Beyond the Bubble Lamp: The Best of George Nelson

published Apr 26, 2017
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(Image credit: Amy Rogers)

How well do you know your Bertoias from Baumritters? Nailing down your preferred design style is one thing, but being able to identify individual designers is a whole different level of dedication. But if you’re really serious about getting familiar with the most influential designers of the past century, no lesson would be complete without spending some time with George Nelson.

While a success story beginning at Yale might not sound especially shocking, this one has an interesting twist: George Nelson happened upon the school’s architectural building in the mid-1920’s while seeking shelter during a rainstorm, and was so inspired by the exhibits inside that he completely changed his field of study. This fateful moment ended up being the perfect fit, since the talented young student ended up winning an opportunity to study abroad in Rome.

While interviewing and studying under talented designers in Rome, things seemed to happen quickly: after thriving as an editor at Architectural Forum Magazine where he was a staunch defender of modernism, Nelson was named design director at Herman Miller in 1947. Strong success there led to Nelson founding George Nelson and Associates in the mid-1950’s, employing noted designers like George Mulhauser for over 30 years.

From the Marshmallow Sofa to Bubble Pendant Lamp, Nelson’s designs have managed to stay distinct and coveted for decades. As is the case with most popular designers and their equally popular designs, you’re probably going to run into several fakes while on a secondhand hunt. A little research and planning will keep you from unintentionally taking home a knockoff (and so George can rest easy knowing you’re authentically stylish).

Aside from beautiful and functional furniture pieces, Nelson was also responsible for things that you may not have ever questioned the origin of: as discussed in his breakthrough book “Tomorrow’s House,” the family room, office cubicle and pedestrian shopping mall are just some of the byproducts of his insanely innovative mind.

Any serious design lover can appreciate mid-century vintage, especially when it came from the mind of a truly brilliant art icon. So now that you’ve been properly introduced, check out some of our favorite George Nelson pieces on Apartment Therapy Marketplace, and see if anything catches your eye. Because as Nelson himself once said, “all real seeing is triggered by interest.”