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The 10 Design Classics Every Man Needs In His Home

Timeless furniture and homeware guaranteed to impress armchair critics

  • Photograph by Mr Mark Eggimann, courtesy of Artek

Good taste, so they say, is as tiring as good company. When it comes to furnishing your house, personal choices – including some errors – go a long way to make a home feel unique.

There are, however, a number of tried and tested favourites that one can return to. These design classics might not be as obvious as a Barcelona chair, but they offer everything a good piece of design should: timeless style, long-lasting practicality, plus some all-important personality.

620 sofa

  • Photograph courtesy of Vitsœ

In his renowned 10 principles of good design written in the 1970s, German industrial designer Mr Dieter Rams didn’t have a great deal to say on the importance of flexibility. And yet that is what makes his 620 chair programme, designed for British manufacturer Vitsoe in 1962, such a roaring success.

The chair is sold in modular units, which can be added to over time. An armchair in your first flat in your twenties can easily become a loveseat in your thirties and then a whole three-seater by the time you have upgraded to a big house and acquired children. Then, once you’ve reached a more advanced age, a high back for sore necks can be added very easily, too. It remains an iconic piece of design more than half a century after it was conceived.

S285 desk and S64 chair

  • Photograph courtesy of Thonet

by Mr Marcel Breuer, Thonet

This year marks the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus design school, a collective located in Weimar, Germany, that included founder Mr Walter Gropius, textile artist Ms Anni Albers and teacher Mr Mies van der Rohe.

Bauhaus design was known for merging art with technology and the S285 desk and S64 chair designed by member Mr Marcel Breuer – formed of rock-solid tubular steel frames paired with wooden supports – are perfect manifestos for the principles developed by the school 100 years ago. Whether or not Mr Breuer envisaged the reliance we would one day have on decent domestic workspaces is debatable, but this set-up is perennially perfect for work-from-home days.

Odeon cutlery

  • Photograph courtesy of David Mellor

by Mr David Mellor

Mr David Mellor was born in Sheffield in 1930 and studied at the Royal College of Art during the early 1950s, something of a golden age of British design. His generation – which included Sir Kenneth Grange, Ms Margaret Calvert and Sir Terence Conran – were encouraged and expected to design across various different sectors, bringing their expertise to everything from electronics and transport to household products.

While Mr Mellor, who died in 2009, designed a postbox, bus shelter and the UK traffic light system (still used on British roads today), he is perhaps most known for his cutlery. He created tableware for use in British embassies, hospitals and prisons (commissioned by the British government) for decades, but it was his flat, spare, minimal “Odeon” collection that remains his most iconic.

System Cado

  • Photograph courtesy of dk3

by Mr Poul Cadovius

Decent shelving is seldom thrilling, but, get it right, and you will be eternally rewarded. There are few better options that the eminently smart Cado system designed by Danish master Mr Poul Cadovius in 1960.

Faced with smaller homes in cities, Mr Cadovius hit upon the idea of getting everything – tables, desks, book shelves, cabinets – off the floor and onto the wall. Many other designers and manufacturers had the same idea in the post-war period (String, Vitsoe and USM to name a few) but, whereas many of them were made of metal and somehow felt more appropriate for an office, the warm and woodsome Cado system was perfect for the domestic environment. Try a wall of this in walnut and you’ll be set for life.

Original 1227 desk lamp

  • Photograph courtesy of Anglepoise

by Anglepoise

Few bedsides, desks or living rooms wouldn’t be improved with the addition of the 1227 lamp, created by British manufacturer Anglepoise in 1935. It is essentially the archetypal light – and peerlessly practical.

In 1932, the automotive engineer Mr George Carwardine turned his expertise to lighting and developed a design for a task light that could be moved and held in place by the use of special springs. He approached his pals at Herbert Terry & Sons – the manufacturer of said springs – to make the 1227 lamp. They soon registered the Anglepoise brand. In the years after, Messrs Carwardine and Terry went onto adapt the light for use in hospitals and military planes.

