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lEO INTERIOR recently launched a carefully curated collection of Iconic Designs that brings together pieces — such as Poul Henningsen’s 1958 organic yet futuristic Artichoke lamp — that have stood the test of time. These masterworks are just as covetable today as they were when they were created, some even more so. Top: Interior designer Nicole Hollis deployed an Eero Saarinen Tulip table in the dining area of a prewar pied-à-terre in San Francisco
What springs to mind when you hear the phrase “design icon”? If you conjure up an image of Eero Saarinen’s 1956 Tulip chair — its curvaceous seat perfectly balanced on a slender pedestal — you’re far from alone. Saarinen’s lyrical design, now familiar to nearly everyone, even three-quarters of a century after its creation, quickly became a symbol of the jet age, a frequent prop in science fiction movies and a ubiquitous presence in conference rooms and breakfast nooks across the land.
But no matter how many times you’ve seen the Tulip design — whether the chair or its companion table, both still produced by Knoll in a wide range of iterations — its power and impact never wane. Its brilliance is eternal.We could stay up all night arguing about the definition of “design icon.” It’s a designation for which there are few objective criteria. One point of general agreement is that an icon is something produced in multiples.
“The Mona Lisa is an icon, but she became one through reproduction,” points out Glenn Adamson, an independent curator of craft, design and contemporary art. “Iconic designsare generally items that have been produced in large enough quantities to gain notoriety,” says Dexter Hutchison, whose Los Angeles store, Automaton, is a repository of early-production pieces from Herman Miller, Knoll and Fritz Hansen, among the mightiest icon makers of the 20th and 21st centuries.