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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Weekly Freebie: "Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Phoenix"Phoenix New Times (blog), May 20th
This Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m. local history buffs and Midcentury Modern enthusiasts are invited to stop by Burton Barr Central Library for "Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Phoenix," the final presentation in Phoenix Icons: The Art of Our Historic...Read more
Sacramento mid-century modern homeSacramento Bee, May 18th
The home was built in the 1950's and restored over the past year by the couple to showcase it's modern design. Their home is one that will be part of the Sacramento Mid-Century Modern Tour of homes in South Land Park May 18. Photographed May 9, 2013...Read more
Mid-Century Modern enthusiast discusses Land Park home tour highlightsValley Community Newspapers, May 16th
Photos by Sutter Buttes/John DiDomenico Photography These photographs were taken at the June 26, 2010 Mid Century Modern Tour in South Land Park. This year's tour will be held Saturday, May 18. See sacmcmhometour.blogspot.com for more...Read more
Mid-century modern on display in Sacramento tourSacramento Bee, May 15th
On Saturday, the couple will host about 1,000 guests during the second Sacramento Mid-Century Modern Tour. Built in 1950, their Blomberg Westerner blockhouse will be featured along with six other Sacramento homes and 26 other points of interest...Read more
For the first time, Landmark Society honors Mid-century Modern homeThe Batavian, May 7th
You can probably count, on one hand, the number of octogenarian Word War II veterans in Genesee County, who not only designed but also still reside in the same home they built during the post-war era. At least one of them would be Henry John Kisiel of...Read more
Carl Maston's Marvelous Mid-Century Modern Thies ResidenceCurbed, May 4th
Per the Listing: "The Thies Residence, an exemplary architectural home from Carl Maston, award winning graduate of the USC school of architecture. Modernist lines abound throughout this home evidenced by folded plate ceiling details to the endless rows...Read more
Six houses designed by Saul Zaik on display at Mid-Century Modern House TourOregonLive.com, May 2nd
The work of Portland architect Saul Zaik can be seen in homes, resorts, commercial buildings and iconic landmarks such as Timberline Lodge and Vista House at Crown Point. Considered a master of Northwest regional style, Zaik has been practicing...Read more
Mad About Modern Home Tour - Historic Charlotte's Mid-Century Modern Home ...CL Charlotte, April 26th
Historic Charlotte's Mid-Century Modern Home Tour features 8 privately-owned homes in South Charlotte neighborhoods. These homes - most built from 1945-1965 - feature open floor plans, clean lines, large windows and a blending of indoor and outdoor...Read more