Emergence of Mid-Century Modern Furniture
Perhaps it’s the Mad Men obsession. Or perhaps at this current moment in time Americans’ fascination with Mid-Century style is simply at a fever pitch. Nevertheless, consumers are drawn even more to Mid-Century design. Familiar to minimal adornment, clean lines, and lavish materials, modern-day contemporary furniture consumers are in the mood for graceful, Mid-Century classics that are reinterpreted and reinvigorated for today. However, some Mid-Century iconic classic designs, like the Eames lounge chair, haven’t changed and are placed back in the spotlight.
After World War II, prosperity started growing as well as insatiable appetite for parabolic, swoopy curves and long, low lines and all this with absence of ornament. This was the embodiment of Mid-Century modernism. This movement which spanned from 1650s to 1960s is recognized by museums and scholars worldwide as a noteworthy design movement. It was an incredible departure from just about all furniture design that had been around before it. Gone were the carved dark woods and ornately patterned fabrics. Instead, simplicity of design and uncluttered, aesthetically brisk, and innovative furniture pieces came about. Victorian era of excess ornamentation was coming in to question as the Industrial Revolution started to emerge with the concept of mass production at a lower cost. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, furniture that was once available only to the wealthy now became available to the broader demographic.
Materials, which until recently were only found in aircraft factories, started to be used. Along with the mix of man-made materials, well selected woods like oak, teak, and walnut were some of the favorites. New fabrics started to become the preferred materials for this design era. Created in a diversity of materials from chrome plated steel, to plywood and even fiberglass and acrylic, these new works of art filled many homes and made an insistently modern statement. The use of these new materials brought about clean lines, asymmetrical shapes, and smooth surfaces.
It was a time that brought us pioneers in Mid-Century like Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Charles Eames along with Ray Eames, and many more. One of the most recognizable modern designs is the Eames lounge chair. Eames wanted his own chair and he wanted to have the “warm, receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.” It’s a modern, playful, and functional design originally constructed from seven layers or rosewood veneers which were glued together and shaped under heat and pressure. The cushions were down-filled and upholstered in leather. The back seat was buttoned. There is a complementing ottoman as well. There was nothing like it during this time. The chair paired with the ottoman sold for $404 in 1956. Today, this is equivalent to $3,600. It’s an enduring icon that can still be purchased today.
Today’s draws on timeless designs from more than half a century ago and continue to be popular today. Many of today’s furniture designs feature the austere, industrial approach. A bold, retro sofa, for example, can give any room a dramatic accent of Mid-Century modern style. Whether it’s clad in leather or an earth tone fabric, a retro inspired sofa can compliment any modern decor. As consumers seek to create a sanctuary within their homes, the shift today is going to eco-friendly materials mixed with nostalgic pieces created more than half a century ago.