of metallic frames padded with foam and covered in a stretchable material. The seat spoke to hippies and beatniks alike who were enticed by its anti-establishment sensibility.

Photo courtesy of Pappas Miron

Panton Chair – 1963 – Verner Panton

Offering incomparable dynamism, the Panton Chair is simultaneously graceful and surreal-feeling. A manufacturing marvel, designer Verner Panton brought this cantilevered, S-shaped seat to more than 20 manufacturers before he could identify one capable of bringing his vision to life. The resulting chair accomplishes a feat few other chairs do—it’s crafted of a single piece.

Tube Chair – 1969 – Joe Colombo

While most of Hans Wegner’s seats trend more reserved, his 1963 Shell Chair is indicative of the world’s aesthetic awakenings. Crafted of just four pieces, this sculptural plywood seat showcases a winged silhouette. The effect is courtesy of a curved surfboard-like seat that extends far past the sitter on either side. Also known as the Smiling Chair, this seat is ideal for lending a sculptural effect to any room.

Design by Summer Thornton / Photo by Josh Thornton

Platner Chair – 1966 – Warren Platner

Touching on 60s trends as far-flung as Atomic design and Brutalism, the Platner Chair radiates pure glamour. Featuring dozens of welded steel rods, the Platner Chair is both mesmerizing and monumental. Cushions are available in a wide spectrum of hues and fabrics, ranging from tweed to velvet. As a result, the Platner Chair is one of the most customizable chairs to come out of the 1960s.

Design by Jamie Bush + Co. / Photo by Matthew Millman

60s Furniture Brands to Know

Broyhill Furniture

Danish Modernism and Atomic design collide—and make unexpectdly good star-crossed lovers—in Broyhill’s collection of 1960s furniture. Broyhill released dozens of Mid-Century Modern collections, including Brasilia, Saga, Emphasis, and Sculptra. Each one showcases modest Atomic silhouettes adorned with sculptural inlays. Brasilia, inspired by Oscar Niemeyer’s futuristic city center of Brasilia, is the brand’s most adventurous collection. In contrast, collections like Saga and Emphasis trend more low-key. 

Drexel Furniture 

Those who harbor daydreams of simple, no-nonsense 1960s furniture will find solace in Drexel Furniture. Partnerships between Drexel and heavyweights like Kipp Stewart and Edward Wormley set the brand’s direction for tackling Mid-Century Modernism. Their 1960s living room furniture is indebted to Danish design, but partners it with a classic sense of American decoration. 

Lane Furniture

Like Broyhill, Lane Furniture also worked to strike a mass-market-friendly hybrid between Danish Modernism and Atomic design. Their collections put details like pencil legs, surfboard table tops, and stepped-table silhouettes on repeat. To make each collection distinctive they partnered each with bespoke-level woodwork details, such as two-tone dovetailing, woven drawer fronts, or louvered fronts.

Photo courtesy of Pappas Miron

Your Quick Guide to Iconic 1960s Furniture Designs

  • Tulip Chair – 1955 – Eero Saarinen   
  • Swan Chair – 1958 – Arne Jacobsen
  • Lily Chair – 1959 – Erwine & Estelle Laverne
  • Ball Chair – 1962 – Eero Aarnio
  • Panton Chair – 1963 – Verner Panton
  • Shell Chair – 1963 – Hans Wegner
  • Platner Chair – 1966 – Warren Platner
  • Tongue Chair – 1967 – Pierre Paulin
  • Tube Chair – 1969 – Joe Colombo
  • Gondola Sofa – 1960s – Adrian Pearsall  

Your Quick Guide to 1960s Furniture Brands

Shop 1960s Furniture >>

Design by Jamie Bush + Co. / Photo by Laura Hull

Share

File Under

January 5, 2022

Chairish is the design lover's indispensable online source for chic and unique decor, art, furniture and home decorating inspiration. Shop our expert curation of exclusive and diverse inventory with 1,000+ new arrivals daily. Happy hunting!