I recently tripped across an article written back in 2016 by Stephen Kurutz of the New York Times, entitled Why Won't Midcentury Design Die. It made for an interesting read, and caused me to pause for thought.
What is it about this era of design that is so captivating? Other styles have come and gone, but MCM apparently has an enduring quality.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Let's step back in time a bit and look at the start of the mid-century modern movement.
The years following World War II saw a rise in optimism that inspired designers across the globe to tap into their creativity, fabricating products in a new, fresh style that had not been seen before. With mass production and new materials at their disposal, many of which were developed during the war years, it seemed that the possibilities were limitless.
On the home front, a desire for simplicity, comfort and more living space led to architects creating homes with post and beam structures, open plan living and ample windows to bring the outdoors in.
Essentially, good design became accessible to all. And the younger generation was ready to embrace this new lifestyle, with bright colours, abstract textiles and relaxed living.
FAST FORWARD A FEW YEARS
Well, a few decades actually. The style briefly fell out of favour through the 70s and 80s as it was considered a bit kitschy, but by the late 90s interest was once again gaining ground. Today, originals and knock-off furniture pieces are readily available on the internet, on the high street and in the big box stores. The little squares on Instagram are littered with MCM pieces, and design magazines feature stunning interiors with at least one iconic item from this period.
Judith Miller in her book Mid-Century Modern explains the resurgence perfectly:
"...the combination of architectural minimalism and organic modernism at its heart has led to (Mid-Century Modern's) recent re-evaluation.' (2012)
The architecture and products that personify this era were designed to be lived with, were eminently functional, simple, fun and frankly, many were quite beautiful. Many of the newly designed pieces by retailers such as Marks + Spencers, CB2 and West Elm, created with the spirit of the MCM movement in mind, share these same characteristics.
The simple shapes, clean lines, lack of ornamentation, creative use of materials, bold colours and functional design of this era are all reasons to love this furniture. The now classic shapes seem to work in almost any setting, making them highly versatile - another great feature.
Saarinen's Tulip Table pairs with just about any chair you put with it, and the Eames Lounge Chair looks equally at home in a modern loft as it does in a traditional home office, and the Womb Chair can go urban as easily as it fits in an industrial environment.
The designs are so readily available at almost every price point - from originals to knock offs, everyone can instil this modern vibe into their home, regardless of their budget.
Simply put, like a favourite pair of jeans, this style is eminently liveable and loveable.
KEEP IT FRESH
I'm not suggesting for a minute that we live in a mid-century museum. I prefer to interpret this era of design philosophy, architecture and products into how we live today.
My own home has a few vintage pieces sitting happily alongside modern, streamlined furniture. I think they bring out the best in each other.
They could just as easily be placed in a traditional home or a room with a definite boho vibe. The key is to keep it fresh and interesting, only buying pieces that really speak to you whether vintage or new.
In future articles we’ll take a more in depth look at how to bring a modern mid-century vibe to your home, including practical tips, inspiration and shopping guides.
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And remember to let me know your thoughts on mid-century modern style in the comments.