The Mid-Century Modern catalog is often reduced to Eames molded-fiberglass chairs, Noguchi coffee tables, and Nelson starburst clocks. But the era’s aesthetic also included textiles designed by the likes of Alexander Girard, Lucienne Day, and Angelo Testa. Indeed, textile design was such an important part of the movement that Knoll International added a textiles division in 1947, commissioning fabric designs and textured materials for its furniture by such designers as Astrid Sampe, Toni Prestini, Eszter Haraszty, Ross Littell, and Sheila Hicks.

Ray Eames, who along with her husband, Charles, designed many of the most iconic pieces of Mid-Century Modern furniture, dabbled in textiles, too, producing patterns such as “Cross Patch” and “Sea Things.” More often, though, when the couple wanted fabric for a piece, they turned to Alexander Girard who worked at Herman Miller, where he headed up the furniture firm’s textile division.

The dean of American textile designers at the time was probably Jack Lenor Larsen, whose hand-woven textiles imbued the modernist furnishing they covered with an instant sense of history and authenticity. Larsen eventually became known for the textiles he designed for Pan Am and Braniff. Pipsan Swanson designed fabrics for curtains and other furnishings in spaces designed by her father and and brother, architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen. Angelo Testa designed geometric patterns with generally subdued palettes for upholstery as well as rugs.

Meanwhile, in London, Lucienne Day was loosening things up, introducing lines, shapes from nature, and even figuration into her designs, which were influenced in part by the work of her counterparts in Scandinavian. One of Day’s earliest designs, “Calyx” from 1951, remains her most famous and sought-after textile. Another European, Marianne Straub, also got her start in the U.K., where she produced designs for draperies whose patterns appeared biomorphic but were actually taken from crystals.

The high-mindedness of Knoll, Miller, and the rest was just one influence on mid-century textiles. Particularly in America, the return of G.I.s from the South Pacific during World War II spawned an interest in all things tiki, which manifested itself most famously in tiki mugs. In textiles, the South Seas allure created fabrics with tropical themes, especially in a material called barkcloth, whose rough, almost pebbly surface was printed with flora such as flowering hibiscus and fauna such as pink flamingos. This exuberance soon made its way onto tablecloths and 1950s fashions.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

LACMA Luxury Textiles

LACMA Luxury Textiles

Textile collectors shouldn't miss this microsite from the LA County Museum of Art, a great reference on European an… [read review or visit site]

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]



