CULT EDIT. 25 design icons curated by 25 leading Australian creatives

This year Cult celebrates 25 years as the home of design icons and go-to destination for authentic 20th-century furniture and lighting. Marking this milestone, we present a new exhibition that pays homage to the design icons at Cult, showcasing 25 of the world’s most recognisable designs curated by 25 leading Australian creatives who have played a significant role in Cult’s 25-year journey, including designers, stylists and editors.

Read on for a round-up of the icons featured in the exhibition, alongside personal stories from the curators who have selected them.

The 'Cult Design Icons' exhibition is on show now at Cult Sydney until 01 March, 2023.  

 PKO A Chair (1952) by Poul Kjærholm - Fritz Hansen

"The visionary nature of Fritz Hansen’s products has resulted in countless classics that have become the hallmarks of contemporary design. And just as I thought I was familiar with all of its icons, along comes the PK0 A chair, which Fritz Hansen re-released for the first time in celebration of its 150th anniversary.

Created by Poul Kjærholm in 1952, at the beginning of the Danish designer’s tenure at Fritz Hansen, only 600 chairs were ever in circulation until last year. Ahead of its time then and even today, its low, sloping, graphic profile is downright futuristic. A chair with no defined frame or base, PK0 A’s shape is a somewhat atypical form for Kjærholm, who was inspired by the sculptures of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Jean Arp, as well as his contemporaries pushing American and Japanese design forward at the time. " 

— Dana Tomic Hughes, Yellowtrace 

Lampadaire collection (1953) by Serge Mouille - Editions Serge Mouille®

"Serge Mouille was studying at the Paris Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et métiers d'Art (Applied Art School) in the late 1930s as France entered World War II; he hit his stride with a now-iconic series of formed metal lamps as the economic surge of post-war recovery – and most notably the nation’s first forays into Space – in the early 1950s took hold. With their sinuous arms and pod-like shades, to my eye the lamps – which come in standard, ceiling- and floor-mountable or table versions with single, double and triple shades – are inflected with the trauma of the (but also glorious artisan) past and imbued with the aspirations (and industrial savvy) of the future. Mini satellites – and signals of hope – for the home." 

— Stephen Todd, Design Editor at The Australian Financial Review

"A forever fan of Serge Mouille, a master of 20th century lighting design, for the timeless and sculptural nature of his pieces and the dedication to craftsmanship. Since the 1950s, his pieces have held a special place in some of my most admired interior spaces. Nothing excites me more than the seamless intersection between scultpture and function." 

— Joseph Gardner, Interior Stylist & Design Consultant

Lily Chair by Arne Jacobsen (1968) – Fritz Hansen

"The history of Fritz Hansen begins in 1872, where the enterprising cabinet maker obtained a trade license in Copenhagen. Fritz Hansen was a true collaborator and worked with some of the most influential designers of the times.

Originally designed for the Danish National Bank in 1968, the Lily Chair is the last chair Arne Jacobsen ever designed. The elegant shape and pure functionality of the Lily chair is evocative of an era in design which has always resonated with me. With the simple purpose of making something beautiful and practical that can live through and enhance people’s lives, you are able to really engage with the design process that created these pieces and make them more meaningful. They become incredibly personal parts of your life." 

— Lee Mathews, Fashion Designer

Fat Tulip Chair (2014) by Adam Goodrum - nau

"With its distinctive yet timeless club-chair shape, Adam Goodrum's Fat Tulip chair has all the hallmarks of an iconic design piece. Its curved arm details and distinctly chubby profile makes this chair instantly recognisable, whilst also lending it a fun, and slightly irreverent personality. It is both elegant and eye-catching, understated and quietly quirky. Unquestionably a future classic." 

— Lucy Feagins, The Design Files

"I have a distinct memory of nau launching at ICFF in New York – elated that, at last, we had a brand to champion Australian design on a global stage. Fat Tulip was an instant icon – distinctive and perfectly formed. Fast-forward a few years, and as part of Kvadrat Maharam, I now have the pleasure of collaborating with Richard and the Cult team as they continue to fight the good fight for Australian design, supporting emerging talent and celebrating our local design culture."

—  Amy Turnbull, Kvadrat Maharam 

CH07 Shell Chair (1963) by Hans J. Wegner – Carl Hansen & Son

"Have you ever been completely flawed by the breathtaking beauty of an object? I felt that when I first saw the CH07 Shell Chair twenty years ago. It had the curves of a 1950s sport car, and also reminded me of a beautiful stiletto, balancing effortlessly on a single rear ‘heel’. For years I’ve marvelled at its structure never tired of its gracious form, at every angle.

