Exactly which years constitute the mid-century modern movement – America’s answer to Bauhaus – is still subject to debate. Some say it lasted from the thirties right up until the seventies, while others argue it began in the forties and ended in the sixties. This much is clear, though: the movement was at its peak in the fifties. But we have the huge success of TV’s Mad Men to thank for the current revival of the wooden furniture, earthy brown tones, clean lines and graphic prints characteristic of mid-century style.
An influential period
Many experts agree that the mid-century modern movement is of unparalleled significance. This is clear from both the lasting influence of numerous iconic designs from the period, and the huge number of famous designers who worked in this style. From Charles and Ray Eames to Alvar Aalto, Florence Knoll and Arne Jacobsen to Hans J. Wegner, these designs are enduringly popular even 60 years later.
Colour and form in mid-century
Mid-century modern combines functional comfort with stylish elegance, organic forms with man-made craftsmanship and straight, clean lines. In this sense, it shares some of the characteristics of Scandinavian design. In terms of colour, warm, earthy tones and lots of natural wood are broken up with bold colours including – although not limited to – black, white and red. Combine these with strong graphic prints for walls and cushions for the epitome of mid-century style.
How to bring mid-century flair to your home
There are several original pieces of designer furniture that personify the style, for example the Grand Prix Chair by Jacobsen, the Eames Lounge Chair or the CSS shelving unit by George Nelson. It’s clear that each of these pieces has been a source of inspiration for designers ever since, with less expensive reinterpretations of these classic designs still to be found in shops today. For example, side tables with glass or marble tops and structured metal frames, as well as wooden coffee tables, owe much to the mid-century. In terms of wood – a central design element – darker, heavily grained woods such as walnut and oak feature most prominently.
For cushions and curtains – ideally with a geometric pattern – heavy fabrics are a must. Walls are adorned with prints by contemporary artists such as Pollock, Calder, Warhol and Lichtenstein. And the right lighting will set the perfect tone, too; whether it’s a Sputnik chandelier, an Arco floor lamp or a Poulsen PH artichoke lamp, organically-shaped lighting is the key to a perfect recreation of the mid-century look.
Still want to know more about this classic style? Then take a look at our Pinterest page. You can find lots of great inspiration on our Mid-century Modern Look board.