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    

Mid Century Danish Modern "papa Bear" Chair By Hans Wegner Original George Nelson Side Table For Herman Miller Eames EraRare Vintage Herman Miller Eames Alexander Girard Purple Fabric La Fonda ChairEames Zenith Lar Original Cats Cradle Rope Edge Armshell & Eames Table Ltr Bape Case Study Shell Chair Eames Chair A Bathing Ape Modernica Complexcon CamoHerman Miller Eames Fiberglass Arm Shell Chair Girard Green Swivel BaseGenuine Oem Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair And OttomanVintage 1959 Charles Eames Herman Miller Fiberglass Rar Rocker Rocking ChairZenith Model Y724 Tube Table Am Fm Radio 1950's Mid-centuryMotorola Model 57r1 Bakelite Tube Table Radio 1950's Mid-centuryVintage Kinetic Danish Table Planet Ball Space Age Sculpture Mid Century Mobile Dewald Model D-616 Tube Table Radio 1950's Mid-centuryKnoll Dining Table Eames Era Teak Danish Modern Mid Century Lounge Chair & Ottoman Vintage 1960'sVintage Metal Table Atomic Mid Century Retro End Table Phone Magazine Shelf Rack1960s Danish Modern Teak Small Chest Drawers Entry Table Mid Century Eames EraVintage Norwegian Leather Lounge Chairs - Danish Modern Westnofa EkornesEames Lounge Chair And Ottoman | Authentic Herman Miller 6 Mid Century Modern Solid Walnut Pristine Dining Chairs Bissman Mfg. Co Vtg 2 Pc Mid Century Modern China Cabinet Hutch Buffet Credenza Bissman Mfg CoEames Replica Mid Back Office Chair Pleather - Stabilizing Swivel Bar And KneeSigned Kosta Boda Swedish Mid Century Modern Cased Glass Desk Paperweight Nr AlbMid Century Modern Drexel Parallel Series Pr Lg 2 Drw Hardwood Glass End TablesMid Century Danish Modern Teak Designer Arm Chair Knoll Risom Style Project 1950 George Nelson For Herman Miller Walnut Executive Desk Return Bracket PartSet Of 2 White Mid Century Eames Style Dsw Dining Side Chairs W/wood LegsSilvertone Model 2015 Bakelite Tube Table Radio 1950's Mid-century1950's Vintage Mid Century Modern Wood Shadow Box Shelves Shelf Mid Century Modern Solid Walnut Excellent Dining Table Only Bissman Mfg. Co Pedersen & Hansen Viby J Denmark Teak Desk Organizer Danish Mid Century ModernSet Of 4 Mid Century Eames Style Dsw Dining Side Chairs W/wood Legs In White60s Mid Century Plant Display Side End Table German Guitar Pick Eames PantonDanish Mid Century Modern Lounge Chair W/ Foot Stoolteak 1960's Style DesignerLg 5ft Drexel Parallel Series Hardwood Veneer Coffee Table Mid Century NoresBarbie Furniture Eames Era Mid Century Modern Chair Ottoman Mod Living RoomVintage Don Chadwick Chairs For Herman MillerDiamond Front Nightstands Side Table Pair, Mid Century Modern Walnut Teak WoodWhite Set Of 4 Mid Century Eames Style Dsw Dining Side Chairs W/wood LegsVintage Linen Cocktail/bar Towel-leacock Label-mid Century-shakers4 Vintage Atomic Retro Brass Tapered Table Legs Mid Century Modern 12" McmVintage Redwood Folding Chair Aluminum Lawn Mid-century Light Weight EucLakewood Electric Industrial Fan, Turquoise Blue Aqua Mid Century Vintage Table.Mid-century Modern Emco 11" Hardwood Table Legs Vintage Set Of 4 Atomic Era White Set Of 2 Mid Century Eames Style Dsw Dining Side Chairs W/wood LegsMid-century Rosewood Top Asian Style Rectangular Dining Room Table W/ Ebony LegsHerman Miller Rolling Side TableMid Century Style Modern Egg Lounge Chair W/footstool-speakersEames Herman Miller Secretarial Ec228 Swivel Chair PartsVintage Modern Eames Era Retro Perpetual Desk Top Block Calendar (a6)Rare Vintage Industrial All-steel Tanker Desk With Step Down LedgeVintage Tulip Table Base, Danish, Knoll, Saarinen, Aluminum Mid CenturyExecutive Chair By Herman Miller - Celle ChairAntique @ Vintage Furniture , Cabinet Drawer Pulls Atomic Mid Century 6 Pcs.Vintage Blue Rotary Dial Desk Telephone Stromberg Carlson - Mid Century Find!Mid Century Modern Inspired Lounge Chair Bird 13x13 Print Singed Numbered 2/1002 White Mid-century Modern Chairs Marx Plastic Dollhouse Furniture VgcVintage Mid Century Modern Roll Top Secretary Desk Danish Style (teak?)One Rare Chrome Brevettato ?? Italian Lucite Clear Folding Chair Mid CenturyMid Century Modern Marcel Breuer Chair Chrome Cantilever Bar Stool Mies Era 1George Koch Sons Brass Vanity Stool/chair - Hollywood Regency/mid Century Modern