When Smart Design Studio turned ten, my team asked me what my favourite chair was. I had no hesitation to say that it was the CH07 Shell Chair, and a few months later it came as a lovely gift from them. The pair of black lacquered chairs have lived at home for over 10 years and now take centre-place in our Stokes Avenue foyer.

Fifteen years on, with the marks from thousands of people sitting on them, they look even better than when new." 

— William Smart, Smart Design Studio

Lampe de Marseille (1949) by Le Corbusier – Nemo

"The Nemo Lampe de Marseille light is a wonderful light fixture. It’s mind blowing to think that it was created almost 75 years ago yet still remains so relevant to our own era of contemporary design.

Ironically while Le Corbusier strode to reject previous historical architectural styles in his work it is the heritage value of the fitting that is one of the many beautiful things that we have embraced. Because of this it has retained a value for re-use to align with current sustainable principals making this piece a true design icon." 

— Kirsten Stanisich, Director at  Richards Stanisich

Vipp Bin (1939) by Holger Nielsen - Vipp

"The Vipp Bin is one of the purest expressions of Scandinavian ‘form and function’. The true value of design is often found in how it solves a problem or responds to a need, and Vipp’s origin story is just that. Metalworker Holger Nielsen designed the first Vipp Bin for his wife’s hair salon in Denmark in the 1930s.

Driven by a very pragmatic need, the design features everything a bin could need and nothing more; a large foot for stability, an air-tight, domed steel lid for easy cleaning, a removable inner bin, and a rubber base to protect the floor beneath. Above all else, high quality materials and manufacturing techniques ensure the bin never wears out – sustainable design before such a concept existed.

I purchased my first Vipp Bin more than a decade ago and have been adding to my collection ever since. Whether in the bathroom, kitchen, or office, Vipp’s quiet simplicity is a subtle yet ever-present reminder of the value of design and how it can shape our interaction with the world." 

— Neil Hugh Kenna, Director at NHO

Sofa With Arms (1982) by Shiro Kuramata - Cappellini

"My favourite icon from the Cult Collection is Shiro Kuramata’s ‘Sofa with Arms’. Kuramata was a key member of the Memphis Group, who looked beyond the Modernist ideal of ‘form follows function’ to create subversive works.

‘Sofa with Arms’ inspires us to think differently. I love the idea of furniture as art, or more specifically, as sculpture, and this is a major influence in my work. The chair might be considered ‘uncomfortable’ but for me that’s not the point. It might not even be a ‘sofa’. It makes us realise; the development of an object doesn’t need to be linear and sometimes it’s liberating to take a completely unexpected turn." 

— Kerry Phelan, KPDO 

PH5 Pendant (1958) by Poul Henningsen - Louis Poulsen

"Poul Henningsen won a lighting design competition at the Paris World Fair in 1925 – which began his relationship with Louis Poulsen – them working together on development of the fitting subsequent to the fair. The light was conceived at a time when electrified light was replacing oil lamps and was a response to his mother’s request to design a fitting that better-distributed light while eliminating glare – to deliver a more flattering light – what a fantastic brief!

I love the PH5 light because it is a confluence of romanticism and functionalism – a beautiful object on and off. I picked up two mismatched antique fittings recently at a garage sale – the owners had no idea what the lights were, and had them installed over the dining table at my parent's house that I recently completed for them. I love the light and all of its colourways, and I love the longevity of the fixture.

They are to lighting what Madonna is to music – lasting and still innovative."

— Adam Haddow, SJB 

Wulff Chair (1930) by unknown designer - &Tradition

"There is something appealing about an iconic piece that represents an era and a geography rather than be attributed to a singular designer. The Wulff chair was produced in Denmark in the 1930’s – created in small batches by an unknown Copenhagen carpenter’s workshop and recently re-released by &Tradition after purchasing an original from a Danish auction house. It therefore has no acknowledged ‘designer’ but rather represents the desire for craft and the comfort of upholstery prevalent at the time.

It has enormous appeal today with its sculptural timber armrests, bold winged back-rest and coverings including fabric, sheepskin and rare natural-toned Icelandic sheepskin. There is something appealingly awkward about the relative dimensions, quite bulky and low to the ground, it then has the playfulness of the dainty kick back of the rear legs; it has an open character that invites you in which adds to its enduring appeal." 

