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    

Original Eames Herman Miller Fiberglass Shell Chair - H Base (3 Avail.)Danish Modern Teak Compact Credenza Cabinet Entry Table Vintage Mid CenturyHerman Miller Eames Ctw1 Rectangular Coffee Table Walnut 48" Design Within ReachOriginal Eames Herman Miller Fiberglass Shell Chair - H Base - BlueOriginal Eames Herman Miller Fiberglass Shell Chair - H Base (3 Avail.)Original Eames Herman Miller Fiberglass Shell Chair - H Base (3 Avail.)Original Eames Herman Miller Fiberglass Shell Chair - H Base - Red Vintage 50s Kofod Larsen Selig Danish Mid-century Modern Walnut Lounge Chair-nr!Poul Kjaerholm By Fritz Hansen Pk71 Nesting Tables Danish Modern Mid CenturyVintage Herman Miller Eames Black Leather Chairs With Fabric Seats (set Of 2)Eames Aluminum Management Chair White Leather/white Powder Coat Herman MillerEames Aluminum Management Chair Slate Leather Herman Miller Design Within ReachMid-century Danish Modern Ole Wanscher Cado High Back Teak Lounge Chair DenmarkVtg Eames Dark Olive Army Green Fiberglass Herman Miller Arm Shell Chair Vintage1960s Mid Century Danish Modern Toften MVintage Black Herman Miller Fiberglass Shell Arm Chair Antique Bucket Old Tom Daft Punk Habitat Radius Dixon Mid Century Retro Modernist Table Art PrintPaul Mccobb Vitrolite Drink / Cocktail Table, Mid-century Modern, Brass & GlassHerman Miller Eames Fiberglass Shell Chair 1958 Eiffel Tower BaseVintage Herman Miller Fiberglass Shell Chair Narrow Base Navy BlueHerman Miller Charles Eames Santos Lounge Chair And Ottoman Vintage Mod Eames Panton Era Orange Rotary Phone Desk Works Western Electric Nt3 Vintage Herman Miller Eames Fiberglass Shell Chairs, Modern, Danish-knoll-eraAuthentic & Vintage Eames / Herman Miller Fiberglass Shell Chair, Parchment Eames Dining Chair Metal, Dcm Herman MillerRobin Day Forum Sofa Chair Art Habitat Mid Century Vintage Design Classic RareVintage Mid Century Modern Hair Pin Coffee Table Base Stand Legs Salvage SteelHerman Miller Eames Fiberglass Side Shell Chair Navy Blue Mid Century Modern Mcm1960s Danish Modern Rosewood Bench Table Entry Chest Mid Century VintageBeautiful Milo Baughman Floating Desk/vanity. Midcentury Modern. Rare Piece! Rare Purple Eames Fiberglass Shell Chair Dsx Girard Naugahyde Narrow Base 1974Mid Century Danish Modern Sculptural Base Cocktail/ Coffee Table Finn Juhl~kaganDanish Modern Rosewood J.l.moller Ladder Back Dining ChairsFinn Juhl Dining-accent Chair Baker Danish Modern Wegner EamesSet Of 4 Vintage Mid Century Eames Herman Miller Side Shell Chairs Exceptional Milo Baughman Double Dresser. Midcentury Modern. Stunner. Vintage 1950's Mid Century Modern Danish Folding Lounge Chair Wood & LeatherLong & Low Mid Century Danish Modern 72" Coffee Table W/ Cane Under ShelfBeautiful Kai Kristiansen Vintage Mid-century Modern Danish Teak Nest Of TablesJens Quistgaard Danish Modern Staved Solid Teak Side Table Signed Danmark JhqAdrian Pearsall~kagan Style Mid Century Danish Modern Bar / Server / BuffetTwo Vintage 1960’s Herman Miller Eames Shell Chairs In Good ConditionFour Herman Miller Eames Fiberglass Side Chair ShellsHerman Miller Eames Chair OriginalDanish Modern Beautiful Teak Dresser, Chest, Side End Table W/ 4 Drawers VintageSet Of 4 Vintage Eames Iron Mid Century Modern Metal Hairpin Table Legs 15"Danish Modern Teak Floating Wall Shelf Letterbox Organizer By Axel KjaersgaardOriginal Milo Baughman Thayer Coggin Lounge Chairs Pair Mid Century EamesVtg Hans Wegner Style Rope Chair Woven Folding Danish Modern Yugoslavia Mid CentPair Of Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair Aluminum Back Braces Vintage 1950s Murano Italy Art Glass Gold Fleck Mid Century Modern Table Lighter4 Retro Mid Century 6” Tapered Furniture Legs Replacement Table Chair Sofa CouchRetro Danish Chair Hans J Wegner Desk Chair Armchair Beech Retro Lounge 1970sLot Of 4 Herman Miller Eames Office Mid Century Style Arm Chairs Black ShellsLot Of 4 Herman Miller Eames Office Mid Century Style Arm Chairs Brown ShellsVtg Retro Mid Century Modern Brass Hollywood Regency Vanity Stool Button ChairVtg Mid Century Modern Lucite Tower Shelf Hollywood Regency Mini Bar/bath Mid Century Danish Modern Rosewood & Brown Leather Westnofa Chair & Ottoman Herman Miller Vintage Jefferson Eames Aluminum Group Chair Metal & Fabric Beige!Rca Victor Mid Century Modern Record Cabinet Sliding Doors Metal Tapered Legs