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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Recent News: Mid-Century Modern
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California Mid-Century Modern Has 13-foot Fireplace from MexicoTrendir, February 7th
Neslted in the Berkley Hills, outside San Francisco, this mid-century modern home was renovated in 2012 by architect David Yama. His brief included a mandate to remodel the house with an eye toward a minimal look that put art and photography at the ...Read more
Unreal Estate: Mid-Century Modern in NorthgateKING5.com, February 3rd
Seattle---When you think trendy architecture, Seattle's Northgate neighborhood may not be top of mind. But a 1952 classic may change our minds! Just a few blocks from Northgate mall sits a mid-century modern masterpiece that was rescued from ...Read more
Sleek Mid-century modern Tanglewood home feels surprisingly up-to-dateCultureMap Houston, January 19th
Privacy is of the utmost in this 1963 mid-century modern home in Tanglewood. Courtesy photo. On the Market, 5621 Bayou Glen Rd., Jan. 2016. A complete facelift in 2012 resulted in a sleek contemporary home. Courtesy photo. On the Market, 5621 Bayou ...Read more
Rumor mill says mid-century landmark could be in danger of demolitionkfor.com, January 18th
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Beatles had just landed for the first time in America and the 'baby boom' era was coming to an end. In 1964, a landmark on N. May opened its doors. It's a piece of mid-century modern architecture that could now be in danger. "That...Read more
California Dreaming: Stephanie Kloss photographs iconic mid-century homesDezeen, January 17th
Photo essay: German photographer Stephanie Kloss visited some of California's iconic Mid-Century Modern homes to create this series of 1940s-inspired images (+ slideshow). The abundance of film stars and warm weather made California a "hot-spot for ...Read more
Mid-Century Gems in the Desert: 5 Al Beadle Homes for Sale in ArizonaRealtor.com News, January 15th
Alfred Beadle was an architect active in Arizona during the Mid-Century Modern movement. He isn't a household name, but his work in the 1950s movement is notable: Beadle designed Case Study Apartment #1 and won numerous awards from the American ...Read more
JetBlue Launches Palm Springs Service with Mid-Century Modern CelebrationBusiness Wire (press release), January 14th
Famous for its mid-century modern style and beautiful landscape, Greater Palm Springs welcomes visitors from around the world. Once the playground for Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, Palm Springs has positioned itself as...Read more
Bedford Corners Mid-Century Modern Offers Vintage Region ViewsThe Daily Voice, January 13th
Photo Credit: Contributed The Mid-Century Modern home offers picturesque views. Photo Credit: Contributed The home is light and bright throughout. Photo Credit: Contributed The kitchen is also one of the home's key features. Photo Credit: Contributed...Read more