Mid Century Modern Furniture: The Rich History

Similar to fashion, trends are a fond and inseparable part of interior design and usually this will not only feature emerging trends and models but also from eras that have long past. In fact, there is one that seems to get a lot of traction, and as times proceed, the world of furniture and interior design cannot simply get over mid-century modern furniture. It has enjoyed a profound resurgence in recent times and is featured in a great deal of homes and commercial spaces. Unfortunately, while most people love the design and functionality of mid-century modern furniture, not many know what it is or the history behind the beautiful pieces. Read on to discover more.

What is mid-century modern furniture?

You might be familiar with options like the egg and tulip chair, but these are just two of a vast collection of furniture that came from an era of ‘mad men’ so to say in furniture design in the mid decades of 20th century. Furniture that falls under this category and age was and still is characterized by simplicity in build and a series of clean lines with simplicity being quite dominant.

The pieces also encompassed intense and superb craftsmanship which is a sign of the extent of pride that designers took in their work and the fact that these pieces are still present in the modern-day shows how well built they were. They also incorporated a natural wood finish with primary preference on Teak. The goal was to have pieces that would boast and showcase the natural beauty of wood. Usually, mid-century modern furniture also came with tapered legs or a seemingly floating design. The designers preferred the use of short legs with a tapered appeal that allowed them to achieve a somewhat floating visual of the chair. Some of these effects can be seen in some of the great creations like the Tulip chair by Saarinen. For the pieces that did not encompass the natural wood finish, the designers opted to use bold colors.

The History of Mid-century modern chairs

Even though the term mid-century modern is used to refer to furniture and chairs that were designed between the 1920s to about 1965, It was not until 1950 when the term was coined by Cara Greenberg in her book, "Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s" to describe the furniture from that same era. The history of the cutting edge chairs started with the end of the World War II. The surge of returning soldiers, the emergence of new ways that wood could be put to use saw them look for ways to diversify income and look for new methods to expand their income and feed off their creativity. The result was what is currently referred to as mid-century furniture. There were some great names who struck it big and continue to elicit mountains of respect and because of them, we have some cutting edge pieces sitting in the corners of our houses or at waiting bays and lobbies of our offices.

The fathers of Mid-century Modern

Charles-Ĕdouard Jeanneret-Gris was the first one to strike it big with mid-century modern chairs in 1928 with the Le Corbusier LC4 Chaise which is now at the Museum of Modern Art. The Swiss-French architect who was better known as Le Corbusier start his furniture design experiment in 1928 and it did not take him long time proved to be worthy as his furniture line expanded in 1929.

1929 also saw another great chair and another great name. The Barcelona chair that was designed by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe made its presence in the market and was quite the catch, the German-American architect’s furniture designs opened new doors to the world of industrial technologies and are still vastly used to date. His signature was the extremely fine craftsmanship that was a trait in all of his pieces.

There was a grace period where not much happened but when that was over, perhaps the biggest name today in the world of mid-century modern furniture had ripened and ready to take over the world.  Charles & Ray Eames made their premier mark with the molded plywood chair. They would later come up with other impressive and breath taking designs like the Eames Lounge chair and were also the pioneers of the use of alternative materials like plastic and fiberglass in furniture. All this happened in around 1946 but the Eames would remain relevant in the furniture world for quite some time and their work is still very recognizable to date.

In the same year (1946) George Nelson of the Nelson Bench also had a breakout and even though he might not have had the impact that his predecessors had, his linear lines and clean designs earned him a rank with the greats.

In between, there were a couple of other designers that came up with great pieces but 1955 saw another great in Eero Saarinen who designed the Tulip Chair. He was a Finnish-American architect whose work included the pedestal furniture and also the largest monument in the Western Hemisphere the Gateway Arch.

The Egg chair, introduced in 1958, has been an American sensation thanks to designer Arne Jacobsen. His inspiration came from bent plywood designs that had been earlier worked on by Charles Eames. As much as he pulled inspiration from other designers, he always had his personal touch.

There is no doubting what the world of mid century modern chairs has brought to the current interior design trends. Flawless lines with continuity and function coupled with a great look; it's not hard to see why this style of furniture remains extremely popular. The resurgence of this era of furniture and chairs is not only justified but will be here for quite some time.