The Connecticut Golf Club with the Madison Chairs.
July 14, 2020
From miniskirts to protests, the sixties are back in a big way. The design of the era has come full-circle and people are looking for that austere, chic style that was pushed into the spotlight for a younger audience in part by shows like Mad Men. In this article, we’ll go over what exactly it is, how the mid-century modern style came to be and some influencers who have put mid-century modern design on the map.
According to The Spruce, the style that’s so prominently emulated today, was first seen in the mid 1930s, and thrived until the period that gets credit for it now, the 1960s. The New York Times says the style of mid-century modern as we know it was given a second life in the ‘90s, and the first documented use of the term ‘mid-century modern’ was coined by Cara Greenberg in her 1995 book on the topic. This architectural flair is popping-up as frequently as it once had been, in design and architecture of office buildings and homes throughout the United States, and after around thirty years of rebirthed relevance, the terminology has become interchangeable with modern design. The Spruce states it has given us clean lines, gentle organic curves, the use of a wide variety of materials and the lack of stylistic embellishments.
Image courtesy of Jens Behrmann.
From the use of vibrant & bold colors to smooth wood surfaces and hairpin legs, there are many formidable reasons for seeking the clean look of mid-century modern. With the use of linearity and a touch of abstraction, designers of the time were also said to have been influenced by what they witnessed in nature.
George Nelson said “design is a response to social change” and with the end of World War II, change was inevitable. It saw a boom in demand for modern furnishings as cities and suburban areas expanded in the United States. During the war, designers had been experimenting with plastics and bold colors which was the stylistic change the era was looking for. Despite the modern markup of pieces such as the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman (more on this later), the style was initially created to be achievable by all for those looking to have their own piece of the American dream as it was being built.
Ray and Charles Eames were monumental during the war, having created splints for wounded soldiers. Post-war, the duo was responsible for many of the iconic mid-century designs we know and love today. The price tag of the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman can be justified to many who want to have an original piece by the couple many credit as the originators of style.
Image courtesy of Francesca Tosolini.
Beginning their careers in 1940s era California, the Eames’ experimented using products from plywood to plastic. According to Hunker, they aspired to create a piece from a single-form shell. Their innovation has inspired many, including our team at Designform Furnishings, with the creation of the aptly named Shell Chair.
See our full line of fiberglass-shell inspired products here.
Growing up in various areas throughout the world, Sean Dix’s professional career has taken him to vast stretches of the globe as well. Dix spent 15 years in Milan, then journeyed to Hong Kong, where he’s been since 2008. There, he’s crafted works such as James Suckling Wine Central, Associazione Chianti and Yardbird. When asked by Indesignlive, Singapore why he chose to make the trek from Milan, Dix answered by stating “I felt like after 15 years in Italy, I had [reached] the point where I wasn’t discovering as much as I wanted to, and there were some really interesting opportunities that presented themselves in Hong Kong and Southern China, so it made Hong Kong a logical place to be. One of the things I love about the place is that it’s such a hub for Asia.”
A handful of the products in our catalog have been designed by Sean Dix himself. He has reinvented the wheel of what mid-century modern is and has upped the ante with products such as the Copine Collection. Keeping in line with the immaculate edges and everything that defines mid-century modern design, Sean Dix has been a visionary of the style, helping to push it forward.
The Henry in Phoenix, Arizona with the Niro Chair.
See our full line of mid-century modern products here.
Along with Ray and Charles Eames, George Nelson was one of the founders of American modernism. The Yale School of Architecture, where he graduated in 1931, stated that Nelson “helped define 20th-century American design”. This was accomplished in part by his concept of the family room in the 1940s. His creation of the Storagewall attracted the eye of D.J. De Pree, President of Herman Miller. This sparked a relationship that would span into the afterlife for Nelson; many of his original designs are still produced by Herman Miller.
The Storagewall. Image courtesy of The George Nelson Foundation.
These are just three of the many prescient designers who have had a measurable impact on the world of mid-century modern design. The mid-century modern style has been ever-present for decades for good reason and with no sign of letting up—it’s proven to be a style with relevance no matter the fashions that are evolving around it. It was invented out of the need for social change and has been reinvented time and time again, and as Charles Caleb Colton once said, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, and that has never proven more true than with the replication of mid-century modern design.
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