In design circles, the classic ‘mid century modern’ is one fashionable term that refuses to fade away. It has always been associated with a certain kind of cool taste related to “Mad Men.” More than ever before, this look can be found virtually everywhere. As a matter of fact, many homes featured in recent magazines tend to have one or more mid century furniture pieces to showcase.
In years gone by, people do stamp their mail with Eames postage stamps. A good number of contemporary restaurants adorn their dining halls with chairs designed in the 1950s. It’s not hard to find guests sitting in classic Knoll office chairs especially when you turn on the Daily Show. So what do these imply? They signify that mid century modern chairs are just everywhere. No doubt, the 50’s are back in vogue again.
The term “Midcentury modern” largely describes graphic, furniture, and architectural designs that evolved in the middle of the 20th century. While some believe that the period was set between 1947 and 1957, a significant number of historians would argue that it was roughly from 1933 to 1965. For the greater modernist movement, the timeframe is basically a modifier that has roots in the post World War I period and the Industrial Revolution which began in the late 19th century.
Cara Greenberg coin the phrase “mid century modern” as it is commonly being referred to today. The term was first used as a title for her book, “Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s”, which was published in 1984. Crown was compelled to write a book on the topic when she presented a piece centered on 1950s furniture for Metropolitan Home.
According to her, she just made up the phrase “mid-century modern” and used it as the title of the book. While some simply couldn’t withstand it, other had no choice but to accept it. In the book, Greenberg manages to communicate the occasional pure zaniness, imagination, and verve of the period. Soon, the phrase “mid century modern” became part of the lexicon due to the success of the book and quickly adopted by both the mainstream and the design world.
At the time of Greenberg’s book, the popularity of mid-century modern design was spreading. By late 60s, most of the mid-century designs were no longer in fashion. However, the style resurfaced in the late twentieth century and grew exceedingly.
Up to this very moment, homeowners are amazed by the timeless quality of the style. In 2000, an original marshmallow sofa as auctioned for $37,500 at Sotheby’s.
Thanks to Cara Greenberg’s book, the mid-century modern style became extremely popular in the 1990s, however, it is needful to note that it had already been trending in the 1980s. Many original items of mid-century modern pieces are now traded for astronomical sums or used as museum furniture. Nevertheless, there are many chairs, sofas, and contemporary furniture designs today that have been greatly influenced by this style.
Unlike the museum-ready 1950s pieces, today’s mid century modern sofa tends to be more practical, a lot comfier, and even less austere in the modern home. However, there are still certain styles (such as the cool, sleek Margot and the cushion-less Zeppelin sofa) that clearly feature the naïvely curvaceous 1950s aesthetic.
These days, these styles are mostly considered by many as retro objects of warm nostalgia. No doubt, there are quite a lot of biomorphic chairs and boomerang-shaped coffee tables everywhere. These amazing pieces of furniture are basically the design pioneers for the distant future when they came into being in the 1950s. Though it may have seemed like a science-fiction dream, in reality, they helped to set the pace for mid-century modern designers.
In every modern home today, mid century modern sofa designs are helping to transform spaces in such an envious manner. These classic styles combine linear and organic forms to seamlessly blend the lines between furniture and art. They presented a love for different materials, gentle organic curves, and clean lines. Till today, many of its designers are still celebrated such as:
- Alexander Girard
- Jens Risom
- Verner Panton
- Isamu Noguchi
- Eileen Gray
- Charles and Ray Eames
- Arne Jacobsen
- Harry Bertoia
- Eero Saarinen
By the mid-90s, many mid-century furniture designs fell out of production. However, some, like the iconic Eames Lounge Chair still continued to dominate as it never went out of production. But ordinary homeowners found it difficult to get their hands on pieces that were still being produced. Ordering a piece of furniture would be very challenging if a designer or architect is not involved.
Public awareness of mid-century design received a boost in the twentieth century via exhibitions. One of which is the expansive exhibition organized by the Library of Congress in 1999. This was mainly devoted to the work of Charles Eames and his wife Ray Eames. Over the space of three years, the show was organized in three major cities. As a result, the name “Eames” grew to become very famous among many households in the US.
It’s never hard to find distinguishing features of originality on a mid century modern sofa. The intriguing characteristics of this style include clean lines with minimal fuss with a classic, understated look. As a processor for function, functionality is one aspect that is well represented. Ornamentation in this style is at a minimal level.
The style gave rise to an unrestricted use of both traditional and non-traditional materials. While some of these materials may be contrasting in nature, they are often juxtaposed very differently. As a result, the final product tends to reflect uniquely organic and geometric forms of art with several uncluttered and sleek lines.
As time went on, many mid-century modern designers were later influenced by new methods of construction which gave rise to the use of entirely new materials like plastic. Rather than imitating wooden furniture, the use of plastic is employed in this style mainly for its own qualities.
To this end, traditional materials such as wood and a range of non-traditional materials like lucite, plexiglass, plywood, vinyl, glass, and metal were used liberally. Along with a graphic use of black and white, designers also sort to employ a vast range of color which also includes colors ranging from neutral to bold.
In practice, you can identify mid century modern chairs by their look and feel. This set of furniture usually exhibit traces of a general space age feel, glass, metal, and plastic works, and pleasing geometrical shapes with clean curves and lines. Rather than being nostalgic for the past, this distinctive style tries to foretell the future. It also seeks to get arid of every unnecessary detail.
Along with a timeless look, mid-century pieces are simply well-designed objects with an emphatically clean-lined look that has made them the favorite of contemporary retailers and manufacturers. When it comes to tackling a beloved style, many homeowners often tend to feel so intimidated. But in the real sense, there shouldn’t be any compulsion to form a replica of past years.
Due to an increasing demand, the art of owning mid century modern chairs has proven to be very expensive especially when it comes to acquiring authentic pieces. Nevertheless, they can still be obtained as many have been revived and new ones constructed through this means.
Even if you don’t want to spend a fortune on furniture, you can still be able to discover excellent pieces that fit the needs and budget of your lifestyle. Many designers are now beginning to understand the distinguishing features of the style and are finding pieces that reflect that. Interestingly, they have adapted and copied lots of iconic pieces from this era. The mid century sofas fit perfectly into any transitional, contemporary, and modern décor.
You can set the tone nicely with just a single large piece. Generally, you can either choose to do this by buying new furniture or purchase a set of vintage furniture. For wood, it will be best you remain within a color range, so as to avoid creating too many patterns. It does not necessarily have to be a set, just try to build around what you have.