This week’s post is about something that is near and dear to my heart. One of my absolute favorite movements in design has always been Mid-Century Modern. We hear it and see it when we go looking for our vintage treasures and we know it when we see it. But what is Mid-Century Modern? Where did it start? Who gave it that name? It obviously wasn’t called that as people were creating the iconic pieces that defined the movement (can I get an “Eames!”) But just like Art Deco, it was coined Mid-Century Modern somewhere along the way. Just look at all this MCM goodness I’ve added to the store recently!
I am totally drawn to MCM, myself. I love the lines, the sculptured form balanced with the usefulness of the design. It makes me think of the 1960s, a house of windows high in the Hollywood hills. Wood, metal, and popping color. Sunken living rooms. Original “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” kind of stuff. That particular show makes me think of guys in turtle necks, hanging out in their Danish Modern apartments.
So who did coin the “Mid-Century Modern” name? According to Curbed.com, a woman by the name of Cara Greenberg used the term first as the title of her book “Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s” published in 1984. She made it up and it stuck. The term was adopted quickly and came to embody an aesthetic that ranged from the “mid-1940s to the mid-1960s” (CollectorsWeekly).
Collectors Weekly says that MCM is frequently associated with Eichler tract homes that popped up during the 1950s in California. Eichler says he was inspired by a Frank Lloyd Wright house that he lived in briefly. Glass walls, open floor plans, varied heights to give dimension (think half-walls and sunken living rooms). Who knew I could mention sunken living rooms twice in one post! Let’s face it, I just think they’re cool.
The MCM aesthetic came out of the U.S., Britain, Japan and of course Scandinavia. From the U.S. we had Eames whose chairs, created in the 1940s and 1950s are highly collectible. They were made from wood, fiberglass, and metal. His designs were really new and unique in design and technology. His molded chairs were very different from what had been designed before.
Herman Miller was another name in furniture. With architect George Nelson designing for the Herman Miller Company from 1945 until the 1980s, Herman Miller produced some of the most iconic MCM furniture that is synonymous with what we think of when we think mid-century modern (CollectorsWeekly).
In other countries the aesthetic was alive and well. In England, Robin Day was creating convertible beds, tables and chairs. In Scandinavia Børge Mogensen was designing his Sleigh Chair and Arne Jacobsen was designing his Swan Chair.
Furniture was not the only thing being created during this time. CollectorsWeekly says that clocks were a big thing during this time. Sunbursts, asterisks and more were being designed. Lighting was also taking on a completely different look.
Lights that were made from steel and plastic, designed to be hung from the ceiling became popular as did pole-tension lamps that added light to corners of the room. As CollectorsWeekly says, this was really the last time in history that “design drove the look and feel of popular culture” instead of the other way around.
The key elements of mid-century modern architecture are flat planes, large windows, changes in elevation, and integration with nature. Those large windows inviting you to bring the outdoors in from multiple vantage points (hgtv.com).
Mid-century modern is even more collectible today than ever. These designs are either loved or hated by people with very little middle ground. Collectors look for really unique pieces, which can definitely be found as this was such a breakout time period. Love it or hate it, it’s definitely found its part in history.
That was fun! I really enjoy finding out about the things I love. What do you think about mid-century modern? Love it? Loathe it? Have a house designed around it? Leave a comment! I love hearing from all of you!
As always, I will be partying with all my friends at the link parties noted on the right. Have a great week!