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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Mid-century Icon: The Lunch Room ChairHuffington Post, April 17th
Whatever type of cafeteria chair you sat in, the shape, materials, and function likely originated from the carefully thought-out concepts of Charles and Ray Eames, and Robin Day. Perhaps your love for mid-century modern actually developed not while...Read more
Be the Second-Ever Owner of Architect Earl G. Richards's Sharp Mid-Century ...Curbed LA, April 16th
I want to like this house as I love mid century modern homes, and this house has a lot of original details, but a lot of them need attention. The cork flooring, redwood siding, eaves, fencing, all look like they're in poor condition. In looking at...Read more
Mid-century modern comes of ageIrish Times, April 11th
As “brown furniture” continues to struggle in the auction rooms, there's been a surge of interest in 20th-century furniture, some of which is on the way to becoming collectible and the antiques of the future. Already items made during the early years...Read more
Beautiful Mid-Century Modern in Glendale Asking $819kCurbed LA, April 4th
Here's an architectural gem from the Jewel City: Glendale. Built in 1954, the Asian-influenced modern features three bedrooms, two baths—including one with a "private terrarium"—vaulted, beamed ceilings, a brick fireplace, herringbone-pattern wood...Read more
For $284999, A Mid-Century Modern In AlgiersCurbed National, April 3rd
On a double lot in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Algiers sits this mid-century modern-style home with 3,267-square-feet of living space. While this place isn't on the same playing field as some of the meticulously designed MCMs on the other side...Read more
Sneak peek: Mid-century modern is all the rage at upcoming home tourAustin Business Journal (blog), April 3rd
Mid-century modern is a blend of the European Bauhaus movement with Frank Lloyd Wright sensibilities, according to a blog on Preservation Austin's website authored by Steve Sadowsky, historic preservation officer for the city of Austin. The essence of...Read more
Burnaby home has mid-century modern appealVancouver Sun, March 31st
The big sell: This two-storey bungalow in Burnaby's Suncrest neighbourhood may look unassuming, but enter the front door and you'll experience a mid-century modern 3,800-square-foot home with an open-concept layout and ample windows framing the ...Read more
Michigan House Envy: Mid-Century Modern melts into Birmingham landscapeDetroit Free Press (blog), March 29th
Dropping three stories down into a ravine in Birmingham, this glass-walled house is a beautiful example of Mid-Century Modern architecture — wide expanses of wood, glass and stone with large rooms that unfold into each other and architecture that...Read more