Mid-century modern design is a classic style that stands the test of time. Discover why it’s loved by many, and how to create the look at home.
25 August 2023
Top image: Project by Shed Studio
Text by Lookbox Living
Mid-century modern design, also known simply as MCM, emerged as a reaction to the ornate and opulent design trends of the early 20th century. It flourished roughly between the 1930s and 1960s, with its golden era spanning the 1950s.
It’s genesis can be found in the earlier German Bauhaus movement, which is known for its clean and sensible style. German designers who migrated to the US during the war brought the style with them, and mid-century modern design was thus born.
The mid-century modern design movement sought to bring a sense of simplicity and functionality to interior spaces, reflecting the changing societal attitudes after World War II. At its core, mid-century modern design aims to find the perfect balance between form and function, creating spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical for everyday use.
Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman
Designed by the legendary duo Charles and Ray Eames in 1956, the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman remains an emblematic piece of mid-century modern design. Its luxurious blend of moulded plywood, sumptuous leather upholstery, and sleek metal framework epitomises the movement’s fascination with new materials and innovative manufacturing techniques. This chair’s curvaceous lines and ergonomic comfort showcase the style’s emphasis on both aesthetic appeal and user experience.
Noguchi Coffee Table
Isamu Noguchi’s Noguchi Coffee Table, designed in 1947, is a testament to the mid-century modern style’s affinity for organic shapes and sculptural elements. With a base consisting of two smoothly sculpted wooden pieces that interlock, the table supports a freeform glass top. This design not only highlights the movement’s connection to nature but also demonstrates its commitment to creating functional art. The Noguchi Coffee Table’s simplicity and timeless elegance have cemented its status as an icon.
Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1948, the Womb Chair is a prime example of mid-century modern design’s emphasis on comfort and innovation. Its enveloping, womb-like form is designed to provide a sense of security and relaxation. The chair’s organic curves and plush upholstery exude a sense of visual and tactile warmth. With the Womb Chair, Saarinen embraced the movement’s ethos by melding cutting-edge design with ergonomic considerations.
The colour palette of mid-century modern design draws inspiration from the world around us, combining warm and cool tones to create a harmonious and inviting ambience.
A quintessential mid-century modern colour, mustard yellow evokes the optimism of the era. Whether used in furniture upholstery or accent pieces, this hue brings a sense of vibrancy and energy to a space.
Teal and Turquoise
These bold, vibrant shades add a pop of playfulness to the design style. Often used in accessories, wall treatments, or textiles, teal and turquoise capture the spirit of innovation and experimentation that defined the mid-century modern movement.
This deep, rich brown shade is often associated with wooden furniture pieces from the era. Walnut brown not only adds warmth to interiors but also complements the clean lines and sleek forms of mid-century modern furniture.
White and Black
Neutrals like white and black serve as foundational elements in mid-century modern design. White walls and black accents provide a backdrop that allows the iconic furniture and colourful accents to shine.
At its core, mid-century modern design is about elegance, innovation, and a harmonious connection with nature. Its timeless appeal lies in the marriage of form and function, resulting in iconic furniture pieces that continue to influence contemporary design. With its distinctive colour palette and emphasis on simplicity, mid-century modern style is a testament to the enduring power of design that transcends eras.
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