Modern design takes innumerable forms, making it difficult to define in an absolute way. From a streamlined Electrolux vacuum cleaner from the 1930s to Eero Saarinen's iconic Tulip Chair, all modern design objects explore the space where form and function meet and lessen the gap between art and the everyday. Below is a hand-picked selection of some of the country’s top museums for viewing, exploring, and learning about the fascinating and innovative world of modern design

1. The Renwick Gallery
Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20006
For information call 202.633.7970 or visit

The Renwick Gallery. Photo by Joshua Yetman, courtesy of the Renwick Gallery.

The beautiful and ever-evolving Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., set the tone for design museums in America. The first purpose-built art museum in the country, the institution shifted its focus to contemporary craft and decorative art in 1972. Today, the Renwick’s monumental collection includes decorative objects from the Colonial period to the Gilded Age and beyond, and contemporary craft by such masters as Wendell Castle, Dale Chihuly, Sheila Hicks, Sam Maloof, and Albert Paley. Jewelry, studio furniture, and wood art also constitute a large portion of the museum’s illustrious design collection. The Renwick, which is housed in one of the country’s finest examples of Second Empire architecture, wrapped up a stunning, two-year renovation in November 2015.

2. The Grand Rapids Art Museum
101 Monroe Center Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
For information call 616.831.1000 or visit

Eugene Masselink American (b. South Africa), 1910–1962. Eight-fold Screen, 1956. Stained walnut with paint and gilt. Museum Purchase 2006.28. Courtesy of the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

With a sharp focus on art, design, and creativity, the Grand Rapids Art Museum aims to create diverse platforms for experiences, ideas, and dialogue that enrich the human spirit and build practical learning skills. Housed in a stunningly modern structure designed by wHY Architecture, the Grand Rapids Art Museum is the world’s first LEED Gold Certified arts institution. The serene space houses a stellar design and modern craft collection that includes one of Charles and Ray Eames’ Potato Chip chairs -- the original design that connected the Eameses to Herman Miller, Inc., Tapio Wirkkala’s Leaf Platter -- an icon of Finnish design, and a mid century screen by Taliesin-fellow Eugene Masselink, which was created for an interior designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

3. Fuller Craft Museum
455 Oak Street, Brockton, MA 02301
For information call or 508.588.6000 or visit

Gary Knox Bennett, Chair-915, 2006. Douglas fir, enameled wood. Gift of the artist 2009.9. Photo by M. Lee Fatherree, courtesy of Fuller Craft Museum.

A robust and dynamic institution dedicated to all things craft, Fuller Craft Museum is truly one of a kind. Located in Brockton, Massachusetts, Fuller Craft opened in 1969 as the Brockton Art Center Fuller Memorial -- a collection-less establishment that presented lectures and exhibitions of drawings and paintings. Eventually, the museum began collecting artwork in every medium and in 2004, the institution turned all of its attention to acquiring contemporary craft. Fuller Craft Museum, which aims to serve as an international forum for the recognition and exploration of craft through exhibitions, education, outreach, and collaboration, now holds an impressive collection of handmade objects dating back roughly to the end of World War II. Fuller Craft’s permanent collection is exhibited in the Lampos Gallery, which is organized thematically and rotated annual. 

4. The Cranbrook Art Museum
39221 Woodward Avenue, Box 801, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48303-0801
For information call 248.645.3323 or visit

The Cranbrook Art Museum. Photograph by Justin Maconochie. Courtesy of The SmithGroup JJR.

Focused on presenting outstanding examples of art, architecture, and design from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the Cranbrook Art Museum’s incredibly unique collection includes works by such design luminaries as Eliel, Eero, Loja and Pipsan Saarinen, Ray and Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Florence Knoll. Located in bucolic Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, the Cranbrook’s eclectic mix of treasures from the Arts and Crafts era to the present range from stained glass and architectural objects to ceramics, furniture, and textiles. On Fridays, the institution offers tours of its Collections Wing, which gives visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the museum’s state-of-the-art storage facility, which is brimming with stunning objects. Another bonus -- the institution owns Eliel Saarinen’s Art Deco masterwork The Saarinen House, which is open for tours. 

