A Moment with Mid-Century Modern Design
November 29 , 2020
One of the many things this Covid-19 year has taught us is to rethink our space. You may resent the pre-pandemic version of you for painting that wall green or purchasing that stiff designer chair—it may look cool but boy is it uncomfortable! Once delineated rooms have changed, transformed, and mingled. Our kitchen table became our craft space, pie making station, and puzzle surface. We’re navigating close quarters with roommates, partners, children, and pets and may be embracing a more nomadic lifestyle with the ever modifying environment. We work, sleep, eat, dance, laugh, cry, workout, cook, and many many more things all in the same space, so it is vital that we take some time to make it comfortable and functional.
The intersection of these terms may not always be present in furniture, but in our first post dedicated to a style category, let’s take a moment to dive into the significance Mid-Century Modern design.
Mid-Century Modern style, or shorthand “MCM”, rose to popularity in the 1930s and lasted roughly to the 1960s, and because of its clean lines, modernist construction, and honest aesthetic, many MCM pieces appear in our homes today. It’s a style that has stood the test of time with its comfort and function. The increase in technological advances following the Second World War allowed for new materials to be implemented in designs; exploring new textures, effects, colors, and forms. The style initiated a shift toward experimental and futuristic designs, and away from more traditional furniture pieces. The MCM style breathed new life into home spaces and brought about an elevated standard for design. It took a world altering event and changing economy to create these new design styles and opportunities.
Sound familiar? Maybe this is why we find ourselves gravitating towards this look once again. Granted, there was a big resurgence in the 1990s of MCM design and since then it has stuck around and evolved with us—we’re glad that stuck around and not the low rise bedazzled jeans of that time.
One big draw to MCM design is its sleek, simple look with clean lines, organic shapes, and minimal fuss. The pieces involve traditional materials such as woods like teak, birch, and walnut, as well as non-tradition materials like metal, vinyl, or Plexiglass (a material we know too well at this point). Though these materials were present in design within other industries and furniture prior to the MCM movement, it’s how they were used, or the techniques to manipulate the new forms that make them special. Two prominent materials utilized in the MCM movement are plexiglass and fibreglass. Plexiglass was prevalent in architectural design as a substitute for glass, and it wasn’t until Dieter Rams, a German architect and interior designer, specified it for the covers of record players during his tenure at Braun, where we began using plexiglass for industrial uses. In addition to Plexiglass, fibreglass was also used in the MCM movement. Fibreglass is a material composed of fibre-reinforced plastic that is arranged and flattened. It’s often used for aero-space design, surfboards, and in the structure of swimming pools. Ray and Charles Eames, perhaps the most influential couple who encapsulated the MCM movement, saw an opportunity and created their Fibreglass chair, with the iconic seat shell moulded to fit the contours of the human body. Another innovation by the Eames, perhaps the most seminal couple who encapsulates the MCM movement, is the steaming of plywood (a rigid and flat material) into an organic profile that hugs the human form, breathing life to the series of moulded plywood furniture. Other iconic designers of this movement are Charlotte Perriand, Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia, Hans Wegner, and so many more.
Mid-Century furniture designers were some of the first to include work-life features in their designs such as comfort, sustainability, and ergonomics which we greatly appreciate. Their extensive background into the manipulation of materials and experimentation of technologies gives us the MCM pieces we know today – those that help create inviting spaces and pair well with pops of color.
We’ve been exploring the Mid-Century Modern pieces from furniture designers such as Article, Expand, and Rove Concepts while enjoying adding our own touches of colorful pillows and throws. These provide a lovely exclamation point to compliment the woods, whites, blacks, and chromes of the designs. If you’re looking to add to your space or replace a piece with one that is functional, comfortable, as well as unique, check out our selection on the Shop page!