Mid-Century Modern Furniture

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A BRIEF INTRO TO MID-CENTURY MODERN DESIGN (AND HOW TO USE IT IN YOUR HOME)

Watched Mad Men just for the interiors? Never miss an opportunity to plan a Palm Springs vacay? Crush on anything Eames? If so, meet Mid-Century Modern. A term used to classify furniture constructed between 1945 to 1970, Mid-Century Modern design encompasses everything from sculptural Danish Modern pieces to exotic Brazilian masterpieces.

Since Mid-Century Modern style runs the gamut, it can be difficult to sum it up with a single catchphrase. Still, there are some hallmarks you’ll see on repeat. These include pencil legs, teak wood construction, and durable upholstery. Due in large part to these easy-to-love traits, used Mid-Century Modern furniture has maintained a staying power that rivals that of any other style. For those who find themselves drawn to Mid-Century Modern furniture, we’ve broken down a brief history of the style below, including how the style got its start and some easy, updated ways to integrate Mid-Century Modern style into your own home!

THE HISTORY OF MID-CENTURY MODERN DESIGN

In the 1930s European design was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus movement. The Bauhaus movement favored straight lines and an intense focus on function. Designers like Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe all designed in the style. In 1940s, designers in Europe became increasingly enamored with the concept of Architectural Functionalism, or the idea that furniture's function and style is of equal importance. This theory explains the ergonomic bent of used Mid-Century Modern chairs and Mid-Century Modern sofas. As the era wore on, designers increasingly asked themselves how they could simultaneously simplify a furniture piece's design and boost its aesthetics. The result was Mid-Century Modern dining tables with pedestal bases instead of legs (the Tulip Table) and Mid-Century Modern chairs that promoted comfort while assuming a chic, sculptural shape (the Egg Chair).

After WWII, new materials like bent plywood, fiberglass, and acrylic infiltrated the market. These materials made it easy for designers to forge into uncharted territory when it came to Mid-Century Modern lighting an Mid-Century Modern chairs. For the first time, designers were able to produce furniture that wasn’t nailed together so much as it was sculpted by hand. Additionally, Mid-Century Modern manufacturers like Knoll and Herman Miller provided designers with large-scale platforms on which to promote and distribute their designs. These manufacturers helped Mid-Century Modernism permeate the cultural consciousness, and in large part, led to its enduring appeal.

HOW TO INTRODUCE UPDATED MID-CENTURY MODERN STYLE INTO YOUR HOME

As much as we dig the Mid-Century Modern vibe, we get not wanting to turn your space into a Campbell’s soup can-packed artifact (shout-out to our Mid-Century Modern art favorite, Andy Warhol!). To ward off your space looking like a capsule, try mixing vintage Mid-Century Modern coffee tables and Mid-Century Modern lamps with other styles like Hollywood Regency or even contemporary modern styles. Below, we detail some more ways to update Mid-Century Modern style for your home.

Go Dark

In its hey-day Mid-Century Modern furniture was not one to play it demure color-wise. Mid-Century Modern sofas and Mid-Century Modern benches in shades of sunny yellow, cobalt blue, and poppy were commonplace. These days, we’re favoring Mid-Century Modern furniture in shade-dwelling colors a bit more than the full-sun showstoppers. Curvy, Mid-Century Modern shapes look divine when cloaked in emerald, navy, and oxblood velvets. When it comes to Mid-Century dressers and Mid-Century desks, opt for pieces with slightly darker finishes and brass or turquoise hardware or inlays. Unexpected metallic or stone will make for a room that reads more glam than austere.

Photo: M3LD

Biomorphic Furniture

Don’t get us wrong, we love a teak Mid-Century dresser with sharp right angles—Jens Risom and Paul McCobb furniture add presence to a room like no other. But, that said, there is something oh-so refreshing about the shapely contours of an amoeba-shaped Mid-Century Modern coffee table or a kidney bean-shaped Mid-Century Modern sofa. Biomorphic-shaped furniture’s off-balance proportions keep a room from feeling overly predictable, and encourages a kind of casualness. For Mid-Century Modern sofas and Mid-Century Modern chairs with biomorphic shapes, keep an eye out for pieces from Vladimir Kagan and Verner Paton.

Dome Lighting

Mid-Century lighting was no shrinking violet. It’s a case well-proven by everyone’s favorite Mid-Century Modern lighting option, the starburst chandelier. But for something that feels a touch less like a relic, we’re loving Mid-Century dome lighting. Whether it’s a Mid-Century Modern lamp shaped like a mushroom or a Mid-Century chandelier shaped like a half a globe, these Mid-Century lighting options feel fresh and fun, and pair with just about anything. For vintage Mid-century Modern mushroom lamps look for offerings from Laurel Lamp Company, Bill Curry, and Murano. For Mid-Century chandeliers in the style, try Verner Patton’s Flower Pot Light.