5. The Denver Art Museum
100 W 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver, CO 80204
For information call 720.865.5000 or visit

The Denver Art Museum, Hamilton Building View. Courtesy of the Denver Art Museum.

Nestled in the Denver Art Museum’s vast and varied holdings is one of the country’s most spectacular Architecture, Design & Graphics collections. For the past two decades, the museum, which was founded as the Denver Artists’ Club in 1893, has been committed to assembling a monumental modern and contemporary design collection and with over 12,000 objects dating from the sixteenth century to the present, it’s safe to say it has succeeded. The collection’s many strengths include Italian design from the 1960s and 1970s, post-World War II furniture and product design from America and Europe, and contemporary Western European and Japanese design. Among the Denver Art Museum’s key works are architectural drawings by Frank Lloyd Wright, furniture and other objects by the Italian designer Ettore Sottsass, and chairs designed by such luminaries as Marcel Breuer, Tom Dixon, Charles and Ray Eames, Finn Juhl, George Nakashima, Gio Ponti, Eero Saarinen, and Hans Wegner.   

6. The Cooper Hewitt
2 E 91st Street, New York, NY 10128
For information call 212.849.8400 or visit

Installation view Teaspoon Gallery, featuring recent acquisitions. Photo by Matt Flynn © 2014 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Where can you find an aluminum meat slicer from the 1940s alongside iconic works by Arne Jacobsen, George Nelson, Bruno Matthson, Alvar Aalto, and just about every other influential modern designer ever to exist? At the Cooper Hewitt, of course! Housed in the landmark Andrew Carnegie Mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is the only museum in the country devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Its sprawling collection spanning thirty centuries includes more than 210,000 design objects, 92% of which are featured on the institution’s comprehensive website -- a testament to the museum’s commitment to advancing the public understanding of design.

7. The Mint Museum
Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts, 500 South Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

For information call 704.337.2000 or visit

Dale Patrick Chihuly (American, 1941-). Royal Blue Mint Chandelier, 1998, handblown glass, steel. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Bank of America, Lisa S. and Dudley B. Anderson, Leslie and John Culbertson, Patty and Bill Gorelick, Deidre and Clay Grubb, Rochelle T. Grubb, Interstate Johnson Lane with Michael E. Blair and Robert A. Jones, Debbie and Pat Phillips, Kenneth R. and Ruth C. Samuelson, Nelson Schwab, III, Marc and Mattye Silverman, Bill and Pat Williamson, and Anonymous Donor in memory of Amy Dodds Wilson. Collection of The Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Located in Charlotte, the Mint Museum is the largest art museum in North Carolina. Its broad collection, which ranges from Art of the Ancient Americas to Craft + Design, Fashion, and Decorative Arts, is split between two buildings -- one uptown at the cutting-edge Levine Center for the Arts, and the other in the city’s prestigious Eastover neighborhood. House in the uptown location, the Mint Museum’s Craft + Design collection includes glass, fiber art, metal, studio jewelry, design, studio furniture, wood art, and clay. While works range from the mid-twentieth century to the present, the museum’s collecting focus is on the twenty-first century. Must-see objects in the Mint’s collection include a stunning glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly, a chest of drawers by the celebrated studio furnituremaker John Cederquist, and works by the renowned woodturner William Hunter.  

8. The James A. Michener Art Museum
138 S Pine Street, Doylestown, PA 18901
For information call 215.340.9800 or visit

The James A. Michener Museum of Art. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the 1940s, the Japanese-American woodworker George Nakashima settled in New Hope, Pennsylvania -- a pastoral town on the west bank of the Delaware River. Soon, a swathe of iconic craftsmen, including Phillip Lloyd Powell, Paul Evans, and Robert Whitley, moved to the area, creating something of a craft furniture colony. The James A. Michener Art Museum, an independent, non-profit cultural institution in nearby Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting the art and cultural heritage of this craft-centric region. Established in 1988, the Michener’s permanent collection is brimming with Arts and Crafts and modern studio furniture from southeastern Pennsylvania. Highlights include an elaborately carved and painted pine door by Phillip Lloyd Powell, which was created for one of his homes just outside of New Hope, and the Nakashima Reading Room, an installation of classic furniture from Nakashima’s Bucks County studio.

