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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Spiffy Mid-Century Mod With Pool in Altadena Asking $850kCurbed LA, October 29th
Located just west of the Angeles National Forest in Altadena, this well-kept modern was designed in 1958 by architect William L. Duquette, who also designed the Riverside International Raceway. On the market for the first time in over two decades, the ...Read more
$1.7 million mid-century modern gem by noted architect combines indoor and ...CultureMap Houston, October 29th
Editor's Note: Houston, the surrounding areas and beyond are loaded with must-have houses for sale in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. In this continuing series, CultureMap snoops through some of the best and gives you the lowdown on what's hot on...Read more
Better Call Saul's Bob Odenkirk Lists Razor-Sharp Los Feliz Mid-Century at $2 ...Curbed LA, October 28th
And this week, the comedian/star of the upcoming Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul and his wife, talent manager Naomi Odenkirk, put their longtime residence in the Los Feliz Oaks on the market. Per the listing, the single-story Mid-Century Modern...Read more
Mid-Century Modern: What was cool in '50s is now hotnwitimes.com, October 11th
I finally got to the bottom of it this week when I talked with two mid-century modern experts, Los Angeles architect Lawrence Scarpa and interior designer Pam Holladay, of Sarasota, Fla., who will both be speaking at SarasotaMOD Weekend, this weekend...Read more
Mid-Century Modern homes on Belleville tourSTLtoday.com, October 7th
Architect Charles E. King was best known for his Mid-Century Modern homes, seven of which will open to the public Oct. 19 in Belleville. Landmarks Association of St. Louis, promoter of the one-day event, says several of the homes were not on the...Read more
Woodsy and Little-Touched Mid-Century Modern by Harwell Harris Asking $1.5 ...Curbed LA, October 6th
It's always a treat to be introduced to a property designed by the extremely gifted Harwell Hamilton Harris, like this Usonian-esque residence nestled in the hills of rustic Beverly Glen, known as the Ralph Johnson House and built in 1949. Per the...Read more
Mid-century modern: what was cool in the '50s is now hotThe Times-Picayune - NOLA.com, October 6th
Apparently, according to the event's press materials, Sarasota is home to "one of the most impressive inventories of mid-century modern architecture in the world." I'll find out, as I'll be going. "Help me out here," I said to Holladay. "Why do they...Read more
Take a trip back in time with mid-century modern tourHometownlife.com, October 2nd
SOUTHFIELD – The city of Southfield was one of the state's fastest growing cities during the 1960s, and as result, saw a large influx of mid-century modern architecture in homes, office buildings and religious institutions. Obviously, the city has...Read more