Design Details: Barcelona Chair

4 years ago
2 minutes

Want to give your home an instant modernist swagger? Pop one of these classic chairs in the mix. Considered to be the absolute peak of modernist furniture design the Barcelona Chair is cool, calm and collected — yet supremely comfortable to sit in.

A perfect example of how international events can drive innovation, the chair was designed for the German pavilion in the International Exposition in 1929, held that year in Barcelona.

Leading lights of the Bauhaus movement, designers Mies Van Der Rohe and Lilly Reich were commissioned to design the piece for the Spanish Royalty to sit in and watch the exposition’s opening ceremony.


Combining the industrial feel of steel legs with the carefully hand-crafted workmanship of the leather seating cushions, the Barcelona Chair perfectly captures the functional design aesthetic of the Bauhaus movement.

Only two were made for the event, yet 90 years later it remains in production by many manufacturers and its industrial, functional aesthetic is part of its charm.

Chrome-plated steel legs gently curve, softening what would otherwise have been a resolutely square piece of furniture. The shiny curves add a friendliness to the overall form. This contradiction is something of the chair’s allure – the comfortable part is the most square and sharp-cornered part, whilst the hard structural part is the most fluid-looking.


The classic version most often seen today features black cow leather, but in fact, the original chair in the Barcelona Exposition was finished in white pigskin.

Both are now readily available and the timeless feel and monochromatic colour palette mean you’ll always find somewhere in your home where this elegant chair will easily slot into your scheme.


Like most classic furniture pieces, you can buy an official reproduction, or you can buy a close approximation copy. An actual Knoll Barcelona Chair will set you back around US$6,000 but you can find copies for around $400 like this one from Zanui.

The Barcelona Chair exudes just enough industrial cool to transcend style periods and fads – and that’s why it has remained truly timeless.

Read Design Details: The Eames Lounge Chair here.

All images credit: Knoll