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    

Danish Leather Teak Armchair Rosewood Legs Vintage Retro Mid-century Easy ChairVintage 50s Old Philco Jet Age Retro Jetsons Mid Century Antique Bakelite RadioVintage 1940s Old Zenith Art Deco Swirled Bakelite Machine Age Mid Century RadioMid Century Modern Eames Nelson Era Danish Wood Floor Lamp Pearsall Inspired YqzVintage 1937 Old Zenith Classic Black Dial Art Deco Mid Century Wood Tube RadioEames Walnut Stool C Herman Miller Dwr Design Within Reach Mid Century ModernEames Herman Miller Catalog # 670 671 Rosewood Lounge Chair & Ottoman LeatherVintage Rare Color Old Crosley Mid Century Bakelite Dashboard Radio Plays GreatWhite Petal Side Table By Richard Schultz For Knoll From 1960 Original ConditionMid Century 1950s Table Desk Lamp Vintage Stilnovo Danish Modern Atomic 60s EraFase Madrid Boomerang 64 Vintage Desk Light Lamp Mid Century Bauhaus Modern 60sVintage Mid Century Modern Welby Starburst Diamonds 1960s Eames Style Wall ClockFase Madrid 520 C Vintage Desk Light Lamp Mid Century Bauhaus Modern Danish 60sTeak Wall Lamp Danish Modern Mid Century Eames Wegner Luxus Vintage 50s 60s Vintage Herman Miller Charles Eames Fiberglass Yellow Rocker - Original LabelNice! Hand-blown Art Glass Mid-century Modern Chandelier Chihuly/murano Era Nr!Eames Evans Herman Miller Vtg Mid Century Modern Black Dcm Plywood Metal ChairMaya Lin Stones Coffee Table Silver Knoll Dwr Design Within Reach OutdoorHerman Miller Charles Eames Fiberglass Side Chairs 4 Light Lemon Yellow Rare Huge Mid Century Italian Stilnovo Sputnik Chandelier Atomic Lamp Light 54 InchesVintage Pair Mid-century Eames Era Atomic Star Burst Wall Candle SconcesKnoll Saarinen Executive Armchair Metal Legs Ivory Leather Design Within ReachCherner Armchair Walnut/beech Design Within Reach Dwr Mid Century ModernFionia Folding Stool Teak Design Within Reach Dwr Mid Century ModernPair Of Mid-century Design Stemlite Design Line Inc. Floor Lamps Mushroom ShadesEames Molded Wood Side Chair Palisander Black Base Herman Miller Dwr Mid CenturyRestored Near Mint Emerson 520 Antique Vintage Catalin Tube Radio Works Perfect!Mid Century White On Red Cathrineholm Enamelware Bowl 9.5" + 11"Knoll Saarinen Tulip Armchair White/ivory Leather Seat Set Of 2 Modern DwrNube Armchair In Cognac Leather Stua Design Within Reach Dwr Mid Century ModernCathrineholm Mid Century Yellow White Lotus Enamelware Tea Kettle PotVintage Teak Starburst Wall Clock 60s Mid Century Modern Atomic Sputnik SunburstEames Aluminum Management Chair Black Leather Pneumatic Lift Design Within ReachSister Mary Corita Kent (b.1918) California Mid Century Pop Art Serigraph SignedKnoll Bertoia Side Chair Chrome Design Within Reach Dwr Mid Century ModernVintage Early Eames For Herman Miller Fiberglass Armchair H Metal BaseHerman Miller Eames Desk Unit 20Mid Century Modern Ruth Mckee "city Pattern" Textured Abstract Oil Painting YqzKlh Model Twenty-one Fm Radio Mid Century Works & Looks Great!!Embody Task Chair Peacock White Herman Miller Office Dwr Design Within ReachEames Molded Fiberglass Dowel-leg Armchair (dfaw) Herman Miller Modern DwrVintage Lisa Larson Big Cat Zoo Gustavberg Sweden Mid Century Art Pottery LabelsHagenauer Walter Bosse Era Bronze Cat Corkscrew Mid Century Modernist EnglishFabulous Large Mid-century Modern Junghans Sunburst Starburst Atomic Wall ClockVintage Mid Century Modern Catherineholm 12" Red Enamel Plate White Lotus Norway1970s Kaiser 6933 Table Desk Lamp Idell Leuchten Mid Century Eames Vintage 60s Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair (lcm) White Ash Set Of 2 Herman Miller DwrEames Molded Plywood Dining Chair (dcm) Ebony Black Base Herman Miller DwrFase Madrid Presidente Vintage Desk Industrial Light Lamp Mid Century BauhausFase Madrid Boomerang 2000 Vintage Desk Light Lamp Mid Century Bauhaus EamesVintage Eames Fiberglass Armshell Chair By Herman Miller Mid Century Modern OldVintage Robert Welch Old Hall Candlestick 70s Eames Retro 60s Stainless Steel Temde Ceiling Lamp Danish Modern Mid Century Eames Wegner Luxus Vintage 60s 70sVintage Old 1958 Toshiba Japanese Mid Century Transistor Radio , In The Box Antique Original Glen Ranney Social Realism Oil Painting, "the Swimmers"1957 Seafoam Green Herman Miller Eames Fiberglass Shell Chair, Great Shape!Vtg Mid Century Arabia Finland Ceramic Giraffe Sculpture Figurine Eames Era Eames Soft Pad Management Chair Pneumatic Lift All Black Leather Herman MillerIsamu Noguchi Hawkeye Measured Time Bakelite Kitchen Timer Organic Eames DesignPetal End Table White Schultz Knoll Design Within Reach Dwr Modern Outdoor

