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.
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This Mid-Century Flip In Buckhead Seeks $799900Curbed National, December 12th
It must be high season for mid-century modern homes on the Atlanta market. Here we find a cleanly renovated 1967 property in a forested Buckhead neighborhood near Interstate 75, within the prized Margaret Mitchell school district. From the street, the ...Read more
Silver Lakers Trying To Preserve Mid-Century Ranch To Stop Five-House ...Curbed LA, December 10th
Earlier this year, an untouched mid-century modern house designed by Gilbert Leong--with killer views and an unfortunate proximity to the 5--hit the market for the first time ever and sold in just a couple months for $985,000. Turns out the buyer is a...Read more
Lighting Fixtures Merge Mid-century Modern with Latest TrendsPR Web (press release), December 2nd
Lighting fixtures pull together this seamless merger of mid-century modern with other styles such as Industrial Luxe and Clean Traditional. Collections such as ET2's Crossroads with its geometric shapes and intersecting vertical and horizontal ...Read more
Artsy-Fartsy: A Mid-Century Modern-Inspired Holiday Gift GuidexoJane, December 2nd
This is for the people in your life who frequent galleries and have a strong creative side. They've always got beautiful (framed!) prints hanging in their home and aren't afraid to stand out. I went with a mid-century/modern art theme for this list...Read more
Charles Goodman's own mid-century modern furniture to be auctionedWashington Post, December 2nd
Charles M. Goodman (1906-1992), a nationally known architect who created a large legacy of important modernist work in the Washington area, also left an impressive collection of mid-century furniture. Seventy-five lots of his tables, chairs, desks...Read more
Mid-Century Modern Homes for SaleBloomberg, November 29th
Mid-Century Modern Homes for Sale. By Zillow Staff - 2013-11-29T17:10:41Z. Seattle, Washington. Previous Next. Photograph via Zillow. Previous. Croton On Hudson, New York · San Antonio, Texas · Seattle, Washington · Rancho Palos Verdes, California ...Read more
Resuscitated Mid-Century Modern Asks $199900Curbed National, November 25th
A stone's throw from Spaghetti Junction, but still Inside the Perimeter, we find this flipped mid-century modern that begs for a Don Draper martini party. We're told a husband-wife team renovated this 1958 pad, keeping the tongue-and-groove ceilings...Read more
To Grandmother's (Mid-Century Modern) house we go!Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, November 24th
Today, a visit to grandmother's house takes on a new and modern meaning. No longer a den of fusty Victoriana or a collection of chintz, grandmother's house is a marvel of Mid-Century Modern design. Her preference for sleek chrome, vibrant colors, ...Read more