Mid-Century Modern Endures

In design, the adage is that “everything old becomes new again.” Since the late 1990s, many designers and creative types have abandoned the “shabby-chic” ethos for 1950s-inspired mid-century modern. The clean lines and simple finishes of mid-century design are functional and beautiful, and now available at almost any price point.

Even though most design trends last a few years – see the aforementioned shabby-chic, 1920s Spanish, and art Nouveau – mid-century modern remains popular with designers and consumers alike.   You need only to flip through a home magazine or stroll through a mass retailer like West Elm or CB2, and it’s all variations on the Eames-chair-and-tulip-table theme.

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Photo from The New York Times

Why does mid-century remain so popular?  Its wide appeal makes sense, because it was designed specifically to be lived with, rather than show pieces – it is democratic and made in simple shapes with classic materials – so it seems timeless and goes with everything.  The pieces are beautifully functional and they lend themselves well to smaller spaces and urban environments like city lofts.  Its simplicity is universally understood and appreciated.  Mid-century modern is also uniquely American, so it’s easy to find – both the antique versions and reproductions at modern retailers.  

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Photo By Interior Designer Amy Lau

Designers caution that you should not use midcentury exclusively – filling a room entirely devoted to a theme looks too deliberate and not reflective of personal taste.  You’re not trying to recreate a ‘Mad Men’ set in your home, after all.  But melding mid-century modern basics with some personal, interesting pieces can create an elegant interior that’s uniquely yours.

Consider mixing a pair of clean-lined mid-century chairs in an otherwise traditional space, and add some mid-century accessories like drum lamps or a spiky-legged coffee table to tie it all together.  Or use mid-century seating against a rustic wood dining table for an interesting mix of modern and traditional.

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