Have you been faced with the question, “What is Mid-Century Modern”? Perhaps it came from a curious friend when they first visited your retro home, or maybe you are asking it today. Either way, we’re answering that oh-so-common question.

So, What is Mid-Century Modern?

According to House Beautiful writer Hillary Brown, mid-century modern falls into the following ideas. We’ve highlighted some of our favorite points from her fascinating piece, but click here to read the full article.

What is Mid-Century Modern Atomic Ranch
Courtesy of House Beautiful

From House Beautiful:

Saying mid-century modern’s had a revival would be one serious understatement. It’s hit such a mainstream appeal that it’s been deemed the “Pumpkin Spice Latte of design,” with the style sold everywhere from Design Within Reach to Target. It’s everywhere, and for that very reason, the term’s meaning can get a little diluted. What even is mid-century modern these days?! And what truly makes it so?  

It Looks Back To The Future.

“At its most basic level, mid-century modern designs are known for juxtaposing sleek lines (think: skinny, peg legs on dressers and tables) with organic shapes, using new materials and methods to reimagine traditional pieces,” writes Hillary.

It Turned Designers Into Icons.

If ever you have heard of Eero Saarinen, George Nelson, Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia, or Isamu Noguchi—this point proves itself.

New Materials Shaped New Designs.

Innovations developed during WWII meant that new materials (hello, bent plywood, fiberglass, foam, aluminum, steel, and plastic laminates)

Two Approaches Cemented It In Pop-Culture History.

“American-based modernists loved industrial materials and the efficiency of mass production, while their counterparts in Scandinavia (the Soft Modernists) were dedicated to the longstanding tradition of crafting their chairs and tables out of natural elements, like wood and leather, favoring the handmade to the mechanical processes,” writes Hillary. “The result was exquisitely made pieces that were as celebrated as much for their quality as for their simplified, modern forms — think Hans Wegner’s Wishbone Chair or Alvar Aalto’s gently curving birch-and-beech wood chair.”

The Aesthetic Took Hold In Architecture, Too.

Natural flow, open spaces, and a welcoming of the outdoors became staples in homes designed during the mid-century. As technology advanced, architects began to experiment with rooflines—causing them to soar and bend as well as stretch out long and flat.

Mid-Century Modern’s Popularity Has Snowballed Over Time.

The fact of the matter is, we live much in the same way, and still want a balance of form and function. “Cara Greenberg—who literally wrote the book on mid-century modern and is credited with coining the term—agrees: ‘it seems to appeal anew to each rising generation of young people. Mid-century design hasn’t been bested by any other movement since, so it remains the style of our own time, not of some antique past. And it still looks cool!”

We couldn’t agree more with the following statement:

“What’s clear is that mid-century modern remains part of the current zeitgeist, as witnessed in the popularity of Mad Men or the countless films, advertisements, and magazine spreads shot at Koenig’s Stahl House overlooking Los Angeles or David Netto’s Neutra-designed home in Silver Lake.

Perhaps, even though we’re in the age of iPhones and drones (what a time to be alive!), the continuing allure and popularity of mid-century modern lies in ability to simultaneously take us back to the past while also propelling us to dream of the infinite possibilities of the future.”


To read the full article, click here.