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    

Lot Of 10 Vintage 50's Tablecloths Novelty Floral Cotton LinenMid Century Modern Vintage Calder Mobile 50s Bark Cloth Unused Fabric 2ydsVintage Strawberry Tablecloth Linen 62" X 48" From 1950's Blue Red Green WhiteEames Fabric Vintage Material Curves 60s Mod Mid Century 50s 60s Barkcloth MintVintage Strawberry Tablecloth Linen 44" X 44" From 1950's Yellow Red Green WhiteVintage Floral Barkcloth Era Drapery Panel With Gorgeous Pink RosesBarkcloth Era Floral Shoebag With Pockets For Treasures With Gorgeous Roses1950's D Porthault Mille Fleurs Scalloped Percale Standard ShamMid Century Modern Vintage 2 Used Curtain Panels Late 40s Early 50s Bark Cloth Vintage 35" W Caribbean West Indies Novelty Fabric Dancers, Parrots, Hammock 3y Mid Century Tammis Keefe Large Linen Tablecloth Drug Store Candy Display Jars Amazing Vintage Cotton Fabric - Carnival Hot Air Balloon Scene, 50s 60s YellowVintage Atomic Pattern Bark Cloth Drapery / Material 66" X 90" X Two PanelsVintage Barkcloth Midcentury Atomic Retro Fabric Pinks Space AgeVintage 1950's Cotton Tablecloth Red And Blue Strawberry Design - 49" X 49"Vintage Pair Of Two Barkcloth Floral Curtain Drapes Panels 42"x63"Vintage 1940-50's Feedsack Fabric Full Panel 44"x 37" Yellow Blue Puppy & KittenVintage 1940-50's Feedsack Fabric Full Panel 44" X 36" Peachy Pink Purple FloralVintage Bark Cloth Material Tropical White Birds Abstract DesignVtg Pr Tropical Barkcloth Pink Yellow Turquoise On Emerald Curtain Drape PanelsVintage Pair 30's 40's Long Tropical Floral Bark Cloth Cotton Curtains Vtg 1930-50's Feedsack Full Panel 39" X 37" Red Green Blue Rose Floral Polka DotVintage Cotton Organdy Dimity Fabric 40s50s Sweet Strawberries Novelty 35w 34l2 Vintage Barkcloth Panels Flowers Pinkish Salmon Unused KirschVtg. 1940-50's Small Feedsack Fabric Full Panel 32" X 30" Green White Floral Bow2 Pair! 4 Panels Vintage Barkcloth Era Drapes 81" LongVintage Material X2-samples/swatches-orange-'70's-23"x23"-great Condition!!!Vintage Feedsack Novelty Green/red Flower Pots Still SewnVintage Barkcloth Era Southwest Western Cowboy Fabric Drapes Panels Yardage Vtg. Barkcloth Fabric Rose Floral Bouquet Pleated Curtains~ 2 Panels @ 24" X 82"Vintage 1940s Ribbons & Roses Cotton Printed Tablecloth 47" X 51 1/2"Vintage Flowers Tablecloth Linen 52" X 50" From 1950's Yellow Red Green BluewhitVntg 1950's Vicray K&b Floral Print 54" X 54" Tablecloth Turquoise, Pink & Plum Vintage Flowers Roses Barkcloth Fabric Vat Piece3 Yds Vtg Harwood Steiger Fabric Blue & White "spanish Iron" Mid Century Modern Vtg 1930-50's Feedsack Full Panel 41" X 37" Red Green Blue Rose Floral Polka DotVtg 1930-50's Feedsack Full Panel 40" X 38" Red Green Blue Rose Floral Polka DotVintage Barkcloth Fabric Tropical Nubby Texture Hibiscus Panel 2 Yards ExcellentVintage Material X4-'70's-23"x23"-different Colourways-great Condition!!!Nos Vtg Mid Century Kitchen Curtains 48" X 36" Valances 10 Pcs Blue White TeapotVintage Cotton Organdy Fabric 40s Sweet Melon Pink Posies 35w 1ydVintage Cotton Feedsack Fabric 30s40s Sweet Lil Red Green Yellow Floral Exc Vintage 40s/50s Kozy Kittens Flannel Novelty Fabric Baby~children 35.5w X 1.5 YdVtg 1940-50's Feedsack Fabric Full Panel 40" X 36" Blue Floral & Berry FruitVintag Novelty Piece Feed Sack Feedsack Bubbles,dogs. Red, Turquoise, Gray 1940sVtg Barkcloth Fabric Rose Floral Bouquet Blue Curtains~ 2 Panels @ 22.5" X 74.5"Vintage Barkcloth Fabric 3 Pieces, Large Floral Pattern, Red BackgroundVtg Feed Flour Sack Novelty Cotton Fabric Aprons Hemmed & Fringed Tablecloth 32"Vintage 1940's Cotton Fabric Pink & Yellow Roses 34"w X 3-3/4 Yards LongVintage 1940-50's Feedsack Fabric 41" X 37" Blue Green Western Cowboy ChuckwagonVintage 50s Border Fabric Mid Century Kitsch CherriesVtg Tropical Theme Barkcloth Pieces Remnants Crafts CuttersMid Century Fabric 1960's Retro Mod Fabric Butterflies Bird & Fruit Retro FabricVintage Texas State Table Cloth Nos! Linen Cloth With Vibrant Colors. 40s? 7 Yards Vintage Barkcloth Drapery Fabric Unused Spring Flowers Cottage Curtains4 Vintage Barkcloth Curtain Drape Panels Appear Unused 21" X 62 1/2"1 Nick & Nora 1950's Airstream On Ice Flamingos Fitted Sheet - Full Size - NwotVintage 1940's Red, Green And Black Floral Linen TableclothVintage Rare Peanuts Charlie Brown Snoopy Lucy Full-size Flat Sheet 1970,s (new)Old Barkcloth/tablecloth 5.5 Yds Sailboat Nautical Sailor Novelty Print Fabric