A long dark object with asymmetrical composition. One end is smooth and rectangular, the other bubbles with swirling designs.

Joris Laarman, Vortex console, 2014, Carnegie Museum of Art, John Berdan Memorial Trust and Women’s Committee Acquisition Fund © Joris Laarman

Extraordinary Ordinary Things

Bruce Galleries

Humans have made functional objects since prehistoric times: furnishings to sit or lay upon, vessels to store or drink water, devices to illuminate the darkness or mark the passage of time. Featuring more than 300 objects—including some 150 recent acquisitions—from the museum’s expansive decorative arts and design collection, Extraordinary Ordinary Things marks the first significant update to the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Galleries since 2009.

Spanning some of the most significant design developments of the past three centuries, the works on view offer boundless inspiration and endless possibilities for functional design for visitors to learn about, consider, and enjoy. This exhibition presents a selection of functional objects ranging from the evocative and extraordinary to the practical and everyday and highlights signature works by designers including:

  • Tanya Aguiñiga
  • Marianne Brandt
  • Marcel Breuer
  • Charles and Ray Eames
  • Frank Gehry
  • Michael Graves
  • Zaha Hadid
  • Charles Harrison
  • Molly Hatch
  • Thomas Heatherwick
  • Joris Laarman
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
  • Isamu Noguchi
  • Magdalene Odundo
  • Jay Sae Jung Oh
  • Charlotte Perriand
  • Raw-Edges
  • Zahara Schatz
  • Studio DRIFT
  • Louis Comfort Tiffany
  • Eva Zeisel

Extraordinary Ordinary Things invites visitors to imagine themselves in the roles of problem-solvers, designers, and makers. The show also helps visitors better understand the worlds in which designers and craftspeople work. As many people’s relationships to their homes and the objects within them take on increased relevance and deeper meaning, this timely and dynamic exhibition showcases all facets of material and product design, from traditional techniques to innovative technologies.

This exhibition will be accompanied by workshops, lectures, tours, and public programs. For updates about these programs, sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Extraordinary Ordinary Things includes a communal workshop space. If you are interested in utilizing this for your organization’s next gathering, membership meet-up, or academic course session, please contact us for information and availability.

Extraordinary Ordinary Things is organized by Rachel Delphia, Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts and Design with Alyssa Velazquez, curatorial assistant for Decorative Arts and Design.

Exhibition Images

A color bench with elliptical color patterning
A black couch with a bumpy texture
A black terra-cotta vase
A modern lamp
An antique dining chair with wicker details.
A smooth rounded object shaped like a mushroom
A dark object resembling with a swirling pattern
Polygon Chair
A set of three metal bowls
A vintage viewfinder
a Chaise longue with neutral leather and rounded metal tubes
An image spread across a tiled wall of plates.
A modern clock with wire frame construction.
A pink felt folding chair


Major support is provided by the Women’s Committee, Carnegie Museum of Art.

Generous support is provided by The Richard C. von Hess Foundation, The Bessie F. Anathan Charitable Trust of the Pittsburgh Foundation at the request of Ellen Lehman and Charles Kennel, and Margaret Ritchie R. Battle Family Charitable Fund. Additional support is provided by Richard L. Simmons, Ellen Still Brooks, Brian Wongchaowart, and The Fellows of Carnegie Museum of Art.

Carnegie Museum of Art is supported by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.