What is it about mid century modern design that has caught so many of us in a decorating frenzy? Why are we scouring flea markets, antique stores, and the Internet in search of pieces that were designed 50 to 60 years ago in this digital age of innovation and technology?
Designer pieces from Eames, Noguchi, Nelson, and more are taking over our living rooms. The Eames Lounge Chair came out when most of our parents were children, and now having one in our living room can result in some of the most gracious compliments we could ever hope to receive.
Like us, there are countless stores and websites devoted to mid century modern tastes. You probably know at least one person with a story about an unbelievable find on Craigslist or eBay.
And we have baby boomers to thank for this decorating frenzy. After World War II, homeownership surged. Meaning that people who bought their homes in the 1950s and ’60s are now in their 70s and 80s, so many of them no longer want or need fully furnished houses.
Because of this, there is now a midcentury modern furnishings surge in the market. With so much available inventory, everyone is adopting the style, from the boomers’ nostalgic children to their twentysomething grandkids. But there are also psychological reasons for the increasing popularity.
Simple Times Call for Simple Designs
Since the rise of human civilization, we have turned to the past for inspiration. Though that doesn’t explain the apparent infatuation over mid century modern and not whatever was going on in the 1980s or any other era.
It’s important to note that both the Bauhaus and the midcentury modern movements came about after two major world wars. There was no money, no materials, and accelerated rebuilding requirements; reasons that lead to an innovative use of minimal resources.
In other words, hard times give room to innovative designs out of need. During the 1950s much of the world was drained emotionally and financially, yet spirits were high. The innovative designs were simplistic and timeless, offering an emotional rebellion against the current frill at the time.
In light of the tough economic years, many people have simplified their lives — much like after World War II. That’s why the DIY movement has gotten stronger, and fuss-free midcentury designs have made a mighty comeback.
But there’s more to it than a minimalist necessity.
A lot of our inclination for a specific tendency comes from our subconscious. Nostalgia plays a role in how we build our lives and what we surround ourselves with. It also tends to kick into overdrive right around middle age, so it’s only normal for those who grew up surrounded by mid century modern furnishings, can have a greater nostalgic impact on their style choices today.
While this feeling can reveal itself in someone’s choosing an Eames Lounge Chair over a beanbag, furniture choice is also a way to cope with current realities.
Furniture and home decor also provide comfort and a sense of connection and security in uncertain times. Having mementos from the past remind us of who we are, summon warm and positive feelings, and provide a source of security and stability.
So, in reality, the midcentury craze is actually a healthy activity. Remember to tell your spouse that the next time you’re trying to get that Eames Lounge Chair you’ve been dreaming of.
The Apple Effect
Having so much information at our fingertips — something we can thank Apple for — causes us to seek shelter in less-chaotic things.
Ironically enough, Apple’s sleek, minimalist products have also influenced the desire for more sleek products, especially with the younger generations. “They appreciate the simplicity and beauty of design seen in Apple,” says Rochelle Kramer, a Realtor who specializes in mid century modern houses. “It’s the same appreciation for design seen in mid century modern.”
So next time you get nostalgic on your trip to Ikea, why not fill the urge and purchase that chair your dad was longing for since he was a child. Remind yourself of simpler times, and visit Manhattan Home Design.