Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mid Century Modern

Concluding this history of design series we will now look at my favorite addition to the Modernist Movement, Mid Century Modern (1933-1965). Included in Mid Century Modern is Danish Modern and Swedish Modern Scandinavian designs. (see definitions in the introduction)

Mid Century Modern was defined by sleek and organic designs taken from the Bauhaus and Art Nouveau but morphing into a more relaxed and carefree attainability. One of the driving factors of this style was the idea of bringing furniture into as post war America. Also very influential in furniture design was the Mid Century Architecture spinning off of earlier Frank Lloyd Wright designs. Take for example the Brazilia Series By Broyhill. These architectural furniture pieces were directly inspired by Brasilia the capitol of Brazil. This city planned and built in 1956 employed the principals of Mid Century Modern Architecture. Take a look at the relation of design between the Palacio da Alvorada in Brazil and this Broyhill Brazilia credenza.

You don't have to go all the way to Brazil to see this relationship in action. Just take a look at the famous Eichler tract homes developed by Joseph Eichler in suburban California built during the 1950's. This home style and more like it placed emphasis on open floorplans, with large windows and archways meant to bring the feeling of the outdoors in. Post and beam architecture style was responsible for putting an end to the need for bulky support walls and introduced walls of glass or beams sparse and minimal. This style that met form and function and the needs of the average American family was often referred to as California Modern. The furniture placed in these homes and built with the same concepts in mind compliment the home flawlessly.

You can't discuss Mid Century Modern design and furniture and not talk about the designers themselves. Greats such as George Nelson creator of the slat bench and ball clock played an integral role in the risk taking and cutting edge designs of this era. Husband and wife team Ray & Charles Eames dabled in architecture, philosophy, film, and design.

One of their most popular works was the LCW Bent Plywood Lounge Chair. Companies such as Herman Miller debuting their first modern line of furniture in 1933 as an effort to survive with a new look and a coming depression and Knoll founded in New York City in 1938 can be credited for bringing modern designs to the world.

They introduced iconic pieces that will never be forgotten and employed these and other desiners known as some of the greatest of their time and arguably of all time, and whose furniture continues to be highly sought after and produced today.

Scandinavian designers certainly inspired and influenced american design companies and their creations adorned the homes of Mid Century Modernist Americans along side American designs.

Danish pieces were highly appreciated for their use of Teak wood known for being one of the hardest, strongest and most durable woods as well as its high natural oil making it one of the most attractive and resilient to all weather woods. Accomplished Danish designer Finn Juhl is credited for introducing Danish Modern to the U.S.

*pair Finn Juhl chairs

Swedish designs utilizing more light colored woods such as, birch, alder and elm encompass the natural, organic, simple and handmade properties that are highlighted with the Mid Mod movement. A perfect example of Swedish inspired home designs can still be enjoyed today at the popular chain of Ikea stores around the world.

What a journey it's been for modern design and what a full cast of characters that built it's backbone. So what is next for modern design? Are we destined to repeat classics or can we expand with new innovations and traditions for the future? As is seen with any history lesson it takes many years for an evolution to bring about something so new and different that it stands alone. Still, furniture designers all over the world today continue to add 21st Century components to their work. Let us wait and see. Come December 31st, 2100 a new timeline of design will most certainly exist.

Signing off for now,


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