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]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Authentic Early Evans Products Eames Herman Miller Lcw Lounge Chair Wood BlackAuthentic Early Evans Products Eames Herman Miller Lcw Lounge Chair Wood BlackTwo (2) Herman Miller Eames Shell Chairs - 1969 / Ochre Dark - Shells Only.Herman Miller Eames Side Shell Chairs Vintage White (5)I Kofod Larsen Scarce Mid Century Modern Danish Rocker Rocking ChairHerman Miller Eames Chair60s Danish Modern Rosewood Platform Table Credenza Coffee Mid Century Vintage1950s Danish Modern Teak Magazine Table Mid Century VintageSet Of 3 Vintage Eames Herman Miller Stacking Side Shell Chairs Rare Medium BlueVintage Herman Miller Eames Lcw Chair From The Early 1950sDanish Modern Teak Floating Entry Wall Shelf Drawer Table + Mirror Mid CenturyHerman Miller / George Nelson Adjustable Tray Table - Mid-century ModernVintage Sewing Box Table Eames Danish Mid Century Modern Teak Art Deco 50s 60sVintage Eames Evans Herman Miller Dcm Plywood Chair Chrome LegsHerman Miller Eames Wire Base Low Table White Design Within ReachVintage 1964 Plycraft George Mulhauser Mr Chair Ottoman Lounge Mid Century EamesVintage 1960’s Herman Miller Eames Shell Chair In Very Good ConditionMid Century Modern Original Knoll Warren Platner Steel Rod Side Table EamesVintage Eames Evans Herman Miller Dcm Plywood Chair Chrome LegsVintage Eames Evans Herman Miller Dcm Plywood Chair Chrome LegsPair Mid Century Danish Modern Lounge Chairs Wegner Style SeligCredenza Walnut 1950's Mid Century Danish Modern Mid Century Modern Adrian Pearsall Jacks End Tables Craft Associates Eames Soft Pad Management Chair Slate Leather Pneumatic Lift Design Within Reach2 Herman Miller Eames Vintage Side Shell Chairs Elephant Hide Grey/gray1960s Danish Modern Vintage Rosewood Nightstand Drawer Chest Table Mid CenturyMid Century Pair Modern Folding Plywood Nico Niko Kralj "rex" Chair Aalto EamesHerman Miller Vintage Jefferson Eames Aluminum Group Chair Metal & Fabric NavyHerman Miller Eames Vintage Chair & Ottoman 670 671. Look At This Rosewood!1950's Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair & OttomanDanish Modern Beautiful Teak 6 Drawer Tallboy Dresser Vintage Wegner Eames EraMid Century Modern Desk Organizer Vintage Teak Wood Sweden Drawers Storage Box Retro Eames Era Herman Miller Shell Chair Lemon Yellow Excellent Vintage Cond!!!Vintage Retro Mid Century Modern Mccobb Wicker Rattan Salesman Or Childs Chair George Nelson Original Herman Miller Mid Century Chair Vintage Eames Era2 Mid Century Modern Danish Selig Kofod Larsen Lounge Chairs Eames Mid Century Adrian Pearsall For Craft Associates Jacks TableVintage Tension Pole Shelving Unit Room Divider Shelves Mid Century ModernVtg Mid Century Modern Vornado Fan Model 32ct-1 Oa Sutton 2 Cord Table Gray UsaEames Side Shell Chairs By Herman Miller Elephant Hide Grey Series 7 Chair Orange And Red Colored Ash Set Of 2 Arne Jacobsen Fritz HansenHernman Miller Shell Chair Mid Century Eames EraTwo Vintage 1960’s Herman Miller Eames Shell Chairs In Good ConditionVintage Mid Century Eames Era Herman Miller Fiberglass Shell Arm Chair Green1950s Danish Modern Rosewood Arne Hovmand-olsen Floating Wall Mount Server DeskVintage Mid Century Modern Vornado 2 Speed Table Fan Model: 20c2-1, X-long CordMid Century Modern Adrian Pearsall Jacks End Tables Craft Associates Vintage 1960’s Herman Miller Eames Shell Chair In Good ConditionVintage Mid Century Modern Tony Paul Attrib For Thin Line Stools Chair OttomansVintage Set 4 Mid Century Modern Hairpin Table Legs 29" Wrought Iron Eames EraHans Wegner Rope Chair Mcm Mid Century Modern Woven Paper Cord Eames Danish FoldAbsolutely Adorable Vintage Formica Childs Table Chairs Mid Century Yellow L@@kDanish Modern Teak Side End Bedside Table - Juhl Wegner Eames EraDanish Modern Living Room Couch And ChairVintage Knoll Tulip Round Side Table Park Ave Eames EraVintage Mid Century Eames Era Herman Miller Fiberglass Shell Arm Chair Blue1952 Charles Eames Dcw Dining Chair Evans EraVintage Eames Evans Herman Miller Dcm Plywood Chair Metal LegsFabulous Mid Century Danish Modern Lounge ChairVintage 1950s Tedi Thurman Pin Up Photograph Eames Chair Mid Century Fashion Lcw