13 Interior Design Classics That Will Upgrade Any Home

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” So goes the William Morris quote. Timely in an era of excess, consumption and Marie Kondo telling you you can do without. Unfortunately for William Morris, the Smeg fridge or the Chemex coffee maker were not around when he was at his most succinct.

Here at Ape, we say buy the household design classics that can do both – beautiful design and quality that supports purpose. From chairs to kitchen essentials, here are some of our favourites.

The Eames Lounge Chair & Ottoman

It’s funny to think now that the original Eames chair and ottoman were meant to be a one-off. Designed to have the look of a “well-used baseman’s mitt”, the duo is undoubtedly one of the most iconic designs of the 20th century in any field.

Think of any stylish home – whether a city penthouse or a lakeside retreat – there’s always an Eames chair in the corner. Always.

Buy now at Heals

Akari Lamp

Vitra Akari 1A Table Lamp

You’ve seen the Akari paper lamp in its various guises. You might know it as the ‘Habitat lamp’ or the ‘IKEA lamp’ depending on what generation you grew up in.

The original Akari lamps – or ‘light sculptures’, as they’re often referred to – hail from the studio of Japanese designer Isamu Noguchi. Designed in 1951, the original designs saw Washi paper, derived from the bark of the Mulberry Tree, glued to bamboo ribbed frames.

Plenty of brands have since adopted the original Akari designs, allowing cheaper options to become available, but if you’re looking for a mark of originality, keep an eye out for the sun and moon moniker.

Buy now at END.

Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron Round Casserole

A piece of kitchen crockery that deserves to be out on show, the Le Creuset Dutch Oven is not only a symbol of style and design but also function and longevity.

If you’re willing to invest in one, there’s a high chance you’re a decent cook. Even if you’re not, that enamel encased in cast iron will ensure heat retention for even cooking and browning, locked-in moisture and, as a result, better-tasting food. Stews, soups, casseroles and baking will never be the same again.

Available in an ever-evolving range of colours, it’s a true investment piece that with proper care, will last a lifetime.

Buy now at John Lewis

Noguchi Coffee Table

Isamu Noguchi wasn’t just about light sculptures. The Japanese designer channelled the biomorphic aesthetic of his sculptural forms into another piece of furniture, the humble coffee table.

Two wooden right-angled leg pieces support a heavy clear glass table top above; their carefully formed stability is a work of art.

The simplicity of using only three elements is what makes the table so iconic. It continues Noguchi’s love of sculpture into something practical for the home.

Buy now at John Lewis

Arco Floor Lamp

Arco Floor Light

Picture the scene: it’s 1960s Paris. Italian brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni are mooching around the city, presumably at night. Akin to the apple hitting Isaac Newton on the head, the brothers are confronted with a lightbulb moment, gazing at the Paris streetlights: directional lighting doesn’t have to be suspended from the ceiling, it can be floor-mounted.

Fast-forward to 1962, when Italian manufacturer Flos released the Arco floor lamp, and the rest is iconic interior history. A skinny stainless steel stem supports a lofty lampshade, perforated to avoid overheating.

Get one for your coffee table or reading nook.

Buy now at Heals

Alvar Aalto 60 Stool

Artek Alvar Aalto 1933 Stool 60

Simplicity is often, if not always, the key to iconic design. Alvar Aalto’s 60 Stool is as simple and functional as a piece of furniture gets. The Finnish designer created the stool in the 1930s as an experiment in functionalism, inspired by the design styles of the time, which favoured minimalism and utilitarianism.

The stool was crafted from bentwood (a departure from the popular use of stainless steel). This resulted in a robust and practical seat that could be stacked, used as a table if need be, and easily decorated in a variety of colours.

It’s often the simple designs that other brands so easily take up (read: copy), but Artek is the place to go if you’re in the market for an original.

Buy now at END.

Chemex Coffee Maker

Need some credentials to justify the purchase? How about this coffee maker being included in the Museum of Modern Art collection in New York? That should suffice.

It’s difficult to think of other items in art galleries that are as practical as this classic kitchen essential. You don’t need to look far in popular culture for a Chemex on the counter and best of all, it makes a mean cup of Joe.

Buy now at Amazon

Roberts Radio

Modelled on a women’s handbag with plush leather surround and a carry handle, the Roberts radio is a quaint addition to any household. Easily recognisable, the device was originally launched in the 1930s and rose to fame thanks to being featured in various advertising campaigns, including one in 1989 for Martini.

Luckily for music lovers, modern renditions feature Bluetooth, DAB and even Spotify and Apple Music connectivity.

Buy now at Amazon

Smeg Fridge

Another design monolith, this time via Italy. Dream kitchens contain Smeg fridges, it’s as simple as that. Don’t be fooled, despite its looks – smooth curves instead of corners, glossy enamel – it wasn’t invented in the 1950s but the 1990s.

It makes little difference, though – it’s a delightfully stylish addition to any kitchen, and it’ll keep everything perfectly chilled.

Buy now at John Lewis

Chesterfield Sofa

Robust leather, sunken buttons, a low profile and high arms are the hallmarks of the Chesterfield sofa, one of the world’s favourite pieces of furniture.

When people refer to them as timeless, they’re not overexaggerating – they have over 300 years of history. From the homes of royalty to the wooded surroundings of private members’ clubs, since its inception, the Chesterfield has never gone out of style.

Buy now at John Lewis

606 Shelving Unit

IKEA ELVARLI Open storage combination

When it comes to iconic storage, the Dieter Rams 606 shelving unit is likely the first item that springs to mind, even if you’re not aware of the designer.

Designed in the 1960s, the more you become aware of the 606, the more you’ll spot it everywhere. What’s special about it, however, is its modular customizability, with moveable shelves and options for drawers and desks.

No 606 is ever the same, and it’s one of the few icons on this list that you can truly make your own. Some even eschew wall-mounting the 606 and instead use it as a room divider. The possibilities are endless.

Today, the only official supplier of the original is Vitsoe, but you’ll find copycats everywhere, from IKEA to Heals.

Buy similar at IKEA

Anglepoise 1227 Desk Lamp

A true British design icon, the Anglepoise desk lamp has been going strong for over 75 years, sitting pride of place in millions of homes nationwide. Its three-spring design was a revolutionary feat of small-scale engineering when it was first introduced to the market in 1932.

Various iterations in colour, size and design have followed since, including a striking collaboration with esteemed designer Paul Smith.

Buy now at Amazon

Dualit Toaster

Another kitchen classic that has been in production since the 1950s, Dualit toasters have stood the test of time in the style stakes. To this day, they continue to be hand-built in their Crawley factory, and longevity is encouraged with replaceable components.

Aside from its stylish looks, it’s a highly practical machine. A removable crumb tray should come as standard on every toaster, whilst a mechanical timer and manual ejector add further functionality to a timeless example of quality and design.

Buy now at John Lewis