Mid-century modern furniture is one of the most enduring styles of home furnishings. It caught on quickly starting in the 1930s and boomed in the late 40’s and all through the ’50s. Today, it has enormous retro appeal, and its simple elegance makes it so easy to incorporate into modern homes.
Here are seven interesting things many people don’t know about mid-century modern furniture.
- The economic upturn, growth of the American middle class, and mass migration to the suburbs that followed WWII created a new popular demand for furnishings that were equally functional and fashionable. This fueled the mid-century modern furniture industry.
- The term “mid-century modern” was coined by author Cara Greenberg. She says she made it up for the title of her 1984 book Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s.
- Many mid-century designers turned to nontraditional materials like plastic, vinyl, plywood, glass, Plexiglass, steel, Lucite, and acrylics to mass-produce highly affordable furniture. FYI, that trend didn’t manifest at Heywood-Wakefield, which to this day makes all its furniture from solid wood and still emphasizes hand crafting over high-volume production.
- Herman Miller, one of the leading mid-century modern furniture companies, also invented the office cubicle in the 1960s. They called it the Action Office. The name and the concept were a little more exciting at the time.
- The Egg Chair is widely considered the most famous piece of mid-century modern furniture. It was invented in 1958 by Arne Jacobsen for the Radisson SAS hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark.
- The Tulip Chair, introduced in 1955, is also one of the most recognizable mid-century modern chairs in the world. It was created by Finnish-American architect and industrial designer Eero Saarinen. He also designed the John F. Kennedy International airport in NY. Heywood-Wakefield’s Dining Arm Chair, more familiarly known as the Dog Biscuit Chair, is another of the most famous mid-century modern chairs.
- In 1999, an original George Nelson Marshmallow Sofa (a design introduced in 1956) sold for $66,000. Which is pretty impressive until you find out that a 1948 Carlo Mollino trestle table sold at auction at Christie’s New York for $3.824 million in 2005.