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    

1950's Vtg Fantasyland Walt Disney Productions Bark Cloth 2 Curtain Panel SkirtVintage Mid Century Modern Atomic 2-panel Curtains Made Of Kirsch Bark ClothVtg Fabric Fab 50s Mid Century Novelty Border Print Edwardians In The ParkVintage 50s Tablecloth Cherries Floral Fruit Mid Century Block Print 56x44Vintage Feedsack Fabric: Novelty Little Girls Feeding Chickens, Purple On YellowVintage Mid Century Vera Neumann Kitchen Towel Blue - Vintage Novelty Border Print Fabric - Cotton, 2 3/4 YdsBridges - Vintage Border Print Novelty Fabric - Cotton, 1.89 Yds40's Barkcloth Fabric 7 Yards Big Floral Print Gazebo Vtg Barkcloth Cretonne Vat2-pink Vtg Retro Mid Century Mod Linen Dish Kitchen Tea TowelsOne Vintage Feedsack Novelty Berries Fences Pristine Unopened 37.5 X 25.5 (51)1940s Bark Cloth Fabric, Cabbage Roses 47x104 Inches1966 Don Wight Vintage Mid Century Velvet Fabric Jack Lenor Larsen TextileVintage Lot 6 Tablecloths 1950's Bright Fruits And FloralsVintage Set 3 1950's Linen Cotton Dish Towels, Great Graphics And Color, Exc #1!Vintage Blue Barkcloth Style Fabric With Rose Bouquets And ScrollsTrains - Novelty Border Print - Vintage Cotton Fabric - 2+ YdsOne Vintage Feedsack Novelty Puppies & Kitties W/ Umbrellas Raindrops! 36x43Vintage Cotton Fabric 40s Sweet Lil Bluebirds Roses On Yellow Novelty 35w 1ydVintage Set 3 1950's Linen Cotton Dish Towels, Great Graphics And Color, Exc #2!Vintage Victory Tablecloth Nos Applique Basket Print 40's Tablecloth Red & Blue1950s Bark Cloth Fabric Abstract DesignBolt Of Vintage Fabric With Puppies & Kittens Playing Design 1950'sVery Rare Vintage 40s Barkcloth Parrots Cotton Fabric - Remnant Damaged Vintage 1950's Pink With Daisies Single Border Print Cotton Fabric 4 Yards NrVintage Cotton Fabric 40s Sweet Lil Bluebirds Roses On Blue Novelty 35w 1ydVintage Cotton Organdy Dimity Fabric 30s40s Sweet Lil Pink Rosebuds 36w 1ydVintage Antique Fabric Barkcloth Style Material Print Floral Remnant 40x54"Vintage Antique Curtain Cotton Fabric Barkcloth Roses Print 1940s Era EstateVintage Tropical Foilage Hawaiian Barkcloth Fabric Drapery Panel 78" X 37"Matador & Bull Novelty Print Vintage 1950's Spanish Cotton FabricVintage Novelty Feedsack Feed Flour Sack Yellow Red Green FloralVintage Cotton Fabric 30s40s Sweet Lil Pink & Red Roses Tiny Blue Daisy 35w 1ydVintage Tropical Foilage Hawaiian Barkcloth Fabric Drapery Panel 36"x48"Two Mid Century Vtg Pillow Cases Wamsutta Flower Power Daisy Green Blue Aqua Vtg Juvenile Novelty Cotton Fabric Large Scale Baby Animals Sea Horse Duck KittVintage Fabric Cotton Curtain Panel Barkcloth Type Pink Roses Sewing Crafts Guco8 Authentic Tropical Gardenshoreline Pebbly Barkcloth Drapes~ginger,hibiscus ++Fab Vintage 1940s Barkcloth Lengths Fabric Fairlawn Town & CountryVintage Pin-up Girl Beach Towel Cannon 1950s? Bathing Suit Fishing Waterskiing +Pink & Red Berry Fruit Print Vintage 1950's Cotton Fabric 4+ YardsVintage Barkcloth Upholstery Curtain Fabric Remnants Assorted Prints & ColorsMid Century Cotton Floral Tablecloth 50x62 Vintage Retro Heart Folk Art Red 1950Vintage Floral Barkcloth Era Fabric With Roses Cottage StyleVintage Bright Floral Sealed 1970's Double Flat Sheet No Iron UsaOmg Gorgeous Vintage Nubby Pink Rose Barkcloth Fabric Over 6 Yards Pristine!Vintage Printed Tablecloth Circus Theme 1960s Great ColorFour Panels Of Floral Barkcloth CurtainsVintage Novelty Feedsack Feed Flour Sack Yellow Blue Green Red Tiny FlowersVtg Mid Century Barkcloth Drapes Atomic Swirl Red Circles & Leaf Fabric Curtains3 Yards X 34" Vtg Cotton Fabric 60s Mod Retro Blue Yellow FloralVintage Antique Cotton Print Tablecloth 1940s Flowers Foliage Huge 62x72" EstateVintage Atomic Barkcloth Curtain Panels Fabric Retro 1950's 2 Pcs Vtg 1950's Geometric Bark Cloth Great Graphics Gottaget One Vintage Feedsack Novelty Happy Turtles Buttercups Tulips 37 X 44 Clean!Pair Vintage Nubby Barkcloth Floral Tropical Drapes CurtainsVintage 50s 60s Atomic Curtain Panel Geometric Squares Block Mid Century 76x671-2/3 Yds 1953 Mid Century Modern Cotton Fabric - Black W/musical InstrumentsVintage Cotton Fabric 50s Pretty Cute Retro Diamonds 36w 3ydsVtg Cannon Flower Queen Flat Sheet Pink Floral 1960's 70's Mod Retro Hippie