— Karen McCartney & David Harrison

PP225 Flag Halyard Chair (1949) by Hans J. Wegner - PP Mobler

"The perfect balance of strong sculptural form, robust materiality and a comforting embrace, Hans Wegner’s Flag Halyard Chair is a refined masterpiece. Designed in 1949 using stainless steel and rope, with a soft leather pillow, the Flag Halyard is built for longevity - built for generations to enjoy.

An Arent&Pyke favourite with or without sheepskin adornment. I personally love without - in all its refined austerity. The Flag Halyard is a hero piece in our Villa Amor project." 

— Juliette Arent, Arent&Pyke

Fronzoni Chair (1964) by A.‎G.‎ Fronzoni - Cappellini

"I still remember the day I first saw Cappellini Fronzoni 64’ table. What a total invitation to change the way I had thought about dining tables. But be still my beating heart, it was the matching chairs, a perfect sibling pair that I feel really makes this brand and this chair in particular a worthy cult item.

Firstly it throws up the idea of a chair. Coming out from the overt design gestures that preceded it, it was reduced to a simplistic drawing of how a child might draw up a chair. It wasn’t curvy, or moulded plastic or modern take on neoclassical, or even sartorial or newsworthy, it was just sturdy, perfect proportions and seemed to be the exact axis point to any table top.

Although I use mine daily, for me it’s not about the chair to sit on. When I walk around the corner to my dining room and catch sight of them at the end of my table, their quiet simplicity still manages to take my breath away. Unlike other chairs, it's 360 degrees of reductive elegance. Every angle is a great one. No matter if it’s at a table or against a wall, whether you catch it from behind or front on. It’s a thing of beauty." 

— Megan Morton, Stylist 

PK91 Folding Stool (1961) by Poul Kjærholm - Fritz Hansen

"With a seemingly effortless twist, horizontal to vertical and back again, Poul Kjaerholm has created one of the most elegant and timeless pieces of furniture of all time. Brushed stainless steel and natural canvas, no applied finishes or colour, the PK91 folding stool, nothing more, nothing less." 

— Ian Moore, Ian Moore Architects

Spanish Chair (1958) by Børge Mogensen - Fredericia

"I've long admired the timeless Spanish Chair designed by Danish craftsman, Børge Mogensen. I love the strong timber frame wrapped in saddle stitched leather, with buckles to ensure a comfortable seat. The broad oak armrests are just the right width to place a book or coffee. I'll take two please, an iconic heirloom collectable." 

— Miffy Coady, Est Living 

Pacha Chair (1975) by Pierre Paulin - Gubi

"Pierre Paulin’s work has resonated with me for as long as I can recall. Pierre’s pieces hold their own within both contemporary and traditional spaces with total ease. This is especially true for the Pacha chair from Gubi. Having had the privilege of incorporating the Pacha into several projects, we are particularly enamoured with the Pacha’s versatility when used individually or grouped as a lounge, plus who doesn’t love a swivel? The Pacha is iconic and remains fresh almost 50 years since its original design, which is the definition of enduring." 

— Alexandra Donohoe Church, Founder & Managing Director of Decus

Cumano Table (1979) by Achille Castiglioni - Zanotta

"I met Achille Castiglioni's daughter, Giovanna, when she came to Australia many years ago. Consequently, she invited me to one of her tours of her father's studio in Milan. It was one of the most inspiring experiences of my career. Castiglioni's inventiveness and wit has inspired me to this day. I love the honest mechanical simplicity and the playfulness of the perfectly designed Cumano table." 

— Adam Goodrum, Industrial Designer

CH24 Wishbone Chair (1950) by Hans J. Wegner - Carl Hansen & Son

"Undeniably the pin-up for mid-century Danish design, Hans Wegner’s Wishbone Chair is a true icon. Hand-crafted using sustainable and low-tox materials of solid timber and paper cord, and made to last, the CH24 remains more relevant today than ever. In natural timber or a joyful slick of colour, the wishbone is an Arent&Pyke favourite and is placed across a range of our projects, most recently in Layer Cake." 

— Sarah-Jane Pyke, Arent&Pyke

Result Chair (1958) by Friso Kramer and Wim Rietveld for Ahrend - HAY

"Functional, pragmatic and undone of everything unnecessary, the Result chair designed by Friso Kramer and Wim Rietveld could not be more archetypical Dutch. Educated in The Netherlands it is very likely that we spend our schooldays on the Result Chair however we have no recollection of that. Exactly this is the enduring quality of the chair in combination with the ability to work in residential and public environments vintage or highly contemporary. Very much a classic, very much iconic." 

