Mid-Century furniture describes tables, chairs, dressers, and desks marked by their clean lines and lack of fussy detail. While many people associate Mid-Century Modern with the years 1945 to 1965, one of the earliest examples of mid-century furniture was actually designed in 1934, when Kem Weber conceived his Airline armchair. A precursor to the flat-pack products sold at IKEA, Weber’s Airline chair streamlined the rigid geometry of Art Deco, had a retail price of just under $25, and was meant to be shipped to customers in a cardboard box, unassembled. Only 200 or so of the chairs were ever produced, though, and even fewer were shipped.

Another designer whose work bridged Art Deco and modernism was Alvar Aalto, whose own armchair, model no. 397, was introduced in 1932. Aalto’s armchair, which is sometimes referred to as the Springleaf, was made of bent and molded birch plywood. Aalto’s techniques and materials would be employed even more famously by Charles and Ray Eames, a married couple who, in 1945, figured out how to create strong compound curves in plywood. One of their first products was a birch child’s chair and stool manufactured by the Molded Plywood Division of Evans Products. The Eameses were more successful than Weber, but the run was still limited to 5,000 pieces, and only 1,000 of their LCW (Lounge Chair Wood) chairs were made.

The Eames’ partnership with Herman Miller was more fruitful. With Miller, the Eameses created the DCM (Dining Chair Metal), a two-piece chair whose plywood sections were attached to a chromed frame. They also produced the DAR chair, which had a rigid fiberglass shell that could be molded in a rainbow of colors and set on a variety of metal bases and legs, including a rocker. With Miller, in 1956, the Eameses also produced the Lounge Chair and Ottoman, which featured molded rosewood plywood and leather upholstery. Though mass-produced, examples of these pieces from the late ’50s and early 1960s are staples of mid-century furniture auctions.

Other mid-century furniture designers of note included Harry Bertoia, a sculptor whose wire-frame Diamond chairs, made by Knoll, are sometimes mistaken for the work of the Eameses (Bertoia’s goblet-like Bird chair is less easily confused). Another sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, is probably best known for his glass-top, wood-base coffee table, manufactured by Herman Miller. Noguchi also designed biomorphic sofas for Miller and circular and oval Formica-topped tables for Knoll.

In addition to Danish Modern stars such as Arne Jacobsen (his chairs had names like Ant, Egg, and Swan), Finn Juhl (the arms of his throne-like pieces were often made of polished mahogany or teak), and Hans Wegner (Nixon and Kennedy used his furniture in one of their 1960 presidential debates), one of the leading furniture designers of the mid-century was George Nelson. For very different reasons, his fanciful Marshmallow sofa and minimalist Coconut chair, both manufactured by Herman Miller, are icons of 1950s style.

Rounding out the era is George Nakashima, who combined the mid-century aesthetic with the rough-hewn naturalism of the 1960s. In a wood Nakashima day bed from 1963, the base and upholstery almost resemble a piece by George Nelson, except for the strategically placed unfinished edge at the top of the bed’s back. Nakashima desks and coffee tables also feature unfinished edges or unrepaired blemishes, with surfaces made from single planks of thick walnut and other hardwoods.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Mid Century Modernist

The Mid Century Modernist

Stephen Coles' really visual blog dedicated to the Modernist era of design from 1940 to 1970 (aka Mid-century Moder… [read review or visit site]

Buffalo Architecture and History

Buffalo Architecture and History

Chuck LaChiusa's wonderful guide to the architecture and history of Buffalo, NY, also happens to host an impressive… [read review or visit site]

Herman Miller Consortium Collection

Herman Miller Consortium Collection

This website showcases several hundred pieces of furniture, held by thirteen museums, that were designed for Herman… [read review or visit site]

Chipstone

Chipstone

This beautiful site showcases the collection of Stanley and Polly Stone of Fox Point, Wisconsin, consisting of earl… [read review or visit site]

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

This huge online database from the Speed Art Museum is a rich trove of beautiful photos and reference information o… [read review or visit site]

EamesCollector.com

EamesCollector.com

Steven Cabella's personal homage to Charles and Ray Eames. This site is as clean and visually appealing as the Eame… [read review or visit site]

Work of Charles and Ray Eames

Work of Charles and Ray Eames

This Library of Congress microsite is an overview of the postwar modern design work of Charles (1907-78) and Ray (1… [read review or visit site]

