The term “Mid-Century Modern” was originally defined in the influential book Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950’s by Cara Greenberg. Published in 1984, this book encapsulated and identified the styles of design, architecture, furniture and other decor that had been permeating many corners of the world since the pre & post World War II eras. Designs created from the late 1930’s to the mid 1960’s may all fall within the Mid-Century moniker, but it is those special elements that sprang out the 1950’s that really exemplify the style. Mid-Century pushed Art Deco aside and has never looked back.
Also known as “atomic” or “atomic ranch”, the Mid-Century designers really embraced the ideas of something new in terms of technology and materials. The designs will often feature organic shapes inspired by nature but with a futuristic flair. New homes being built during this period were going up fast and were meant to be open and airy. One tenet of Mid-Century architects is the idea that a structure should follow a flow inside and out while being flexible and adaptable. Furniture designers also created tables, chairs and furnishings that could do the same.
Gone were elaborate carvings, embellishments and non-functional ornamentation. In came adaptable pieces that fold, move, bend and are interchangeable. The term multi-purpose became a household word with designs being functional indoors and out. Flexibility in construction and use was extremely important. Sleek lines, hot curves and geometric shapes replaced the fussiness of previous eras. The new homes being built in the atomic age were sharp, clean and unfettered and the furniture for these homes reflected that ideal.
Instead of fancy trimmings, color became the way to express style. Bright and bold, inspired by the colors of flowers, trees and animals, Mid-Century design does not hold back in terms of “pop”. You’ll find bright reds, greens, blues, yellows, the whole spectrum in these designs. The trend moved into all areas of the home and suburban living. You’ll find Mid-Century influence in all kinds of accessories, gadgets and hobby items from bicycles and record players to lamps, clocks, artwork, glassware and more.
While the popularity of this design style has ebbed and flowed in the 30 years since Greenberg’s book was published, there have always been die hard collectors and lovers of the Mid-Century designs. Currently, the style is seeing a new wave of enthusiasm, thanks in part to shows like Mad Men which have created a new retro-chic fan base.
If you are in the market for a Mid-Century home it only makes sense to create an interior palette that flows with the architectural design.
Prominent designers of Mid-Century modern furniture include:
- Harry Bertoia
- Charles and Ray Eames
- Arne Jacobsen
- George Nelson
- Isamu Noguchi
- Vernor Panton
- Eero Saarinen
- Hans Wegner