What defines mid-century modern?
Mid Century Modern style is a term coined by author Cara Greenberg in 1983, and refers to the design aesthetic that began after World War II, and lasted until the 1970s. Mid Century Modern shunned the maximalism of pre war to adopt a more simplistic approach. The multidisciplinary nature of the style gave rise to many iconic designs and designers that are well known even today, like ‘The Eames Chair’ by Charles and Ray Eames, and ‘Eichler Homes’ by Joseph Eichler. The MCM design movement influenced architecture, interior and graphic design, urban development, and product development. It has survived events like wars, destructions and uproots. Several factors define the mid-century modern interior design. The style provides us with gentle organic curves, clean lines, passion for different and materials and its designers are idolized to this date. The quality of this style is appreciated and regarded as timeless.
Brief history and origin
The Scandinavian design and the Bauhaus style in Germany heavily influenced this style as several Bauhaus architects migrated to America during and after the Second World War. It was during this period when the American economy was flourishing and population surging. People were optimistic and looking for a fresh after the war. As a result, demand for modern homes skyrocketed; as well as suburbanization and expansion of cities. The need for modern furnishings to go into these houses spiked as well. At the same time, America was obsessed with science, tech, and space. They were competing with the Soviet Union to see who could send a man on the moon first. This obsession poured over to fashion, TV shows, and interiors.
This, coupled with technological advancements and new materials advent – many of them also developed during WW II – resulted in the classic mid-century modern style. It featured warm tones, multifunctional furniture pieces, new materials and design, open plan spaces, huge windows, flat roofs, and efficient rooms. Every room served a purpose. This style is still very alive today as it matches our current lifestyle characterized by smaller apartments and higher mobility. The styles’ simplicity, clean lines, and functionality, therefore, appeals to our core needs.
What makes the Mid-century Modern interior design so distinctive?
This style features clean lines, classic and understated look with minimal fuss. The Mid Century Modern style is simplistic in nature, following the ethos of ‘form follows function’. As the design movement came after the ornate Colonial Revival style and the opulent and glamorous Art Deco, it aimed to do away with excessiveness in design. Architecture, interiors and furniture in Mid Century Modern style are practical. The aim of the designers were to create designs that are comfortable yet accessible to all. Architecture of this time made use of open floor plans to create multifunctional spaces, and large glass walls to bring in natural light and eliminate the barrier between home and nature. This allows the light to spread evenly across the room and makes the space feel larger. Occasionally, central fireplaces or bookcases were used as space dividers in living rooms.
This typical, uncluttered space should have geometric and organic forms with minimal ornamentation with a taste of different contrasting materials. New technologies and an increased access to many materials allowed designers of the time to be more experimental. Furniture pieces using plywood, veneer, plastic and plexiglass were common, with variations that experimented on their shapes and other combinations. Bent plywood and laminates and moulded plastic were utilized to create fluid forms in furniture. The materials used were never finished up to appear as wood however, as the designers believed in being true to the materials. Buildings made use of natural materials like timber, brick and stones along with glass to create spaces connected to nature.
Colors and Patterns
The variety of materials available allowed for a wide range of colors in this style. Interiors and furniture combined earthy and neutral shades with pops of bright colors. Glossy finishes and bold colors were used alongside natural shades and finishes. Patterns in this style mixed contrasting colors, and used themes that represented everything from bowls to flowers. Geometric and organic shapes dominated the patterns on fabrics and furniture. Black and white were used for graphics with a mixture of colors neutral to gold. A combination of pale and white neutral walls with colorful accents were also often used.
Mid Century Modern style furniture used simple lines and new materials to create iconic designs. The furniture pieces were devoid of any embellishments, and focused on bringing out the qualities of the materials. Designs were made to be mass produced and available to all. Comfort and functionality reigned supreme in these designs, as seen in the Eames Lounge Chair and the Egg Chair. The comfort and durability of these furniture pieces have made them sought after, and brands like Knoll and Herman Miller continue to manufacture some of these designs today. The art used in the room was typically big and bold with content displayed on canvases to make it the focus of the room and portray its “statement“. Creative mirror frames, lamps and pendant light shades were also used to add a unique style.