Classic Modern

Classic Modern

Get a taste of how homes were lit in the 50s, 60s, and 70s with the Danish retro-style lighting designs featured on… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Holger Georg Jensen Teak Rocking Chair Kubus Danish Modern Mid Century1950s Danish Modern Teak Dresser Chest W 6 Drawers Mid Century VintageRare Charles Eames Side Table Ash Herman Miller Mid Century VtgA Pair 1960s Danish Modern Teak Nightstand Side Tables Etc. Mid Century VintageRare 1960s Brio Lundby Dollhouse Mid-century Modern Red Egg Chair Tlc & OttomanHerman Miller George Nelson Mid-century Walnut Coffee Or Side TableRare 1960s Brio Lundby Dollhouse Mid-century Modern Blue Swan Chair A. JacobsenMid-century Modern, Knoll Platner Lounge Chair 1 Of 2 Bronze Finish Beige FabricVintage Mid Century Modern Calvin 8 Drawer Dresser By Paul Mccobb Herman Miller Eames Lounge ChairMid Century Modern Hans Olsen Frem Rojle Danish Tripod Dining Chairs Set Project1960s Danish Modern Teak Storage Table Chest Mid Century VintageVintage Ekornes Lounge Chair Ottoman Mid Century Danish ModernCredenza Walnut Thin Edge Design Circa 1962 Tambour Mid Century Modern Vintage White Set Of 2 Mid Century Eames Style Dsw Dining Side Chairs W/wood LegsEames Rar Rocking Chair Ochre Herman MillerHans Andersen Round Teak Red Side Table Denmark Danish Mid Century ModernTeak Danish Modern Mid Century Lounge Chair Vintage 1960'sVintage Hall's Doll Furniture Mid Century Living Rm Platform Sofa Chair Table TvVintage Mid Century Danish Modern Lounge Arm Chairs WalnutMid Century German Plant Stand Kidney Side Table Display Space Age Eames PantonSet Of 3 Eames Dkr Wire Guest Chairs Eiffel Base And LoungerJon Matin Foil Glass Mosaic Table Mid Century ModernismMid Century Modern Charles Pollock Office Chair Authentic Knoll Retro Vintage1940s? Mid Century Vintage Bell Western Electric F1 Rotary Dial Desk Telephone Mid Century Modern C Jere Spray Green Twist Table Marble Base Sculpture EamesDanish Modern Drop Leaf Hideaway Table W/4 Folding ChairsVintage Braun Desk Fan Hl-70 Mid Century Modern Reinhold Weiss J. GreubelMilo Baughman | High Back Dining Chairs | Mid Century | Pace Thayer Aluminum DiaSculpture Abstract Steel Motion #46 Garry Zayon Metal Desk Mid Century Modern Antique Dayton Electric Desk Fan 12" Mid-century Mod Industrial SteampunkVintage Doll Furniture Yellow Mid Century Plastic & Metal Kitchen Table /4 ChairVintage Art Pottery Table Vase Mid Century Modern Troia Signed Retro Old 11"tall Charles-amp-ray-eames-herman-miller-aluminum-group-dining-conference-table AshEarly Production Eames Lax Fiberglass Arm Chair Mid-century LoungerMid Century Modern Eames Plastic Molded Chair By Herman Miller2 Vintage Mid-century Modern Stacking Nesting Side/end Teak 3 Leg Round Tables1970s Atomic Mid Century Modern Space Helmet Ball Orb Table Fan 2 Speed SaarinenHerman Miller Led Magnetic Under Cabinet Twist Light Model G6160.amVintage Mid Century Danish Metal 3 Leg Table Stool W/ Wood Seat Made In Denmark 1980 Modernist Sculpture Chair Brutalist Mid-century-modern Evans Jere EamesMid-century Modern Vintage Massive Executive Architect Desk Mid Century German Plant Stand Kidney Side Table Display Space Age Eames PantonHerman Miller Celle Black/black Mesh Task Chair - Used Great Condition4 American Of Martinsville Mid-century Danish Modern Spindle Dining Room ChairsOriginal Mid Century Modern Coffee Table Great Piece Great StyleVintage Tin Metal Play Kitchen Stove Cabinet Mid Century Modern Fuchs Doll HouseVintage Mid Century Medicine CabinetErphila Pottery (germany) / Mid-century Cabinet Vase Sewing Box Expandable Strommen Bruk Hamar, Wood Cabinet, Mid Century ModernOriginal, Vintage Metal Porch/lawn/deck Chairs, Mid-century4 Vintage Atomic Retro Aluminum Tapered Table Legs Mid Century Modern Approx 10"4 Vintage Mid Century Tapered Table Legs 30" Set Wood Furniture Danish Modern!!White Set Of 4 Mid Century Eames Style Dsw Dining Side Chairs W/wood LegsSet Of 4 Mid Century Tapered Wood Vtg 17" Table Stool LegsMid Century Modern Lane Walnut End TablesMid Century Metal Drawer Pulls Knobs Cabinet Knobs Lot Of 8 Knobs Good ConditionMid Century Metal Drawer Pulls Knobs Cabinet Knobs Lot Of14 Antique Pewter ToneVintage Mid Century Art Pottery Modern Table Vase German 1960s Retro Old 5" TallVintage Kimball Mid Century Modern Solid Wood Credenza