9. The Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019
For information call 212.299.7777 or visit

Museum of Arts and Design. Photo by Eric Scott, courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design.

Founded in 1956 by the pioneering patron and philanthropist Aileen Osborn Webb, the Museum of Arts and Design’s (MAD) original mission was to recognize the craftsmanship of contemporary American artists. Today, MAD continues to champion contemporary makers from a wide range of creative fields -- woodworking, ceramics, jewelry, interior design, architecture, fashion design, etc. -- while collecting, displaying, and interpreting objects that illustrate the ongoing evolution of these disciplines. MAD’s collection, which is housed in a stunning building with a textured façade of glazed terra-cotta tile and fritted glass in New York’s Columbus Circle, spans from 1950 to the present and includes works by Sam Maloof, Wendell Castle, Frank Gehry, Wharton Esherick, John Prip, Albert Paley, and Faith Ringgold.

10. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036
For information call 323.857.6000 or visit

Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Author: Alex Vertikoff, Photo © 2010 Museum Associates/LACMA.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) --the largest art museum in the western United States -- boasts a massive collection that spans from antiquity to the present and encompasses the geographic world. Located in the heart of Los Angeles on over 20 acres, LACMA’s expansive campus includes structures by an array of celebrated architects, including William Pereira, Bruce Goff, and Renzo Piano. Among LACMA’s holdings is a comprehensive and  treasure-filled collection of decorative arts and design. From eye-popping Venini Glass and sleek Georg Jensen silver to stunning furniture by Charles and Ray Eames, R.M. Schinder, Vernon Panton, George Nelson, and other icons, LACMA’s modern design collection is a must-see.

11. Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238
For information call 718.638.5000 or visit

Eero Saarinen (American, born Finland, 1910-1961). "Pedestal" Armchair and Seat Cushion, Designed 1956; Manufactured ca. 1970. Plastic reinforced with fiberglass, wool, 32 x 25 1/2 x 23 in. (81.3 x 64.8 x 58.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Knoll International, Inc., 78.128.7. Creative Commons-BY.

Don’t let the Brooklyn Museum’s traditional Beaux-Arts facade (designed by the seminal architecture firm McKim, Mead & White) fool you. The institution, which happens to be one of the old and largest art museums in the country, is incredibly cutting edge. In addition to state-of-the-art interiors, a revolutionary Visible Storage room, and groundbreaking programming, the Brooklyn Museum’s Decorative Arts collection is brimming with pioneering works of modern design. With a keen focus on design's relationship to industry,  the Brooklyn Museum’s collection includes everything from an Electrolux vacuum cleaner from the 1930s to Eero Saarinen’s iconic Tulip Chair.

12. High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30309
For information call 404.733.4400 or visit

Blo-Void I, 2006, designed by Ron Arad, British, born Israel 1951; manufactured by Galerie Mourmans, Maastricht, Netherlands. Mirror-polished aluminum alloy and anodized woven-aluminum mesh, 40 x 80 x 17 inches. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase through prior acquisition from Beth and Sam Scarboro in loving memory of Grace and Dewey D. Scarboro, and bequests of Kate Session Marsh and Mrs. Norman Powell Pendley.

Housed in a striking stark white structure designed by Richard Meier (and expanded by Renzo Piano), the High Museum of Art is widely regarded as the leading art museum in the southeastern United States. Amongst the institution’s vast holdings is the region’s largest collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century decorative arts and design. Strengths of the collection include international works that explore the intersections between art and design and craft and technology. The High’s design treasures include notable works by Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul T. Frankl, Marcel Breuer, Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Frank Gehry, John Cederquist, and Joris Laarman.