Its ability to shine light into just about anywhere it is pointed explains why the 1227 lamp remains a bestseller the world over. 

Pulcina coffee pot

  • Photograph courtesy of Alessi

by Mr Michele de Lucchi, Alessi

You’ve heard the one about an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walking into a bar, but have you heard what happened when an Italian coffee maker, designer and manufacturer walked into a cafe?

The Pulcina coffee pot was designed by Mr Michele de Lucchi – one of the founding members of the Memphis design group – in 2015. He collaborated on the design with the coffee roaster Illy and utensils maker Alessi on intense research into what would make the perfect coffee pot: Pulcina’s spherical shape means air can be put under pressure before it boils to improve flavour; its beak-like spout avoids drips.

Crucially, though, it looks fantastic. Finally, something to give the iconic Bialetti espresso maker a run for its money.

Tea trolley 901

  • Photograph by Mr Mark Eggimann, courtesy of Artek

by Mr Alvar Aalto, Artek

No home is complete without a decent selection of spirits for when you have guests. And, for that, nothing tops the 901 tea trolley (don't be fooled by the name: it’s perfect as a small bar, too), created by Finnish design master and architect Mr Alvar Aalto for the Paris World Fair in 1937.

Mr Aalto and his wife Ms Aino Aalto travelled widely and were inspired by the tea-drinking cultures of Britain and Japan when it came to designing this trolley. The 901 is made very simply – comprising two loops of laminate held together by shelves – and sits perfectly somewhere in the middle of elegance and charm.

Hiroshima chair

  • Photograph courtesy of Maruni

by Mr Naoto Fukasawa, Maruni

It takes a lot for a new chair to come along and challenge the all-star favourites such as the perennially chic Wishbone by Mr Hans Wegner or the supremely comfortable Eames fibreglass design. But in 2008, thanks to Mr Naoto Fukasawa – one of Japan’s finest living industrial designers and the man behind the wall-mounted Muji CD player – a new icon was born.

Made in Japan, the Hiroshima chair has a cradling slope, meaning it is perfect both at a dining table and behind a desk. It is minimal, timeless and pared back in that emphatically 1960s way and, available in beech or oak, will develop a wonderful patina over time. Truly, it’s an investment piece, as every good dining chair should be. Don’t take our word for it, ask Sir Jony Ives – who chose the Hiroshima chair for eating areas at the new 175-acre Apple Park in California.

Lamino chair and footstool

  • Photograph courtesy of Swedese

by Mr Yngve Ekström, Swedese

There is something unquestionably “granny” about easy chairs with wooden arms: especially given the bed-like cocoons that are so popular among sofa-buyers today. Yet, drink one cup of coffee sat in the Lamino chair with your feet rested on the accompanying footstool and you will never look back. It is an ergonomically faultless and fluffily fantastic gem of a sheepskin chair.

Designed in 1956 by Mr Yngve Ekström, one of the leading lights of Swedish modernism, the Lamino has won numerous awards for being the most iconic piece of Swedish design and has never gone out of production. “To have designed one good chair might not be a bad life’s work,” said Mr Ekström. Indeed.

Brown Betty teapot

  • Photograph courtesy of Ms Angela Moore, courtesy of Mr Ian McIntyre

by Mr Ian McIntyre, Cauldon Ceramics

There are fewer words more likely to inspire a shudder in design fans than “reissue”. All too often, this means a new colourway selected by someone who should know better, or, worse, a “modern take on an old classic” that essentially means shinier packaging, a heftier price tag and made in China provenance.

Not so with Queen Victoria’s favourite teapot, the age-old Brown Betty, when it was given a proper going-over last year by ceramicist Mr Ian McIntyre. Making it fit for purpose for decades to come, Mr McIntyre inverted the concave lid so the pot could more easily be stacked in cupboards, turned the spout to make it non-drop and added an infuser for those who like tea made from leaves. Like every design reissue should, the illustrious Betty has not been transformed, but gently tweaked and made marginally more thoughtful with this clever reinvention.

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