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One wiry classic of mid-century design. Two contemporary chairs that nod back to it. Which one are you?

the CLASSIC

WHAT: The Bertoia Side Chair for Knoll
WHO: Sculptor Harry Bertoia
WHEN:1952
WHY: File this one under “legend in its own time.” From the moment thatmodernist sculptor Harry Bertoia finished the last weld on the prototype, his Side Chair became a status symbol, popping up in all the best mid-century homes and offices. (Look back at any good architecture book from 1952 and afterward, and you’ll see the chairs everywhere. In fact, New York’s Museum of Modern Art still uses them in its courtyard-- talk about an endorsement.) The steel-rod chair is timeless not only for its see-through appeal -- it goes with any decor, because it takes on the vibe of whatever room it’s in -- but also for its elegance and light weight. You can pick it up and put it anywhere. Yes, even next to traditional pieces. From $421 at Design Within Reach, (800) 944-2233; www.dwr.com

the CONTEMPORARIES

WHAT: The Ronde Armchair for Emu
WHO: Designer Aldo Ciabatti
WHEN: 1994
WHY: Like the Bertoia, the Ronde is lightweight and versatile: Its curves goequally well with modern or Mediterranean styles. (The ability to fit in anywhere is the mark of a design classic.) The Ronde’s micromesh steel is surprisingly comfy to sit on, too, which means you won’t mind spending a couple of hours pecking on your laptop or chatting it up over dinner with friends. $100 at Design Within Reach, (800) 944-2233; www.dwr.com

WHAT: The Myto Chair for Plank
WHO: Designer Konstantin Grcic
WHEN: 2008
WHY: At this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, one brand-new little chair became the literal and figurative seat of power: the Myto, penned by a German industrial designer and molded from BASF Ultradur High Speed plastic, an advanced material usually found in cars, not casas. The chair’s clean lines and perforated texture recall Bertoia’s classic, but the absence of back legs (a feat of cantilevering, to cut down on the amount of material needed) gives the Myto an ecocentric edge -- and secures its future status as an icon. $575 through ICF Source, (800) 237-1625; www.icfsource.com