Best Mid Century Sofas: Florence Knoll, Mies van der Rohe, Noguchi & 5 More

Best Mid Century Sofas: Florence Knoll, Mies van der Rohe, Noguchi & 5 More

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Maxwell Ryan
Mar 30, 2015

Continuing my sofa roundups, this one specially targets the most famous and enduring mid-century designs, all by Greats. While these are classic, extremely well made and licensed originals from - in most cases - the original manufacturer, you can certainly find these shapes at lower prices if you go for a copy. It won't be the same thing or last as long, but it will look similar. This one above is by Florence Knoll in 1954. Part of her Lounge Collection, it "Consists of a distinct, fully tufted, seat and back covering attached to an exposed metal frame and legs. The versatile collection includes lounge chair, settee and sofa, Ideal in both formal and informal settings." Which is your favorite?

(Image credit: Hive)

A 1965 design by Hans Wegner, who helped to make Danish design world famous, all of his pieces have numbers instead of names, highlight an ingenious use of natural wood and are still manufactured in Denmark by Carl Hansen & Son. This one "is individually handmade over a frame of solid beech wood with upholstered cushions. The cushions consist of a foam core surrounded by European down and cold foam. The solid wooden legs are angled giving the sofa a great pitch."


(Image credit: DWR)

American designer Milo Baughman gave us some of the most comfortable and quietly classic pieces that have not aged a day. The Goodland comes from his 1965 collection and was named for the Kansas town where he was born. "This collection began as a sofa designed for his own home – his daughter still has the original – which he later expanded upon and launched for retail customers."


(Image credit: Herman Miller)

Designed by Charles & Ray Eames in 1954, the Compact Sofa was meant to maximize seating with as little product as possible. Able to pack flat and ship in a box, the sofa measures six foot across and seats three adults comfortably. Construction: "Two horizontal foam pads with welting cord form the sofa's comfortably high back, while a black enameled steel frame and chrome-plated tubular steel legs with stainless-steel glides make up the sofa's foundation. Upholstered in 100%-polyester crepe fabric."


(Image credit: Hive)

The outcome of George Nelson's meeting D.J.Dupree, the founder of Herman Miller, the Marshmallow is a 1956 design with Irving Harper. Nelson was invited by Dupree to become the design director for Herman Miller before we went on to found his own firm. "When the Marshmallow sofa was introduced in 1956, the Herman Miller catalog described it as 'The first of a series of pieces embodying a new concept in soft seating. We feel that it has possible use not only in the home, but in contract use for lobbies in public buildings where the very fact that it is unusual will be a plus.'"


(Image credit: Knoll)

A Mies van der Rohe design from 1929, this "daybed" is not quite a sofa, but it is called a couch and it's the only shape in this collection that gets close. There are sofa's copied off of the Barcelona Chair design, but Mies didn't actually design them. "Created for the German Pavilion at the 1929 Barcelona Exposition, the Barcelona couch features the pure compositional structure that now epitomizes Modern architecture. From the hand-buffed frame to the individual leather squares carefully welted together, each Barcelona sofa is a tribute to traditional craftmanship and meticulous attention to detail. Knoll is the only authorized and licensed manufacturer of the Barcelona Collection since 1953."


(Image credit: DWR)

A groundbreaking 1928 design by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand, the sofa and entire LC2 and LC3 collections were called "cushion baskets," designed as a modernist response to the traditional club chair. "These pieces reverse the standard structures of sofas and chairs by having frames that are externalized." This is the smaller version and the LC2 Petit also comes in much warmer colored variations that were also developed by Le Corbusier.


(Image credit: HIVE)

Originally designed in 1946 by Isamu Noguchi for Herman Miller, Noguchi's natural shapes defined the organic side of the mid-century spectrum. Now made by Vitra in Germany with maple legs, beechwood frame, 100% wool upholstery. "In co-operation with the Isamu Noguchi Foundation, the Vitra Design Museum presents the rare Freeform Sofa which up until now has been impossible to find. Only a few were made at the time and the rare originals achieve record prices at auction."


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