The Timelessness of Mid Century Modern Furniture

By John Linden

Interior design, furniture design, lover of all things chic in home decor.

Ever wonder why you hear about Mid Century Modern Furniture all the time? In other words, why is a 1950s style still alive and well, nearly 70 years later.

Below, we talk to design experts to find out why and where you can find the best mid century modern furniture today.

Let’s go!

A Short History of Mid Century Furniture

After WWII, global design converged into what is know as mid century modernism.

As Matt Riley, principal @ Tonic Design explains,

“Scholars often credit Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles & Ray Eames for making the modern movement in the USA popular, however architects like Neutra, Schindler, Wexler and developers like Eichler bought mid-century modernism style to the masses through the development of tract housing suburbs prevalent in Silverlake and Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, and in Palm Springs and San Diego in southern California.”

Why is Mid Century Modern So Popular Today?

Today, homeowners all over the world appreciate mid-century modern furniture for its simple, efficient qualities.
The majority of us, after all, are dealing with too much clutter and not enough space.
We see the influence of MCM in both the Minimalist movement (where people are getting rid of everything except for their most precious items) and the Tiny Home movement (in which homeowners are foregoing the purchase of a traditional home and building compact, efficient mobile homes instead).

Matt Riley from Tonic.cc again

Matt Riley from Tonic.cc again,

…the principle of living well is not something that will drop away, internal spaces blending with and sitting harmoniously within the natural environment will equally continue to be prevalent in design thinking and longevity in design will likewise be something that will be continued.

  a Mid Century Classic House
The Farnsworth House – a Mid Century Classic

Finding Quality Furniture & Design

Today, homeowners everywhere are using mid century modern furniture as an inspiration to get their lives in order. Whether you’re building a home from scratch and want to maximize the space or simply want to start a mid-century modern furniture collection, there are plenty of options available.

Sharron Tancred of Tailored Artworks points out that mid-century furniture is available at most price points, even diy-ers. She notes,

[MCM is]…interesting and easily accessible on a budget as much is available in 2nd hand furniture shops. With the increase in upstyling, MCM is an appropriate style for DIY decorators.

In other words, mid-century furniture is available across the spectrum of decorators. This is most true in the re-sale space, where you can find beautiful, vintage mid-century furniture is more re-sale home goods stores. Online, Ebay, Charish, and Etsy are filled with mid-century inspired pieces.

Not a diy-er? Buying new is just as accessible.

Amy Kilvington of Interior Home Goods explains that her brand has seen a huge increase in demand for the natural finishes and simplicity of the mid-century era.

We’re also seeing a lot more wood is coming through in decor, and there is more of a demand for real woods in natural tones and finishes.

How To Get the Mid Century Modern Look

Mid century modern furniture is defined by its classic, understated quality. It most often contains slick lines and very little ornamentation.

MCM designers placed an emphasis on function. They believed that the role of the furniture designer was to create pieces that functioned as well as possible and that the form of the work came second. Again, Matt Riley of Tonic.cc Notes 7 principles

Form should follow function
Design centers around living well
Truth of Material – Details and design reflects the true nature of the material with minimal or no ornamentation – the details are the ornament.
Juxtaposition of combined materials e.g. steel with glass with natural stone, with timber all used together
Clean lines balanced and in proportion spatially with both organic and geometric forms
Internal spaces blend and complement with external spaces, architecture sits harmoniously within its’ environment
Longevity in design – functional beauty paired with quality materials
Mid-century modern furniture has very little clutter. There is a combination of organic shapes and geometric forms included in the work but everything should come together in a minimal, harmonious way.

While the basis of each piece is in traditional materials and construction methods (wood, steel, fabrics), most mid century modern furniture pieces include some form of non-traditional materials. Much of the furniture that came out of the MCM movement include plastic, vinyl, and plexiglass, which were new resources for designers in the early 20th century.

This style uses color in a strategic manner. Many furniture pieces are produced in natural tones (the color of plywood, for example) with carefully-placed bits of brightly-colored paint or patterned fabric. The harmony between natural colors/textures and mass-produced, machine-made ones is a key component of the style.

 Modern Chairs by DWR
Classic Mid Century Modern Chairs

Why MCM is Here to Stay

It’s no wonder the mid-century style has lasted all these years. Its focus on simplicity, quality, and function provide a set of guiding principles for any decor or architectural project. Whenever quality and function are the most important considerations, longevity will definitely follow.