Decade after decade, midcentury modern design continues to appeal. The New York Times noted a resurgence of the style in 1998. Nearly two decades later, there came another wave. Fast Company deemed it the “pumpkin spice latte of interior design.” It’s a style “Mad Men” popularized in the current century; its designers—Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen, and more—are named in reverent whispers among design circles.
Even casual design fans have likely heard the phrase “midcentury modern design” before. It is an influential design movement that became popular in the United States in the mid-20th century. Heavily influenced by German Bauhaus design, the midcentury modern aesthetic favors clean, simple craftsmanship using a blend of natural and human-made materials.
Although the style’s heyday is roughly placed from 1933 to 1965, it truly took off post-World War II, an era soaked in optimism, first with the Allied victory and then eventually as the U.S. set its sights on space. Because of the war, the U.S. became a production powerhouse, and output from mining, construction, and manufacturing doubled between 1939 and 1944. As soldiers returned home to rebuild their lives, the need for housing and furnishing increased, fueling designers (many of whom were émigré) to turn to the latest technologies developed during the war and to the global influences for inspiration.
Interestingly, midcentury modern wasn’t born until 1984, when author Cara Greenberg coined it for her book “Mid-century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s.” Since then, midcentury modern has become not just a style, argues Fast Company, but a “byword for ‘design’ itself,” or perhaps just taste.
So, which furniture pieces are essential to the era? Singulart used historical information and context from museums, experienced furniture resellers, and designers to compile a list of 10 pieces that embody this enduring design style. From Barcelona armchairs to Arco floor lamps, here’s the midcentury modern furniture you should know.
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