Mid-century Modern describes an era of style and design that began roughly in the mid-1940s and continued into the mid-1960s. It is an organic offshoot of Modern design that’s often associated with the casual furnishings and carefree look of Eichler tract homes in suburban California during the 1950s.
In addition, the Mid-century Modern era is noted for the mass-production of household objects, from furniture to clocks to lamps to radios, because many of its chief designers (Charles and Ray Eames foremost among them) made it a requirement that their work be affordable to the average homeowner rather than the wealthy elite.
The United States, Britain, Japan, and Scandinavia were centers for the Mid Century Modern aesthetic. In the U.S., Herman Miller produced plywood, fiberglass, and wire-mesh chairs for Charles and Ray Eames (the metal chairs with covers designed by Alexander Girard are highly collectible), as well as the famous Marshmallow sofas for George Nelson. Knoll made insect-like wire chairs for Harry Bertoia and cool, white-and-red fiberglass-and-aluminum Tulip chairs for Eero Saarinen.
In England, Ernest Race produced handsome sideboards and economical folding deck chairs in the Mid-century Modern style. Fellow Brit Robin Day worked with Hille Ltd. to create everything from convertible beds to tables and chairs. He is also credited with designing the first polypropylene stacking chair.
Japanese designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi, a giant of Mid-century Modern, designed for both Knoll and Herman Miller. His three-piece wood and glass table from 1948 has been a mainstay of the Miller catalog for more than half a century, while the bases on his tables for Knoll used metal rods in a way that was very similar to some of the Eames’s chairs. Japanese-American George Nakashima, who was interred during World War II, designed for Knoll but also brought a woodworker’s sensibility to his furniture, often using the natural and even deformed shapes of his raw materials to lead him.
And then there were the Scandinavians. Børge Mogensen designed chairs of elegant simplicity that harmonized form with functionality, while his Sleigh Chair was as whimsical as its name suggests. Arne Jacobsen’s Swan chair held its users in a palm-like embrace. Finn Juhl took a more sculptural approach for his wood-frame seats — even a Juhl coffee table looks like a work of art. As for Hans Wegner, he made a chair that was so highly regarded it was used by Nixon and Kennedy in a 1960 presidential debate and has since become known simply as The Chair.
Furniture was not the only product of note to come out of the Mid-century Modern movement. For some reason, clocks, especially wall clocks, became a design force to be reckoned with. When George Nelson wasn’t designing furniture for Herman Miller, he was working with the Howard Miller Clock Co. on a series of marvelous modern wall clocks. He made clocks whose hands pointed to colored balls on the ends of slender shafts; clocks that resembled sunbursts, sunflowers, and asterisks; and even a clock that suggested a human eye...
Nelson and Miller were also responsible for the Bubble Lamps, which were made of steel and translucent plastic and were designed to hang from the ceilings of Mid-century Modern homes, either as individual globes, ellipses, and cylinders or in clusters. Other lamps popular during this period, and produced by a wide range of designers and manufacturers, were the pole-tension lamps that lit up corners of livings rooms and the "atomic" boomerang lamp shades designed for table lamps.
Nothing escaped Mid-century Modern, from transistor radios to lava lamps, which had yet to be associated with the psychedelic 1960s still a few years a way. It was perhaps the last time that design drove the look and feel of popular culture. Soon, the roles would be irrevocably reversed.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
The Mid Century Modernist
Herman Miller Consortium Collection
Work of Charles and Ray Eames
Clubs & Associations
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Mid-Century Modern
Source: Google News
Hot Property: mid-century modern gem in the middle of a forestIndianapolis Star, March 7th
The Zipper Building at 117 East Washington St.The building is being sold and remodeled into a bank and office headquarters for Broadbent Co. Photo made Tuesday 11/21/2006. Alan Petersime / Indianapolis Star / Indianapolis Star ...Read more
'Mad for Modern' home tour revisits space-age BrevardOrlando Sentinel, March 2nd
For several years, the Maitland-based Nils M. Schweizer Fellows has promoted awareness and preservation of mid-century modern architecture in Central Florida. Now the Brevard Heritage Council highlights mid-century modern on the Space Coast with a ...Read more
Modern ReduxPalm Springs Life, February 28th
A Palm Springs couple goes with the flow after discovering the original blueprints to their house. By Jessica Taylor Tudzin. Clean, hard lines and flat and alternating rooflines are some of architect Stan Sackley's signature design elements. Extensive ...Read more
Pioneer of mid-century modern architecture in West Michigan dead at age 89Michigan Business Review - MLive.com, February 28th
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – More than 50 years after James Bronkema left West Michigan, he is still gaining followers for the sleek mid-century modern homes he built in the Grand Rapids area during the 1950s. “His houses are still here and people still value...Read more
Rehab Vintage Moves Its Mid-Century Modern Merch to Mid-CityRacked, February 24th
Midtown Crossing residents can finally get their mid-century modern fix closer to home. Upcycled furniture and decor boutique Rehab Vintage, formerly Sonrisa on Beverly Blvd—has made a new home in Mid-City, conveniently across the street from home ...Read more
Wessynton is Mount Vernon's mid-century neighborWashington Post, February 21st
Twenty-three of those mid-century modern houses are on Little Hunting Creek, a Potomac River tributary that provides all residents with access for fishing, boating and waterskiing. Wessynton Forest, covering much of the 20 acres of common property...Read more
Reflection: Maryville Exhibit Showcases Mid-Century Modern PioneersSt. Louis Public Radio, February 12th
It's not as if everyone were oblivious to the architecture of the middle of the 20th century in St. Louis before current interest in it took hold. Prominent mid-century landmarks that are, or were, part of our regional consciousness: the Saarinen Arch...Read more
New vintage store deals in mid-century modernThe Urbanite, February 11th
Some may think it strange that the 1950s were more than 60 years ago or that solid wood is a product rarely used in furniture construction anymore, but a new furniture store is dealing in the old. Three60 Vintage is Windsor's newest furniture store...Read more