Today is International Women’s Day, so I thought what better day to share and get educated about some of all the amazing women in interior design. Throughout the 20th century interior and furniture designers was a male predominant industry, and I am sure you can all name a long list of male furniture designers without even thinking. Many of the women we know from the mid-century era worked alongside their male partner, and only a few made the breakthrough on their own. Luckily that has changed, and today’s female designers are some of the most sort after and really leading the way. Here are 14 incredible women who have and still are shaping our modern design history.
Unquestionably, Ray Eames is THE most iconic female designer in modern design history. In a time when gender equality was lacking, her husband Charles noted: “Anything I can do, Ray can do better.” America’s quintessential husband and wife (and not as many mistakenly believe, brothers!) creative team, Charles & Ray Eames, worked in just about every medium imaginable. They, more than any other designer, helped shape California and American Modernism in the early 1950s. You probably know them best by some of my favorite pieces the Eames Lounge and Lounge Chair Wood, and of course their molded fiberglass chairs, which made it big in Scandinavian interior in the 00ies.
Grete Jalk was bold and experimental with new and innovative ways of using materials and forms. Her honesty and genuine interest in quality and experimental design has made her a Danish design icon. She designed several chairs that used new production methods, and she led the way for a new era of Danish design. Her most famous work includes the GJ chair, an almost bow-like folded design.
One of the only female Swedish architects to gain prominence in the post-war period, Magnusson-Grossman designed homes, interiors and a number of furniture pieces including the instantly-recognizable Grasshöppa and Cobra lamps. After cutting her teeth in the burgeoning Scandinavian modernist scene in her native Sweden, Greta Grossman moved to Los Angeles in 1940. It was here that she made her biggest impact in furniture design helping to shape California modernism. Both her lamps, and many of her furniture pieces, are still produced by Danish Gubi.
Florence Knoll Bassett
Though her case pieces and sofas are ubiquitous, Florence Knoll Bassett famously did not consider herself a furniture designer. She said the she would only design furniture when the existing Knoll collection did not meet the needs of her interior projects. She co-founded Knoll Associates with her husband Hans. When he died in a car accident in 1955 she took over the company and helped shape the forefront of American Modernism by introducing collections designed by Harry Bertoia, Eero Saarinen, George Nakashima, Alexander Gerrared and countless other masters of mid-century design.
After initially being denied a job at Le Corbusier’s studio, but a persistent Charlotte Perriand continued developing her own work and a rooftop bar for the Salon d’Automne drew his attention and she was eventually hired in 1927. Charlotte Perriand got her start co designing 3 chairs with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (one for sleeping, one for conversation, and one for sleeping) for Corbusier’s studio in 1928. She went on to further develop a populist and egalitarian philosophy of furniture design and became one France’s most prolific and collected furniture designers of the 20th century. Her career went on for 75 years until her death in 1999.
Nana Ditzel is a Danish furniture designer who (along with her first husband Jørgen) won many design competitions, including the Milan Triennale and the prestigious Lunning Prize. The couple’s first piece of wicker furniture was a hanging chair produced in 1957. She was inspired by the way these materials could be formed and molded into nearly any shape. In terms of commercial success, her greatest design legacy was the stackable Trinidad chair, which was introduced in 1993. The lightweight piece became an instant hit, at one point selling more than a thousand units per month.
Zaha Hadid was a mastermind architect and designer. Iraqi born and British trained, she was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004. Her office has worked on a total of 950 projects of various scales, operated in 44 countries, and boasted a staff of 400 from 55 countries. Known as the queen of curves in architectural designs, her product designs are said to have brought her larger-than-life aesthetic down to earth.
Ilse Crawford is a designer, academic and creative director with a simple mission to put human needs and desires at the center of all that she does. As founder of Studioilse, together with her multi-disciplinary, London-based team, she brings her philosophy to life. Ilse is undoubtedly most known worldwide for the stunning hotel Ett Hem in Stockholm and for her recent collection for Ikea, which made it big and was sold out in minutes.
With two artist parents, Cecilie Manz encountered the world of design in early childhood in their workshop. Her own career began in 1992 with an academic education from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art and quickly became a household name among many of the most known Danish brands, such as her Caravaggio for Lightyears and Essay for Fritz Hansen. Flipping through her portfolio it seems like there is nothing Cecilie cannot design.
Right after graduating from Denmark Design School in 1995, Campbell established her own design studio. Her playful, experimental approach has brought her international recognition and has exhibited at venues around the globe, and her work is included in several permanent art collections, including MoMA in New York.
Throughout the last 5-10 years a lot of great new women have made a name of themselves in the furniture design industry, and many are quickly becoming household names and creating pieces that everyone is craving. Here are 4 names you should definitely pay attention too. I am very sure their names will come up in future Trivial Pursuit questions.
Trine Andersen, founder of ferm Living, which started out as a wallpaper and wall sticker company, which quickly grew to the interior brand we know today. Trine is the mastermind behind most of the company’s designs.
Chris L. Halstrøm got her breakthrough in 2014 with her Georg series for Skagerak. Since the collection has grown in pieces and become a worldwide success and Chris is designing everything from furniture to entire kitchens.
Stine Gam is the Danish half of the Danish/Italian design duo GamFratesi. The couple has designed for Ligne Roset, Casamania, Swedese, Erik Jørgensen and Fredericia Furniture in just a few years, but their biggest success probably is the Bettle chair for Danish Gubi, which you see at best restaurants and hotels all over the world.
Chen-Yen Wei runs the Swedish design studio Afteroom together with Hung-Ming Chen. Together they create simple and beautiful pieces, many of which you find with Danish Menu.