Sleek, functional, sexy. Mid-century modern design is a force to be reckoned with. It has that vintage sensibility but feels so current. No wonder decades after it emerged, it’s still featured on the pages of Architectural Digest. Read on to discover why this American design movement is still relevant.
The Beginnings: Reinventing Futurism
Like reading a science fiction book from half a century ago, mid-century modern design gives us an insight into what designers and architects of the ’40s, '50s, and ’60s thought about what the future would look like.
What influenced the key players of mid-century modern design at the beginning was, of course, their context. The Bauhaus movement, an interdisciplinary collective from Germany, with its clean lines, functional spaces, and pieces of furniture, was a clear predecessor. Plus, in the post-World War II United States, topics such as space exploration, nuclear physics, and molecular chemistry, science fiction were top of mind for designers and architects. However, they were also impacted by new sensibilities, like the use of brighter, saturated colors, considering pop art was also relevant at the time.
The Aesthetic: Simple, but Modern
These modern influences determined the materials used and shapes designed during those years. However, the aesthetic stands out for its sleek, simple lines and lack of embellishments, giving it that timeless feel that we still appreciate to this day. Think square shapes, skinny legs on furniture pieces (like most of our consoles!), and materials that can be molded, like plywood, aluminum, steel, and plastic. Industrial materials weren’t covered up, they were always celebrated.
Advances in construction methods gave way to simplified, flat-roofed homes - a staple of mid-century modern architecture. Multipurpose spaces melting into each other, horizontal or geometric lines and an organic, uncluttered flow were other key elements of the buildings of the time. The juxtaposition of materials, such as wood and stone, was another influence of the Bauhaus. The idea of materials coming together as one was central to the German movement.
It’s looking to the future without losing its grip on the present and past.
The Artists: More than Function
The Bauhaus movement claimed to master the intersection between form and function and the modern-century design movement followed through. Some of its icons were also sculptors and artists. Some names still resonate today because of the pieces they created: Charles Eames, Arne Jacobsen, Eero Aarnio, and Harry Bertoia have designed iconic chairs still sold to this day, and Eero Saarinen was responsible for some of the most striking modern monuments in the US.
The Present: Functional Works of Art
The TV show Mad Men brought the mid-century modern aesthetic back to the mainstream. However, as we said before, some of the pieces of furniture created during that time are so iconic, design lovers still buy them to this day. Knoll office chairs are everywhere. Palm Springs, California, receives thousands of visitors a year looking to stay at one of the many properties featuring this architecture style in town.
If you’d like your own piece of mid-century modern design at home, browse through our consoles and pick the one that fits your home and lifestyle. And, remember: form and function should go hand in hand. Luckily, in our case, it does.