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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

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]

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]

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    

Vintage 1937 Old Zenith Classic Black Dial Art Deco Mid Century Wood Tube RadioVintage 1970s Psychedelic Space Age Ge Atomic Old Flying Saucer Transistor RadioVintage Sewing Box Table Eames Danish Mid Century Modern Teak Art Deco 50s 60sVintage 1950s Old Rca Art Deco Antique Mid Century Ribbon Chrome MicrophoneMid Century Table / Desk Lamp Vintage Eames Danish Modern Atomic 1950s 60s EraRare Original Vintage George Nelson Mid-century Modern Howard Miller Wall ClockEames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair (lcw) Red Lacquer Herman Miller Modern DwrEames Upholstered Molded Plywood Lounge Chair (lcw) Walnut Herman Miller DwrVintage Starburst Sunburst Elgin Eames Atomic Mid Century Era Wall Clock 50s 60sVtg Arabia Finland Finel Enamel Bowl Red Hearts Kaj FranckPair Of Art Deco Glass & Chrome Bedside Lamps Vintage Mid Century 30s 40s 50sKnoll Saarinen Executive Side Chair Metal Legs Ivory Set Of 2design Within ReachEames Molded Fiberglass Rocker (rfar) Green/white Ash Herman Miller Modern DwrMid Century Danish Modern Walnut Teak Poul Cado Royal Wall Unit Desk Eames Era Eames Aluminum Group Side Chair Grey Emerald Dark Hopsak Design Within Reach DwrCathrineholm Norway Rare Pink Enamel Lotus Mid-century Modern Baking Dish & LidCathrineholm Enamel Yellow/white Lotus Bowl Vintage Mcm Norway As-is Vintage 1960's Louis Poulsen Arne Jacobsen Black Floor Lamp Denmark Mid CenturyVintage Mid Century Mcm Herman Miller Eames Shell Zenith Rope Chair Fiberglass Knoll Saarinen Executive Armchair Metal Legs Ivory Sonnet Fabric Set Of 2 DwrEames Upholstered Molded Plywood Lounge Chair (lcw) White Ash Herman Miller DwrVintage 6 Light Chandelier Teak & Glass Danish Mid Century Wegner Luxus 60s 50s 1950s Mid Century Table Lamp Stilnovo Vintage Eames Danish Modern 60s EraTom Daft Punk Habitat Radius Dixon Mid Century Retro Modernist Table Art PrintVintage Mid Century Mcm Herman Miller Eames Shell Chair Fiberglass Wire Base50's Vintage Pinup Deweese Cotton Swimsuit Playsuit Romper Mid-centuryVintage 1952 Philco Old Atomic Mid Century Bakelite Radio Modernistic JetsonsVtg Mid Century Modern Lounge Chair Danish Style No ReserveOriginal Walter Bosse Hedgehog Brass Ashtray Mid Century Austria 50s 60s EraRare Vintage 70's Roth Keramik 309 Red Fat Lava Vase West German Pottery ArtVintage 1940s Art Deco Mid Century Bakelite Radio Swirled Catalin Colors Eames Molded Fiberglass Rocker (rfar) Navy/white Ash Herman Miller Modern DwrFabulus Italian Mid Century Modernist Silver Plate Tea Set Service Di CristofaloSoviet Rocket Lamp Night Light Ussr Space Age Memorabilia Vintage Cccp VintageEames Molded Fiberglass Wire-base Armchair (dfar) Set Of 2 Herman Miller DwrPair Table Lamps Brass Willy Rizzo Guy Lefevre Maison Jansen Mid Century LightVintage 1960s Beautiful Pepsi Cola Antique Old Soda Machine Transistor Radio Vintage Rare 1962 Austin Mid Century Modern Chess Set Aluminum!Mid Century Modern Arabia Finland Kaj Franck Red Heart Enamel BowlVintage Marcello Fantoni For Raymor Pottery Lion Vase, Italy 1960'sEames Molded Fiberglass Wire-base Armchair (dfar) Navy Set Of 2 Herman MillerAntique, Authentic - Daum Nancy - Pate De Verre, Art-glass Table LampOriginal Kevin Doyle Expressionist Oil Painting Of Fish, Chatham MassachusettsMid Century Modern Desk Task Lamp Flying Saucer Lightolier Brass 2 Tone CobraNuutajarvi Notsjo Kaj Franck Signed & Dated Decanter With Original LabelVintage Kay Bojesen Denmark Teak Wood Ape Monkey 7 1/2" Danish Mid-centuryOriginal 1950s Teak Sewing Box Table Sideboard Storage 60s 70s Mid-century RareEames Molded Plywood Dining Chair (dcw) Palisander Herman Miller Mid Century DwrEames Molded Fiberglass Dowel-leg Armchair (dfaw) Herman Miller Modern DwrEames Molded Fiberglass Dowel-leg Armchair Navy/white Ash (dfaw) Herman MillerVintage Old Zenth Orange & Ebony Trim Mid Century Antique Bakelite Clock RadioTall 10" Rare Vintage 70s Roth Keramik 311 Red Fat Lava Vase West German PotteryHerman Miller Eames Lounge & Ottoman White All Grain Leather PalisanderEames Executive Chair Time Life Pearl Mcl Leather White Frame Herman Miller DwrEames Walnut Stool Style B Side Table Vintage Herman MillerExceptional Royal 500 Coral Pink Zenith Transistor Radio W/ Orig. Case (i#217)Mid Century Modern Bitossi Blue Flower Pot Vase Unusual Glaze Raymor Italy Mid Century Danish Modern Clyde Burt Studio Art Pottery Lidded Jar Vintage 11.5"Eames Aluminum Management Chair Leather Pneumatic Lift Dwr Design Within ReachEames Molded Fiberglass Rocker (rfar) Seal Brown Herman Miller Modern Dwr

