Eames, Mies, Knoll — you may have heard these Mid-Century Modern designers’ names countless times before, but could never exactly pinpoint their style. While Mid-Century Modern style is often described as organic and streamlined, it can be difficult to ascertain exactly what that means. If you’re puzzled by MCM, don’t stress! Read on for our short guide to what makes furniture Mid-Century Modern.
After the chaos of World War II, designers looked to a more simple, comprehensible aesthetic. They ditched embellishments and instead created furniture with simple straight or curved lines. The sleek look stemmed from the idea that furniture should be functional over anything else — ornamentation simply got in the way. To lend these no-frill forms appeal, makers adapted their shapes to the human body, creating body-con silhouettes. Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair and the Eames Lounge Chair, for example, can be recognized simply by their shape. Soft curves and tapered legs help to create these identifiable profiles.
Mid-Century Modern furniture makers took advantage of the wide variety of materials that were invented after the war. By using plywood, fiberglass, and plastic, designers achieved avant-garde futurism. While makers reimagined their furnishings with state-of-the-art materials, they still implemented traditional materials as well. Woods like teak, rosewood, and oak were designer favorites, especially for tables, desks, and case pieces. Designers frequently fused traditional and modern materials in their pieces. For example, a typical Mid-Century Modern piece would have a wood or marble top with an aluminum pedestal or steel legs.
Pop of Color
In the midst of the space race, Mid-Century Modern designers embraced futuristic shapes and bright colors. Uninterrupted forms crafted of plastic or fiberglass mimicked spaceships. Sputnik chandeliers, for instance, featured jutting spires connected to a single core. Essentially, atomic age furnishings look fresh off the set of Star Trek or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Showcasing colors like light green, punchy reds, and sky blues, Space Age furniture is retro and genre-specific, yet still maintains that Mid-Century Modern timelessness.
Lead image: Design by KitchenLab Interiors / Photo by Michael Kaskel