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We all love a good movie. But whilst the actors and directors of Hollywood get the lion’s share of glory, we often forget the subtle elements of set design which shape the atmosphere of our favorite fictions. To celebrate the value of good set design, we’ve created a list of designer furniture which features items that play central parts in the narrative and atmosphere of the stories they help tell…

1. Jacobsen’s Egg Chair from Men In Black


Popularised by Will Smith’s sci-fi wise-cracking, the MIB franchise features a number of unique and iconic design elements, most notably agents’ egg-shaped chairs:

In Real Life: Designed by Arne Jacobsen, the Egg Chair is perhaps the single most iconic chair of all time and elegantly exemplifies the curvaceous vibrancy of 60’s design.

2. Classical Ruby Armchair from The Matrix


Do you take the red pill, or the blue pill? Either way you can’t deny the laconic sophistication Laurence Fishburne brings to The Matrix as Morpheus. In this quintessential scene, he gives Neo a choice between the grim reality of life outside the Matrix and the continuation of an existential deception. To juxtapose the grittiness of the real world he will eventually visit, they sit in luxurious leather armchairs while he nervously decides.


In Real Life: There are many versions of this classical design throughout the world of furniture but, thanks to Morpheus, they now hold a cult status and are often featured in very modern apartments; offering a similar juxtaposition.

3. Eero Saarinen’s Tulip Chair from Star Trek: The Motion Picture


To boldly sit where no one has sat before! The original series of Star Trek featured a bountiful array of futuristic 60’s design including oval shaped tables, glowing display panels, and the famous tulip swivel chair which epitomises the era.


In Real Life: Designed by Eero Saarinen, the Tulip chair was an experimental use of materials for its time; manipulating plastic like never before and creating the smooth and unique lines of modernism that we so strongly associate with 60s designer furniture.

4. Womb Chair from Down With Love


The chic 50s style was captured so evocatively by Set Decorator Don Diers in Down With Love featuring a stunning Renée Zellweger and charming Ewan McGregor among a host of pinks and baby blues.


In Real Life: The Womb Chair was originally designed byEero Saarinen to provide Florence Knoll with a place to “curl up in”, if you’ve ever sat in one of these then I think you’ll agree; he succeeded.

5. US Navy Chair from The Vow


Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum star in this cuddly rom-com in which lovers are reunited despite a serious car accident and resultant memory-loss. In McAdams’ retro-chic apartment you can see stylish touches such as Witton Dinges’ famous Navy Chair:


In Real Life: The iconic aluminium chair was originally designed for the US Navy and now takes its place in many movie sets and apartments alike.

6. Barcelona Bench from Twilight


When he’s not busy staring blankly at Rose Swan, Twilight’s Edward Cullen can be seen relaxing in his luxury forest penthouse adorned with stylish modern items like Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona Bench:


In Real Life: Van Der Rohe designed this particular piece for the 1929 World Exposition in Barcelona (hence the name) it uses straps of leather to suspend a luxuriously comfortable padded cushion and headrest. Bear in mind that if you do buy one, you might end up acting like a moody vampire.

7. Wegner’s Ox Chair from Austin Powers


Designed as a tribute to the Bond films and other 60s spy movies, the Austin Powers set displayed an amazing array of outrageous statement pieces, but ironically perhaps the most tasteful example was Dr Evil’s Ox Chair:


In Real Life: Hans Wegner furniture is typically macho and domineering, and this piece wouldn’t look out of place in most bachelor pads.

8. Eames Lounge Chair from Closer


Perhaps one of the best movie dramas in the last few decades, Closer depicts the best and the worst of human relationships alongside some stunning modern studio flats. In this scene Julia Roberts confronts Clive Owen after nervously waiting in the archetypal Eames Lounge Chair.


In Real Life: This modern classic features leather-bound upholstery and moulded plywood in a pioneering design by the legendary Charles Eames.

9. Aarino Ball Chair from Mars Attacks!


Perhaps one of Tim Burton’s best achievements, this star studded sci-fi comedy features a range of stylised retro sets and 60’s B-Movie tributes:


In Real Life: Eero Aarnio designed this masterpiece in 1966 using revolutionary techniques in plastic and fibreglass to achieve that stunning spherical finish.

10. Bocca Lips Sofa from Austin Powers


As above, the set was so outrageous that we had to include a second reference, especially one as sensual as this – ooh behave!


In Real Life: For audacious apartments there aren’t many statement pieces more eye-catching than the Lips sofa, it truly is the loudest piece of designer furniture I’ve ever seen.

11. Barcelona Chair from Casino Royale


In one of his steeliest scenes, Daniel Craig’s James Bond pauses tensely on a Barcelona Chair before acting with typical cool composure. It is the stylish use of designer furniture and retro set design that makes Casino Royale such a successful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s literary creation:


In Real Life: Like his Bench above, Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair features an elegant frame supporting leather pads with an executive finish.

12. Eames Office Chair from The Holiday


This feel-good Christmas movie showcases a number of luxurious apartments and pampered lifestyles that most of us can only dream of come December 25th. Here Cameron Diaz’s character can be seen reading a plot-changing email as she perches on a fabulous white Eames Chair:


In Real Life: Ironically Charles Eames created this aluminium and leather work of art principally for its functional use, however the elegant modernist elements make it one of the most stunning chair designs of the 20th century.

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Posted by Fraser Strand

Fraser Strand writes about designer furniture, contemporary culture, and interior design on his blog Modern Style Review. He has a passion for contemporary design and is continually trying to reinvent the wheel.

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