The History of Mid-Century Modern Style

From the 1940s to Today

Today, many people are drawn to the retro feel and unique designs inspired by traditional mid-century modern style—but, few understand the rich history behind the movement. Although the term “mid-century modern” wasn’t coined until 1984 by author Cara Greenburg’s book, Mid-century Modern: Furniture of the 1950’s, the design style actually dates back to the 1940s. According to AnOther, the famous style peaked during the 1940s through the early 1960s, closely following the era of modernism. Rooted in functionality, simplicity, and aesthetic elegance, its history is nothing short of fascinating. 

The Origins 

Interestingly, the history of mid-century modern style begins right after WWII, soon after soldiers started coming home. According to Huset’s article on the topic, the end of the war paved a shift in the United States as returning soldiers and their families created a demand for new housing. Soon, they began moving into “tract homes” located in former rural areas at the edge of cities and towns—these homes were simple as builders cut corners in to ensure fast construction. As homes quickly became available, so did technological innovations, giving designers access to more materials than were previously available. Suddenly, multi-functional pieces started blending familiar wood elements with seemingly contradicting materials like vinyl, glass, and plywood. Each design was crafted with functionality in mind, giving families a unique piece that not only appealed to the eye, but also served several purposes in the new post-war family life. To put it plainly, it was intended to be good design that could benefit everyone, not just the rich. 

Popular Designers of the Time 

When one reminisces about the history of mid-century modern style, a few key designers and pieces come to mind. Perhaps the most notable works came from recognizable names like Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, Isamu Noguchi, Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner and George Nelson. In fact, to to this day, George Nelson’s iconic Platform Bench remains one of the most infamous designs of the time. 

Transcending the Decades

Today, many people of a certain age remember growing up in a home furnished with mid-century decor. And, given its long history, it’s no surprise that the trend has made a comeback, finding its way into every nook and cranny of the interior design industry—from small Etsy shops to luxury showrooms. Furniture manufacturers like Herman Miller and Knoll cater to this taste, producing and reproducing many famous designs from the era. Plus, fans of the iconic Eames Lounge Chair can still find one, as they have never ceased production since its first release. Interested in learning more about how and why this style has remained so prevalent? Read our blog to learn more about mid-century modern popularity

Looking to add a piece of history to your latest design? Explore our newest catalog for some inspiration, or browse our selection of beds, bookshelves, desks, and decorative accessories that capture the essence of this celebrated style. Lastly, if you have recently worked on a design that features mid-century flair, be sure to submit a picture of your work to our Designers Corner competition

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