— Eva Dijkstra & Michael Lugmayr, Design by Toko

Principal Chair (1961) by Bodil Kjaer - Karakter Copenhagen

"Bodil Kjaer once said, 'A chair should not be more important than the person sitting in it'. At 90 years of age Kjaer is a living design icon in her own right and the Principal Chair wonderfully demonstrates this statement. It doesn’t distract or overpower a room but fits and responds to the space in which it is placed. It is precise, elegant, modern, and quiet - just how I want our interiors to be experienced and why I love using it.

Bodil’s secrets to longevity are good food, moderate amounts of very good wine, little medication, and an almost obstinate sense of positivity (not to be confused with persistent agreeability). Bang on Ms Kjaer."

— Anna-Carin McNamara, Interior Designer

Panthella collection (1971) by Verner Panton - Louis Poulsen

"The Panthella collection by Verner Panton is an iconic piece of design, exuding a strong and bold, yet minimalist form. I adore the beautiful symmetry and simplicity. Plus, the fact it’s designed to emit the perfect distribution of light and ambience makes it a star!" 

— Aleesha Callahan, Habitus 

Molloy Chair (2016) by Adam Goodrum - nau

"I believe an iconic piece of design should express an authenticity that transcends eras and trends, and nau’s Molloy Chair perfectly encapsulates this sentiment. Designed locally and inspired by Australia’s natural landscapes, it embodies many of the qualities we value at The Local Project and has featured in several special projects we’ve covered over the years.

My background as a furniture maker means I naturally gravitate towards beautifully crafted timber furniture, and the Molloy Chair is a piece of contemporary Australian design I’ll always return to." 

— Aidan Anderson, The Local Project 

PP130 Circle Chair (1986) by Hans J. Wegner - PP Mobler

"I think the Circle Chair is one of Hans Wegner’s most beautiful chair designs. I love the symmetry - the elegance of the circular shape and the surprising comfort. Technically it is clearly challenging to construct, but beautifully resolved and executed. The hand-finishing of the timber and the rope weaving add to the special quality of this chair, which is surprisingly light and easy to move around."

— Meryl Hare, Hare + Klein 

PK22 Chair (1955) by Poul Kjærholm - Fritz Hansen

"I’ve been a fan of Poul Kjaerholm’s furniture since I first learned about his particular design approach. Choosing steel rather than timber as his primary construction material, and then layering that with other materials like wicker, leather and marble meant that he could create architectural furniture pieces that are built to last. At Futurespace we always design with the environment in mind, and so specifying products like the PK22 means that our clients are investing in quality, longevity and sustainability. " 

— Angela Ferguson, Futurespace (Managing and Creative Director)

"I specified the PK22 in wicker during one of my first workplace projects for a large financial institution. I was attracted to the simplicity of materials but also the comfort, and the low seat and unique proportions provide a really different lounging experience. When the client moved, they didn’t take the furniture with them and gifted it to me. I now have them in my home along with a wonderful memory from the start of my career." 

— Gavin Harris, Futurespace (Design Director)

CH26 Chair (1955) by Hans J. Wegner - Carl Hansen & Son

"As a society we are sitting more than ever... so invest in quality pieces that you will treasure for a lifetime. Author Turner Osler has described the 'chair' as an alternative to 'complete physical relaxation', the definition of comfort. Hans J. Wegner’s CH26 encapsulates this statement both visually through form, the mixing of materials, timbers and cord along with practicality through design authenticity.

As a stylist the CH26 arouses a strong emotional resonance in me. It delivers the possibility of multiple use and versatility as part of a dining set or individually where it can have the same visual effect as a sculpture in the corner of a room. A hero amongst Danish Modernism, a movement that has been one of my personal passions from a young age, highlighting architectural uniqueness and sustainability that is still as relevant in 2023 as it was when it was created in 1950. " 

— Claire Delmar, Stylist

Sacco (1968) by Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini and Franco Teodoro - Zanotta

"The designers presented Aurelio Zanotta with the unstructured, non-conformist ‘anti-armchair’ Sacco in 1968 - a synthetic leather sheath filled with polystyrene balls that adjusts to the user’s seating position.

Rarely has a product so dramatically reinvented a typology - in this instance, a chair or armchair.

Ingrained in contemporary popular culture, Sacco has become universally known as the bean bag. Awarded the ADI Compasso d’Oro in 1970, the industrial design equivalent of an Oscar, in 2020, it became the first product to receive the lifetime achievement award by ADI, cementing design icon status.

Founded in 1954, Zanotta is a heritage, family-owned brand renowned for producing many seminal 20th-century furniture designs. It is one of my favourite furniture companies I have worked with during my career."

— Anne-Maree Sargeant, Authentic Design Alliance

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