Mid-Century Modern Furniture 101

What is Mid-Century Modern Furniture?

Mid-century modern is a design philosophy with roots in the mid-20th century. It encapsulates a delicate balance of highly varied materials, textures, and colours with smooth designs, primarily focusing on function and practicality. This diversity is a hallmark of mid-century modern design. If you are looking for pieces in this style, you can look for the “MCM” labelling that may be present, which is short for mid-century modern. Some of the standout characteristics of this style include:

  • Simplicity. Ornate elements are rarely used, if at all.
  • Functionality. Designed following the philosophy of “form follows function,” coined by architect Louis Sullivan.
  • Organic. Makes use of naturally occurring shapes resulting in soft curves.
  • Geometric shapes. Uses basic shapes to create clean lines and sleek edges.
  • Diversity. Utilizes a large variety of materials, colours, and textures.

Pieces in the mid-century modern style feature simple styles, bright, fun colours or earthy neutrals, and focus on function and practicality.

  • History – In the 1930s, European designers began to experiment with Bauhaus design. The general minimalist style emphasized the function and practicality of pieces instead of their elaborate designs. As WWII began, minimal designs became more popular overall. With the advent of technology that allowed for the bending of plywood and creating moulded fibreglass, the mid-century modern style began.
  • Traits – As furniture construction techniques advanced, designers could make new shapes that weren’t possible before. Thin legs and sculpted pulls were added to items, and the wooden details were balanced out with bright upholstery in woven and wool materials. Popular colours included cobalt and yellow.
  • Iconic Furniture Makers – There are many famous furniture designers who created mid-century modern pieces. A few of these include:
    • Ray & Charles Eames – Known for their hard-shelled fibreglass chairs, this husband and wife pair are some of the essential designers of mid-century modern pieces. Their work also includes the Eames Lounger and the DCM chair.
    • Eero Saarinen – Saarinen is responsible for iconic designs such as the Tulip Table and Womb Chair. Saarinen desired to simplify the silhouettes of classic furniture pieces.
    • George Nelson – Nelson designed a variety of furniture pieces, including some of the most memorable and playful items. He’s known for the Marshmallow Sofa and the Coconut Chair.
    • Arne Jacobsen – Danish designer Jacobsen is most known for his Egg Chair, Swan Chair, and Teardrop Chair designs.
    • Milo Baughman – Baughman is credited as the one who added more of a glamorous touch to mid-century modern designs. He introduced different materials to the style including chrome, brass, and velvets.

Materials Made to Last

Wood is the most commonly used material for creating mid-century modern pieces. Teak was used most often as it is rich, durable, dark, and universally recognized as a sign of quality. It paired seamlessly with bold colours synonymous with the mid-century modern era and was commonly used for desks, tables, and storage.

Oak is another commonly used wood that has many of the same desirable qualities of teak. Its paler colour makes it look and feel muted and less overbearing, making it ideal for the cooler shades also used in mid-century modern design.

For an even lighter colour, beech is used. Its strength and high shock resistance make it ideal for making sofa and chair frames. The pale colouring of beech reflected the Scandinavian influence on mid-century modern furniture.

With the push for diversity, moulded plywood was often used to make chairs, including the now-famous Eames Lounge chair. Although a relatively new process at the time, it enabled designers to create affordable pieces in iconic shapes that are now synonymous with mid-century modern furniture.

It is also important to note the use of other non-traditional materials like metal, plywood, plexiglass, vinyl, acrylic, and glass.

Iconic Colour Combinations

As is the case with materials, this style is all-encompassing with regard to the colours used. That said, the mid-century design philosophy is well known for its use of vibrant colours such as aqua, mustard yellow, olive green, tangerine, and fire engine red, a reflection of the 1950s. These attention grabbers are also complemented by brown, white, and grey tones that ground the design, create the signature MCM style, and contrast the colourful accents, reflecting the 1960s.

Wood furniture is one way that mid-century modern design incorporates earthier shades. You can experiment with different colours in your space, but not more than 3 or 4. Bold patterns and textures can also add visual interest while ensuring balance.

Where Can I Find Mid-Century Furniture?

Mid-century furniture can be found in fine furniture stores in Toronto, such as Carrocel. The material and year of manufacture will impact the pricing, but it is not hard to find something that suits your taste and preferences. Our furniture specialists can help you get the perfect piece for your needs.

Carrocel Has A Wide Selection of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

At Carrocel, we have many mid-century modern pieces to suit your home and your tastes. If you’d like to speak with an expert to help you determine which pieces will best suit your space, come in and chat with us. Our 20,000 square-foot showroom contains a variety of furniture styles to serve as inspiration. Visit our location at 245 Bridgeland Avenue in central Toronto for more.

Pair of Vintage Original Mid Century Modern Lounge Chairs

Mid Century Modern Chandelier

Vintage American Mid-Century Modern Circa 1960’s Sofa

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