Most watched eBay auctions    

3 Retro Barkcloth Vintage Floral Tropical Fabric Drapes Panels - Approx. 10 Yds!Vintage 50s 60s Atomic Rayon Curtains Pinch Pleat 3 Panels Geometric Pink 90x40Vintage Antique Barkcloth Style Cotton Fabric Green Pink Floral Shabby 40s ChicVtg Antique Nubby Barkcloth 5 Drape Drapery Curtain Fabric Panels 40s 50s Flowe True Vintage Parrot Cockatoo Tropical Hawaiian Barkcloth Fabric~unusedVintage Floral Tropical Hawaiian Barkcloth Fabric 5 Yards Drapes Flower 40sLot Of 20 Never Used Vintage 50's Floral Flower Handkerchief Hanky Hankie NwtLot Of 50 Dead Stock Vintage 50's Floral Flower Handkerchief Hanky Hankie NwtVintage Wilendur 50's Tablecloth. Gray/white/maroon Flower DesignVintage 50s Fabric Pink Fish Mid Century Novelty Eames Era Atomic 50' Yrds CotonVintage 1940's Florida State Souvenir Map Tablecloth Startex Beautiful ExVintage 50's Barkcloth Cotton Curtains 44in Wide X 56in DropVtg 1950's Mid Century Modern Cotton Fabric Crazed Roosters 35 1/4" X 42"Vintage Barkcloth? Fabric Curtain Big FlowersVintage Curtain Big Flowers Barkcloth Fabric?Vtg Cotton Summer Fabric 6yd X 35 Novelty Sun Beach Catalina Nassau Bahamas Mnt 1940s Hawaiian Foilage On Grey, Barkcloth,drape. 8 Continuous Yards UncutVintage Budweiser Fabric Cloth 70s Size 42" X 52" TableclothVintage Barkcloth Curtain/fabric Panel~ Pink Peonies Or Roses~34x91One Vintage Feedsack Novelty Pale Pink W/rings Wreaths & Pink Roses Pristine!Vintage 50s Drapes Curtains Mid Century Mcm Atomic 50's Double Valance 79 X 62 50' Or 60's Vintage Geometric Barkcloth Retro, Mod Fabric Material, 47" X 130"Vintage 50s Tablecloth Rooster Teacup Atomic Turquoise Midcentury 50x50Vintage 1940s Printed Tablecloth 50x50" Red Green Flowers Foliage Vibrant ColorTwo Yards Vintage Barkcloth Fabric Bright Floral Pattern On TealVintage 60's/70's Flower Power Curtains , Unused Vw Camper/caravan/cottage/retroVintage Mid Century Atomic Eames Metallic Gold Barkcloth Fabric 2 YardsVintage 1 Yard & 28" Fabric Retro Atomic Barkcloth? Home Decor Metallic GoldLot Of 5 Vintage Tablecloths Beautiful Condition Some From The 50's 1-simtex 2 Vintage Mid Century Modern Tammis Keefe Linen Hand/guest Owl Towels 2 Pieces Vintage Tropical Design Barkcloth,prettyVintage Fabric Lot Feedsack 40+ Large Pieces Patchwork 30s To 60s Red Blue PinkVintage Runner Red Cherries Bird Embroilered 50s DecorVintage Barkcloth Curtains, 1950's, 4 Panels Black And GoldOne Vintage Feedsack Novelty Tiny Dots Snow On Red W/ Flowers Cleaned! Nice!Vintage Barkcloth? Fabric Asian Oriental Scene Vintage Feedsack Fabric? 1940's Geometric& Floral- Pink,bubble Gum, Blue And YelLarge Lot Of Vintage 60's Mod Floral Sheets & Pillowcases 15 Items EucVintage "tropical" - Barkcloth - Single Curtain PanelVtg Tablecloth 1940s Simtex Blue Willow Orient Asia Pagoda River Bridge 58"x74"Vintage 60's 70's Pink Roses Martex Bath Towel & Washcloth Set, 100% CottonVintage Mid Century Modern 50's Atomic Barkcloth Curtain Drapery PanelVtg Atomic Crantex Martini Cocktail Glasses Mid Century Modern Fabric 5 YardsVintage 1950's Atomic Fabric W/ Flying Saucers 72" X 46"Nos Vintage Canon Monticello Set 3 Packages Full Fitted Sheets Mod Flowers Vintage Barkcloth Fabric - Western Drapery Fabric - One Curtain 33x32Vintage Feedsack Fabric Novelty Fruit Bubblegum Pink Cotton Vintage Feedsack Fabric Novelty Aqua Ric Rack Tiny Flowers Cotton 4 Vintage Antique All Skirt Half Aprons Lot 1940s Kitchen Vibrant Estate Find1950's Vintage Cotton Tablecloth Red Turquoise Sadirons Trivets 48" X 50" Vtg Full Feedsack Fabric Novelty Wedding Bride Figural Tea Roses Pink Blue HeartOne Vintage Feedsack Tiny Green Bows Baskets Yellow Flower Novelty Pristine CuteSimtex Mid Century Modern Vintage Grey Pink Tablecloth 52x62Vintage Bark Cloth Panel Leaves And Hearts1950's Vintage Cotton Tablecloth Yellow Coral Morning Glories On White 52" X 62"Vintage 1950s Barkcloth Fabric Curtain Panel Hollywood Artsy Geometric Glam ModSweet Vintage 50s Marlene Linens Glass Shelf Rectangle Tablecloth 62" X 52" PinkVintage 1950's Novelty Print Fabric Little Girls Tea Party Ironing 1 1/2 Yds Vintage 1940's High Quality "picnic" Linen Napkins Assortment 6 Green And White One Vintage Feedsack Novelty Turquoise Balloons Dots Pristine!