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The 1950s Are Knocking: Mid-Century Modern Design and Décor


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By Ellen Anderson, Pacific Union Senior Vice President/Regional Executive, Contra Costa County

History

According to Merriam-Webster, Mid-century modern is defined as “a style of design (as in architecture and furniture) of roughly the 1930s through the mid-1960s characterized especially by clean lines, organic and streamlined forms, and lack of embellishment.” It’s this classic, clean look that makes Mid-century modern design popular 60-plus years later. The popular TV show “Mad Men” (2007-2015), set in the 1960s, seemed to have revived any lost passion for the look.

A recent Curbed article explores why the world is obsessed with Mid-century modern design. According to the article, in 1994, author Cara Greenberg coined the phrase “midcentury modern” as the title for her book “Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s.” The book was a hit, and the phrase went mainstream.

Architecture

The Mid-century modern home style peaked in popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. It removed the frills and added a touch of the future. A pared-down aesthetic, clean lines, and natural hues are hallmarks of Mid-century modern design. And with expansive walls of glass, this style also considered outdoor space in its philosophy of the home – a new concept to design. You may be familiar with the Eichler home - a popular example of the Mid-century modern home style. According to the Eichler Network, Joseph Eichler (1900-1974) built nearly 11,000 single-family homes in California beginning in the late 1940s. Read more about the Mid-century modern home on the Pacific Union blog. My Modern Met has a great article about how this style of home shaped the future of architecture.

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Furniture

The most popular example of Mid-century modern furniture is most likely the molded plywood Eames Lounge Chair, which first appeared in 1956. The Eames Lounge and Ottoman are in the New York Museum of Art’s permanent collection. The only two companies that still produce these chairs with the name Eames attached are Herman Miller and Vitra. Read more about the history of this iconic chair in this Dwell Magazine article, which also features beautiful photos of the chair. The retail price on an Eames Lounge Chair is currently around $4,500.

 You can find vintage Eames Lounge Chairs and other Mid-century modern furniture online, at antique and secondhand stores, or at stores that focus on designs specifically from that era. And, many retailers (brick and mortar and online) offer new furniture in the style, such as West Elm, Joybird.com, and Kardiel.com. Even Target has a line of Mid-century modern décor and furniture. For more sources, check out this article, in which the Huffington Post presents what it thinks are the best websites for affordable Mid-century modern furniture.

Inspiration

For some Mid-century modern eye candy, check out this Elle Décor spotlight on Mid-century modern-designed homes, this Houzz photo gallery featuring over 6,900 images, and this HGTV article about adding Mid-century modern style to your home. 

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