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Three Affordable Mid-century Modern Lounge Chairs and Three You Probably Can’t Afford

by Bradley Downs (05/23/13).

The 670 lounge chair and 671 ottoman designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller lounge and ottoman in Cherry wood/black leather. If you keep your eyes open, you can find a set for around $1,500. Affordable, right?

OK, do you want the affordable (er, somewhat affordable) lounge chairs first or the astronomical designs with jaw-dropping prices?

We’ll do affordable first, starting with an icon of Mid-century design: the 670 lounge chair and 671 ottoman designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller. Of course, these chairs can fetch upwards of $5,000 for a very early, near-perfect Rosewood and down-feather version, but when you think of a used, more recent production in Cherry, it can be had for around $1,500 or less. At the latter price, the timeless Eames lounge set doesn’t seem all that far out of reach!

Vintage versions of this Womb design, as shown here, can be found quite often at very good prices!

Even some of the rare versions of this chair and ottoman can be had for a song and a dance if you know where to search and take the time to search them out. New models from Herman Miller will run you about $3,000 to $4,000. More if you upgrade the leather. 

A second affordable Mid-century design icon is also one of the most comfortable! It’s the classic Womb lounge chair and ottoman designed by Eero Saarinen for Knoll Associates of New York. This is a design that has been an absolute bargain over the past few years when it comes to used versions. I have seen vintage Womb chairs selling for as little as $500 to $950 with ottomans thrown in for free! These chairs were sold in good condition and, yes, were of original Knoll production. You could easily pay triple that amount for a new set from Knoll. Again, it’s a large and very comfortable chair, with or without an ottoman.

Vintage Ekornes lounge set often seen online for as little as $400.

Now, the third affordable lounge chair is not quite an icon of Mid-century design, but it’s quickly on its way! The chair is the Ekornes Stressless lounger and ottoman set produced in Sweden and Norway. Some of the earlier versions from the 1970s can be purchased for less than $400 and this is with the full leather cushions, full recline and bent-ply swivel frames of oak or teak. The Ekornes lounge chair is super comfortable and adjusts to almost any position you would need a chair to go to, even 180-degrees flat for a cat-nap! Retail for newer chairs can run you into the thousands, but searching online can yield some very good deals. This chair design is very well thought out and I personally love everything about the chair. Earlier versions in chrome and leather can be found for even less money, but in my opinion you should seek out the wood-framed chairs if you want an Ekornes.

Are you “sitting down?” Because it’s time for the three least-affordable Mid-century modern lounge chairs and, wow, what prices have been paid for these!

We’ll start highest first, and because it’s a one-off design, maybe the price can be justified.

This aluminum “Lockheed Lounge” chaise designed by Marc Newson, circa 1986, sold for a stunning $2.4 million dollars . . . there is nothing really left to say.

Nope.

No way.

Not justified in my opinion.

You’ll have to pony up $40,000 (at the low end) for this George Nakashima lounge.

The lounge I speak of is the aluminum “Lockheed Lounge” chaise designed by Marc Newson, circa 1986. The design is more post-modern than Mid-century if you really care, but who’s arguing… Anyway, it sold at auction for an impressive $2.4 million dollars. I think I’d just stack that cash into the form of a chair and sit on it. Again, wow! Some say it has to be the most expensive “interior design” element to ever come to market. 

Coming back to earth, somewhat, we move on to George Nakashima and his classic chaise lounge in walnut, circa 1961. This particular design was produced throughout Nakashima’s career and prices can range between $40,000 to $60,000 for this one lounge. This is a tad bit more understandable, as Nakashima was one-in-a-million and his design legacy will live on for many, many years to come. The quality in his craftsmanship and his philosophy “kept the wood alive,” some say. Especially the people who have lived with his pieces of furniture.

This Finn Juhl lounge regularly sells for $30,000 or more.

Switching to a Danish design, we come to the stunning lounge chair by Finn Juhl, named the “Chieftain Chair,” circa 1949. The lounge is large and well-crafted and has sold within a range of $35,000 to $50,000 for a single lounge! This chair was considered “mass-produced” by some but very limited numbers were made, primarily for royalty and government offices and buildings abroad and in Copenhagen, Denmark. The original cabinet maker was a firm out of Copenhagen by the name of Niels Vodder and since the rise in prices these chairs have gone back into production.

Several fine examples have popped up over the years, even a pair here in Atlanta at a local auction. That pair sold for literally pennies on the dollar and then found themselves going for nearly $40,000 each when resold at a large Mid-century modern auction house up north. Amazing that some of the most-scarce of items can turn up right in your own backyard!


Bradley Downs is a Worthologist who specializes in Mid-century modern furniture and the owner of Odd 2 Mod in Atlanta, Ga. You can e-mail him at odd2modauctions@earthlink.net.

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