Swooning Over Mid-Century Modern

Mid-Century Modern. You may have read this term or heard about in the last couple of years, for good reason. The term  is used to define the insanely popular and classical styles in architecture, furniture and graphic design  from the 1950’s – specifically 1947-1957 but that’s up for some debate. Mid-Century Modern (or MCM as it will be further referenced here) was coined in 1984 by author Cara Greenberg’s book MidCentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s.   She has been quoted as saying she just simply made up the term for the title of the book, so if you were looking for some grand origin story unfortunately you’ll have to look elsewhere.

What exactly is MCM? It is based on Bauhaus and International style which grew in America after Bauhaus architects and designers immigrated following World War II. It’s characterized by the following features:

  • Clean Lines
  • Minimal (if any) ornamentation
  • Contrasting materials like wood or metal with fabric
  • Geometric shapes and patterns

You might be asking yourself – why are styles from the 1950’s still commanding so much attention and popularity? According to Joshua Holdeman, the Worldwide Head of 20th Century Design at Sotheby’s;

“[Midcentury modern designs] sit very well in contemporary homes and interiors—they still feel fresh today, they still feel modern. A lot of those pieces haven't been bettered. They still stand the test of time."

So it’s true what they say – ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, and that’s exactly why both residential and commercial designers are fully embracing the MCM aesthetic. The style appeals to multiple generations for different reasons. Boomers are attracted to MCM because it takes them back to days-gone-by; providing a direct link to their youth. Younger generations like Gen-X are attracted to MCM style due to the prominence and popularity of MCM in television and advertising during their formative years – like this L’Oreal ad from 1997 featuring an Arne Jacobsen Egg chair, or the widely popular series MadMen. Gen-Z’s attraction to MCM can be attributed to the prominence of MCM at popular high-end retailers like West Elm and Pottery Barn.

You can see MCM design across a multitude of designers which we happily represent like Global Furniture, Encore Seating, Kimball, JSI Furniture and of course Haworth. The fantastic thing about MCM design is that you can do as little or as much as you like as the classic designs blend well with many other styles. Interested in incorporating some mid-century style into your workplace? Give us a call to learn more.