If you are reading this article, chances are you already know a thing or two about mid-century modernism, but chances are you don’t know a thing about it as well. You might have considered incorporating it into your life, maybe buying some designer furniture replicas, etcetera. The Mid-century modern style, in particular, is our banner and inspiration, so we’re proud to present it (and represent it) accordingly. Here are 5 key elements of this style that might help you get a quick sense of what it’s all about.
1. Clean lines
The style from the 1950s and 60s originated from the work of the Bauhaus designers in Germany and other influences like the international Arts and Crafts Movement from the beginnings of the 20th century.
A mixture of influences and a certain focus on functionality and versatility, which probably came from the aura of the Industrial Revolution, led certain designers to create furniture that was minimalist, meaning that it didn’t have elaborate ornaments on the frames, cushions, or even patterns on the upholstery. There was a focus on cleaner lines, neutral colors, and a certain sleekness that’s characteristic of mid-century modernist pieces.
We can also mention that mid-century designers had a thing for geometry, which is also a way of returning to the most basic elements of design, and shedding ornamentation, in order to favor both functionality, versatility, and aesthetic.
This is why rectangular, circular, and triangular shapes are very, very noticeable. And you can also find diamond-like shapes, cylinders, and cubes, but you will seldom find more elaborate shapes than these. This kind of approach to geometry is key to understand the natural feel of this furniture, which is what the designers intended (most of them). This brings us to the third point.
Some mid-century designers attempted to copy shapes and ideas from the natural world. For example, consider the following chairs’ names: Womb chair, Ox chair, Egg chair, Diamond chair, and Bubble chair. These are all made by different designers. What do they have in common? They were inspired by a particular element of nature.
Along with the choice of geometric shapes (also an attempt to return to nature), this particular brand of design is called ‘biomorphism,’ which simply means trying to make something that resembles life itself. We wrote an old article on biomorphism that you can check out.
These are (from left to right) the Bubble chair, Egg chair, and Womb chair with ottoman. And yes, I have a thing for red, in case you hadn’t already noticed. You can find these chairs in a variety of colors and finishes nowadays. (C) Manhattan Home Design.
4. Mixed materials
Experimentation was key to achieve what these designers wanted from their furniture. In order to make this nature-inspired items functional and beautiful at the same time, they had to try and combine different elements whose properties could let them do that. The hardness of the steel with the flexibility and durability of leather, for example. The softness of wool with the moldable sturdiness of plywood or fiberglass. Mixed materials are very, very noticeable on mid-century furniture, and they end up adding to the overall aesthetic of the final products.
Remember the names we mentioned above? The designers of those chairs are, in order: Eero Saarinen, Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, Harry Bertoia, and Eero Aarnio. They are only five designers from a myriad of hard working men and women who made mid-century furniture timelessly appealing, functional, and groundbreaking. You can learn more about them by reading up on our Designer of The Week series.