Then&Now: George Nelson’s Modern Classics

At the end of World War ll, Americans were casting aside traditional furniture for the designs of architect-turned-designer  George Nelson. He was definitely up to the challenge and in 1947 unveiled more than 70 separate pieces in his first collection. The designs have great modern lines yet remain distinctly Nelson’s by following his own three rules-

1. Make it simple.

2. Make it flexible.

3. Make it honest, without superficial style tricks.

Now more than fifty years later they are considered modern classics and highly sought after!


Then- A 1947 color photo shows a few of Nelson’s designs- storage units with blond primavera wood and black lacquer, a slat bench (units are on top of it),  and the coffee table which is a good example of his love for multi-purposed furniture. The ends of the table pull out to reveal…


… removable trays and when left in they provide more surface space.


Then– One of Nelson’s most popular (and my favorite piece) was the slatted bench.


Now– These photos were pulled from an auction catalog dated July, 2000. But they give an idea of how the prices continue to go up for Nelson’s furniture. The two slat benches were listed for $700 (left) and $900 (under cabinet). The ebonized storage cabinet went for $1200.


Then– Another great multi-purposed piece was this end table with built in planter and swagged arm lamp.


Now- On the right is the same end table/lamp/planter up for sale at $500.

(Photos- Better Homes and Gardens, 1947. Auction catalog)

4 thoughts on “Then&Now: George Nelson’s Modern Classics

  1. I was poking around the Internet looking for information/images of the George Nelson coffee table with pull-out trays. I happen to own an original – my mother bought it directly from the designer – and found one online for my sister. It is a timeless design which I use in my own living room. Purchased in the late 1940s, I have already instructed my sons that this piece is NEVER to be given away or sold…it is just a special piece of American design history. It was nice to find it featured in your blog.

    1. Amy-
      Wow…An original Nelson table! I know how you feel regarding a special piece of furniture…’never to be given away or sold.’ Mine is an authentic Craftsman library table that I bought over ten years ago before the prices went crazy.

  2. I recently purchased a George Nelson end table/lamp/planter at an estate sale which is in pretty good shape but unfortunately it doesn’t have the lamp shade. Does anyone know where I can find specs on this shade or a good source to purchase an old one? Thanks!

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