Recent News: Mid-Century Modern

Source: Google News

On the market: Mid-Century Modern has timeless appeal
Westport News, March 6th

England has its Stonehenge, the Easter Islands have their monolithic heads and the Mid-Century Modern house at 191 Greens Farms Road has its cotoneaster circle garden on the front lawn. This is only the first of many artistic and natural elements that...Read more

Community Concert Band Presents Mid-century Modern: A Celebration of Music ...
Chicago Tribune, March 4th

Clarinet player, Bob Evans is gearing up to perform with the Des Plaines Community Concert Band at a recent concert. Clarinet player, Bob Evans is gearing up to perform with the Des Plaines Community Concert Band at a recent concert. (Posted by Des ...Read more

How mid century modern classics have adapted
Newbritainherald, March 3rd

NEW CANAAN (AP) — In the years after World War II, when suburban towns were still “the country,” this unassuming village an hour north of Manhattan became an epicenter of modernist architecture, and a birthplace of then-radical concepts like family...Read more

Rescuing Mid-Century Modern
My New Orleans, March 2nd

Neither Tudor, an editor and stylist, who had previously owned and lived in two other mid-century modern houses in the same neighborhood, or Sichel, the Executive Chef at Galatoire's Restaurant, had ever taken on such a major remodel. With the goal of ...Read more

Home Tour: Wyoming mid-century masonry's Industrial style a new art form for ...
WCPO, February 27th

Its owner, who is in the midst of selling the house and opted not to be part of this story, enlisted Sidley to add square footage and upgrade the house with new bathrooms using modern materials without altering its mid-century modern ambiance. “It was...Read more

Inspired Interiors: Mid-Century Modern stars in 2015
Indianapolis Star, February 26th

Mid-Century Modern continues its rise in popularity, both the real deal and 21st-century interpretations. From classic outdoor styles revisited to Danish modern chairs and entertainment consoles right out of the 1950s, Mid-Century Modern furniture is...Read more

Outpost Estates Mid-Century Modern With Terraced Garden Asking $2.2 Million
Curbed LA, February 13th

This three-bedroom, two-bathroom house of mysterious measurements (square footage is not listed) was built in 1955 and is not about to let you forget it. The open floor plan, large windows, and massive fireplace are nice, but the outdoor spaces here...Read more

Mid-century modern furniture continues its popularity among hip homeowners
LA Daily News, February 5th

Mid-century modern furniture has a vibe to it that — even after all these years — resonates with hip homeowners looking for sleek lines, bright colors and simplicity. It's a particularly useful style for those looking to make the most of smaller...Read more