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Best Bets: Design Finds Under $500

We know that great design is worth the investment—but that doesn’t have to mean a bust to the pocketbook to celebrate an icon in your own home. There are plenty of renowned pieces that come at an attainable price point. We’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite pieces that will allow you to have and appreciate great modern design without breaking the bank.

Written by Nissa Hallquist

Saucer Bubble Pendant

by George Nelson for Herman Miller®

No self-respecting mid-century modern home is complete without at least one George Nelson Bubble Lamp in it. Each one has a space age aspect to it while also being wholly approachable. Not to mention the fact that the methods and materials used to create the pendants in the 1950s are still pretty amazing in the 2010s.

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Saucer Bubble Pendant by George Nelson for Herman Miller®

Stool 60

by Alvar Aalto for Artek

The stool that launched a thousand…well, more stools. Designed by Alvar Aalto in 1933, Stool 60 was renowned for its Bauhaus simplicity and innovative L-bent wood legs. It’s been widely copied since then, but there’s no getting around this original design’s smooth sturdiness.

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Stool 60

Eames House Bird

by Vitra

This wasn’t designed by Charles & Ray Eames, but it was a prominent piece in their home. The Eameses obviously knew what they were doing design-wise, a fact that makes this Bird so well-regarded. Plus, it’s really rather cute.

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Eames House Bird

Kettle with Bird Whistle

by Michael Graves for Alessi

Designed by Michael Graves in 1985, the Kettle with Bird Whistle remains a best-seller for Alessi to this day. It has the signature angular Graves profile, color palettes that are both playful and versatile and a super-adorable bird-shaped whistle to tell you when the water’s ready.

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Kettle with Bird Whistle

Masters Chair

by Eugeni Quitllet, Philippe Starck for Kartell

With the Masters chair, you get some real bang for your modern design buck. It features the work of five different designers. The back is composed of the outlines of the Series 7 by Arne Jacobsen, the Tulip Armchair by Eero Saarinen and the Eiffel Chair by Charles Eames. Those three were all put together by Philippe Starck and Eugeni Quitllet.

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Masters Chair

Tolomeo Classic Table Lamp

by Giancarlo Fassina, Michele De Lucchi for Artemide

The Tolomeo was industrial before industrial was cool. The crane-like form was designed by Michele de Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina in 1989 for Artemide, and it has since become ubiquitous on desktops all around the world. Just try to watch a procedural on TV without seeing at least one.

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Tolomeo Classic Table Lamp

Ant 3 Leg Chair – Colored Ash

by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen

In 1952, the Ant Chair was the first attempt by Arne Jacobsen to create a chair seat using a single piece of pressure molded wood veneer. The resulting insect-like curves are unique, eye-catching and undeniably appealing. The original 3-legged colored ash version of the chair is the most approachable price-wise.

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Ant 3 Leg Chair – Colored Ash

Aalto Vase

by Alvar Aalto for Iittala

In 1936, Alvar Aalto blew glass into a curvy wood mold. The unusual, undulating form that resulted has become arguably one of the best known, most iconic pieces of glass ever made. Costs for the Aalto Vase range anywhere from $30-195, depending on the size and color.

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Aalto Vase

Ball Clock

by George Nelson for Vitra

This 1947 design by George Nelson was just one of several clock designs he created throughout the 1940s and ‘50s. With its spherical time markers and geometric hands, the look of the Ball Clock in particular is at once balanced, graphic and playful.

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Ball Clock

Panton Chair (1999)

by Verner Panton for Vitra

The improbable form of the Panton Chair was the result of many years of experimentation by Verner Panton to create a chair out of a single piece of plastic. In 1960, he succeeded. The cantilevered S-shape of the chair is just as strong as it is visually appealing. And it comes in an array of fun colors.

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Panton Chair

Honorable Mention: Miniatures

by Vitra

You can’t sit in them, but the chairs in the line of Vitra Miniatures are so carefully modeled on the originals that design schools use them for their coursework. They represent an extensive design timeline and look really cool on a bookshelf or tabletop. Some do run over, but the majority of the miniatures are less than $500.

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Miniatures by Vitra
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