Recent News: Mid-Century Modern

Source: Google News

Inspired Interiors: Mid-Century homes and cars on display
Indianapolis Star, May 22nd

Vintage cars vie with vintage houses. Cars and homes will be featured on the Indiana Landmarks Back to the Future: A Mid-Century Modern Home Tour from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. May 30 in Muncie. Mark Dollase, vice president of preservation services for Indiana ...Read more

Howard Baker's 'mid-century modern' mansion goes up for auction, furniture ...
Washington Times, May 21st

Up for auction next month: the Tennessee estate of the late Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., consisting of a 6,175-square-foot main home, plus cottage, guesthouse, pool and more, all on 11 acres in Huntsville. The home is unmistakably “mid-century modern” in ...Read more

Letter: Proposed building does not honor mid-century modern architecture
New Canaan Advertiser, May 20th

In the April 22, 2015 issue of The Advertiser the realtor for the proposed building on 215 Elm Street is quoted as saying the design of the Elm Street building is based on the Bremer House designed by Eliot Noyes. I know the Bremer House, and the Elm...Read more

Delaware Spaces: Mid-century modern in Spring Valley
The News Journal, May 19th

Former photojournalist Jack Alexander had a good job after World War II working in the public relations department at the DuPont Co. Then, at age 41, he jumped off the corporate ladder, according to his daughters. In 1958, the father or four children...Read more

The Mid-Century Modern Market
DailyNorthShore.com, May 14th

Landmarks Illinois recently released its list of the 2015 “Most Endangered Places” in Illinois, and the list included more than just 10 places – it included “All Mid-Century Modern Houses statewide.” Just how many modernist homes by noted architects...Read more

For sale in Austin: Mid-Century Modern house — with atomic bomb shelter
Austin Business Journal (blog), May 1st

Have a warm spot in your heart for the Cold War era? An Atomic Ranch-styled house with a fully preserved bomb shelter – complete with rations and a periscope – has just hit the market. The Mid-Century modern aesthetic is apparent throughout the ...Read more

McLean 'WOW' House: Mid-Century Modern by Charles Goodman
Patch.com, April 30th

Elegantly refined by McInturff Architects and Added Dimensions in 2012, this mid century modern home designed by renowned local architect, Charles Goodman, is beautifully sited on a very private 1/2 lot backing to parkland. The warm and inviting...Read more

Mid-century modern architecture tour planned May 2 in Richland
Mid Columbia Tri City Herald, April 27th

A walking tour of north Richland neighborhoods with homes in the mid-century modern style is planned by Richland Parks and Recreation starting at 10 a.m. May 2. As Richland was incorporated in 1958, not only could people purchase the houses built by...Read more