Midcentury modern is a style of architecture, interior design, and product and graphic design that was created from roughly 1933 to 1965. Its development was the work of architects and designers including George Nelson, Eero Saarinen, Richard Nuetra, Arne Jacobsen, Charles and Ray Eames, and more.You know midcentury modern by its clean lines, pared-down forms, and natural materials. As well as its seamless interaction between both the rooms and the between interior and exterior spaces. In case you’re still not sure, you saw midcentury modern design in all its glory on the show Mad Men.
The midcentury aesthetic was a response to — and celebration of — the new world optimism that erupted with the economic boom after World War II. Architects and designers of the times were willing and encouraged to use new shapes and new materials. They also worked to embrace the revolutionary idea of indoor-outdoor living in their joyful designs.
Midcentury has been around for more than 80 years. But stylish consumers – as well as architects, interior designers, furniture manufacturers, retailers, and set designers – are still inspired by the beautiful and sensible approach.
That is why you see midcentury classics such as Saarinen’s Tulip table, Noguchi’s coffee table, Knoll’s sofas, and Castiglioni’s Arco lamp everywhere you look. And it’s why design-forward companies including Design Within Reach, Restoration Hardware, Luminaire, and Herman Miller do such brisk business stocking these classics.
According to The New York Times, midcentury modern remains the rage almost 20 years after it was reintroduced. “If anything, it’s even more popular then ever. Flip through a shelter magazine, shop at a mass retailer like CB2 or West Elm, and it’s all variations on a spiky-legged-chair-and-Tulip-table theme.”
LIZ O’BRIEN, 20th-century decorative arts dealer: “I continue to find super-exciting things. That happens often enough to keep me hooked.”
JILL SINGER, a founder of the design magazine Sight Unseen: “It’s beautiful materials, classic simple shapes that can seem timeless.”
JIM BRETT, president, West Elm: “I don’t know if there’s another time period with such a prolific amount of beautifully functional designs.”
MICHAEL BOODRO,editor in chief, Elle Decor: “It looks particularly good in lofts, in glass towers. The upkeep is easy.”
Like these professionals, I’ve been obsessed with the midcentury aesthetic since I was in design school. After an exhaustive search my wife and I found a 1956 midcentury ranch house in Miami’s Pinecrest suburb. We spent the next 15 years removing everything that wasn’t true to the original style while we restored and modernized the rest. In fact, the pictures you’ve been looking at throughout this post are our house. But now that we’re empty nesters, we’re moving to a smaller house that’s closer to town (but still midcentury, of course) and we’re putting our house on the market.
Thanks to the large lots and great schools in our neighborhood, plenty of older houses are being torn down and replaced by starter castles and McMansions. And I understand that could happen to our midcentury masterpiece as well. But if you know someone who loves the style as much as I do and is looking for a great house that was lovingly restored, please have them contact me or our broker.
As the New York Times said, “The best of midcentury design is undeniably beautiful and functional.” Our house is too. And it could be yours.