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DESIGN

10 can't-miss classics

They are as familiar to us as our childhood homes, yet they still feel fresh and current. These 10 classic designs -- constantly reimagined -- have proved their enduring appeal over decades and even centuries. They transcend trendiness: They've never gone out of style. Why? They are functional, good-looking, well proportioned, intelligent and versatile, lending themselves to any number of interpretations. They're great in traditional settings; they're great in contemporary ones. In short, they work. Anytime, anywhere.

September 23, 2004|Janet Eastman, David A. Keeps and Adamo DiGregorio | Special to The Times

Chaise longue

WHAT IT IS: The chaise longue, meaning "long chair," was created in 18th century France with one arm, a cushioned back and a seat that stretched out far enough to politely accommodate a sitter's outstretched legs. During the Modernist era of the '20s and '30s, the chaise longue (pronounced shez long, not chaze lounge, as Americans are too often wont to err), gained international popularity when European designers reenvisioned it.

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WHY IT WORKS: Lounge-ability equals longevity, says New York architect Richard Meier, who designed L.A.'s Getty Center. "It's a masterpiece of furniture," he says. "You're not lying down in a bed or sitting up as you would in a chair. You're somewhere in between." His favorite: Le Corbusier's iconic 1928 tubular steel and cowhide chaise, which the Swiss architect and designer called "a relaxing machine."

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WHERE TO FIND IT: This neoclassical Scroll chaise, $1,709, is from Milling Road by Baker; www.kohlerinteriors.com.

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THE LOOK FOR LESS: Sophie Chaise, $1,199 at Pottery Barn; www.potterybarn.com.

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Klismos chair

WHAT IT IS: Created in Greece in the 5th century BC and influenced by Egyptian styles, this graceful chair -- known for its absolute purity of form -- is one of the most reinterpreted of furniture designs. It is distinguished by saber-shaped legs splayed at the front and back and a gently curved backrest that conforms to the human back. In 1961, British-born interior and furniture designer T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings pared down the klismos design to its essentials, creating a refined Modernist chair of walnut and woven leather that is still being reproduced.

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WHY IT WORKS: "Robsjohn-Gibbings really got the shape right; it's not clunky. It's beautiful and light, easy to pull up for a conversation," says Los Angeles interior designer David Desmond, who considers the klismos versatile enough to fit classical and modern design schemes, but also a formal piece. "It's not a lounge-around, watching-TV chair," he says, "but a piece of sculpture."

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WHERE TO FIND IT: Robsjohn-Gibbings klismos chairs, as shown here, $16,500 for two at Blackman Cruz, Los Angeles; (310) 657-9228.

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THE LOOK FOR LESS: The Pompeii side chair, $995 at Kreiss Collection; (310) 657-3990.

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Regency table

WHAT IT IS: A 19th century mix of ancient styles, predominantly Greek, Egyptian and Roman, the Regency is a neoclassical design with architectural ornamentation, a three-footed pedestal and a round top.

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WHY IT WORKS: Using the proportions of columns, urns and the Greek key motif, a Regency table "evokes a great sense of the Old World and contributes a warmth and dignity to its setting," says Los Angeles interior designer Donna Livingston. While the aesthetic may seem somewhat grand, Regency also has a clear and logical look that allows for modern updates and easy integration into almost any room. An English Regency breakfast table, says Suzanne Rheinstein, owner of the L.A. store Hollyhock, works in a sleek contemporary room and "looks terrific with '40s French chairs and Art Deco lighting."

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WHERE TO FIND IT: Julian Chichester's breakfast table, shown here, has a silver leaf mirror top, $2,695 at Grace Home Furnishings, Los Angeles; (310) 476-7176.

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THE LOOK FOR LESS: The Collina, a steel pedestal table with a copper top, mimics the look for $799; at www.crateandbarrel.com.

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Parsons table

WHAT IT IS: Jean-Michel Frank, an instructor in the Parsons School of Design's Paris Ateliers, designed this perfectly proportioned table in the mid-1920s. Its secret? Four square supports form the corners of the top, which is the same thickness as the legs it stands on. Made of particleboard and plastic laminate or high-gloss lacquered hardwoods, the Parsons table can be found everywhere from Park Avenue apartments to students' first rentals.

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WHY IT WORKS: The elementary geometry of the Parsons table allows for versatility in size, shape and scale, including consoles with two slab legs instead of four. Says San Francisco interior designer Paul Wiseman of the egalitarian Parsons: "You can make it a coffee table, drinks table, desk, stool or sofa table, and it always looks good mixed with antiques or modern sculpture."

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WHERE TO FIND IT: Lacquered Parsons cocktail table shown here, $1,500 at Jonathan Adler, Los Angeles; (323) 658-8390.

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THE LOOK FOR LESS: The Jolly side table in transparent polycarbonate, $128 at Kartell, West Hollywood; (310) 271-0178.

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Wing chair

WHAT IT IS: Also known as a "grandfather chair," this tall upholstered piece was created in the late 17th century to protect its occupants from drafts. The upholstered "wing" panels extend forward from the back of the chair (holding you upright if you nod off) and curve into padded arms.

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