The Trendiest Chair Right Now Is More Than 90 Years Old
Serious staying power.
Published Dec 26, 2020 1:00 AM
Surely you’ve seen it, with its shiny steel base and contrasting natural seat: The Cesca chair has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent months, earning a spot on our Instagram feeds and in the apartments of the design inclined. But it might not necessarily be fair to call this chair a trend—after all, it’s been a beloved style for more than 90 years.
Marcel Breuer first designed it (which he named after his daughter, Francesca) in 1928, and yet, in 2020, it still seems to be everywhere. The structure is at once natural and industrial, striking a balance with its cane rattan seat and back and its trademark frame, inspired by that of a bicycle. It could be this duality that’s made the design so classic and enduring, but maybe, just maybe, there’s another factor at hand.
As a 1991 story in The New York Times called “The Many Lives of a Very Common Chair” notes, Breuer never patented his design. Sure, he signed onto production with specific manufacturers (today, Knoll remains the only retailer from which you can buy a licensed Cesca chair, and it has been the chair’s manufacturer since 1968), but his design has been accessible for other brands to adapt.
This is precisely why you can get one of these structures for under $50 on eBay or a local thrift store and up to $500 from a certified antiques vendor such as 1stdibs. If you want a brand-new version from Knoll, though, it will set you back around $1,700. What you pick depends on your budget and how dedicated you are to authenticity.
It seems fitting, though, that this now-timeless design should be accessible through so many different paths. Breuer’s original was the first mass-produced chair of its kind, and production since the design’s inception has hardly ceased. Now in interiors that can range from minimalist to bohemian and from strict mid-century to industrial, the Cesca chair fits in.
Today, though, there’s a specific rising trend that has brought the Cesca chair along with it. Cane rattan has enjoyed an increased boost of popularity, bringing the mid-century Jeanneret chair along for a revival as well. The use of natural materials in design feels particularly comforting in an increasingly technological world, and the versatility of rattan makes it especially dynamic in a chair, bookcase, or dresser.
Above the others, though, the Cesca chair enjoys a distinct honor of being one of the most widely available designs that is still actively sought by furniture lovers around the world. Even 92 years later we simply can’t get enough of a creation that melds hand craftsmanship with machine-made structures in a way that’s perfectly poetic.
Convinced you need your own? Find your ideal seat, below.
It’s best to go straight to the source if authenticity is your utmost goal. Knoll offers the Cesca chair with a darker wood frame that dramatically contrasts the cane rattan back and seat.
Made with European beechwood, this rattan version makes it possible to get the Breuer-inspired dining room setup even with a moderate budget.
This restored ’80s option offers a soft, cushioned seat upholstered in a blue-and-gold–patterned fabric. If you err on the side of maximalism, this one offers plenty of fun possibilities.
Created in the ’70s, this option is made to last. Its softly sloping arms offer up additional comfort, and its high-quality rattan promises optimal springiness.