Though Mid-Century Modern style was at its zenith in the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, that iconic style has remained exceedingly popular among its followers well into the 21 century and shows every sign of continuing into the future.

Notable Mid-Century Architects

Often called the father of American architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright trained and influenced many of our Mid-Century Modern architects. Though homes in this style can be found across America, a most impressive collection of mid-century modern homes can be seen in Palm Springs, California. 

Some of the world’s most famous mid-century modern architects built homes, hotels, motels, and other projects in Palm Springs.

The city is an irresistible magnet for those who love the look. It’s all about sleek, clean style where “less is more” as espoused by architect Mies van der Rohe. Built in the desert, these modern home fit elegantly into their natural environment.

Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret), Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Koenig, Mies van der Rohe, Eileen Gray (best known for her furniture designs,) John Lautner, Greta Magnusson Grossman, Arne Jacobsen, Eero Saarinen, and others contributed to Mid-Century architecture in the United States. Many of these names are familiar as furniture designers.

Charles Eames & Ray Eames

In addition to furniture, Charles Eames and Ray Eames also built homes in this “mid-century” period. The Eames House has remained their most iconic creation. From the tiny “House Bird” sculpture to innovative home designs and iconic furniture, the Eames duo took the modern design world by a storm. They also wrote books and made films.

Other Revered Modern Designers

Here are a few of the many iconic modern designers of the period. We hope you’ll take no offense if we’ve neglected to mention your favorite: Charls and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, George Nelson, Edward Wormley, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, Arne Jacobsen, Eileen Gray, Isamu Noguchi, Verner Panton, Jens Risom, and Alexander Girard. 

Chairs. Chairs. Chairs.

You may have already noticed the abundance of designer names associated with Mid-Century chairs. Of all the furniture from the period, chairs seem to be the one element that captured the hearts of those who closely follow this style. 

The Eames Lounge Chair and matching ottoman grace many of today’s offices, dens, and living rooms. The Swan Chair, created in 1958 by Arne Jacobsen, is a vision in curvaceous form. Papa Bear is big and comfy and an iconic example of the period. The Barcelona Chair is forever a modern fixture, even in today’s homes and offices. From the simple beauty of the Wishbone Chair to the exquisite design of the Panton S Chair, we love these iconic and wide-range of chair designs.

Lighting

Furniture and architecture weren’t the only mid-20th-century elements to get a make-over. Lighting designs took a page from the innovative materials and finishes of the period. The Arco Lamp by Achille Castiglioni is another icon of the period that was revolutionary in its day and continues to sell as a timeless classic some 60 years later.

Featured at the first Milan Salone design fair in 1962, the Arco Lamp was embraced by visitors from around the world for its near gravity-defying original design. Visiting the show in 1962, the founder of NOVA of California, David Moskowitz, was astounded to discover how the Arco lamp was the culmination of an idea he had been working on for years! Once back in the States, Moskowitz set about perfecting his prototype for the U.S. market. Thus, the NOVA Arc Lamp was born. 

Moskowitz’s version was admired for its sculptural form, minimalist aesthetic, maneuverability, space-saving benefits, and flexibility. The fixture was an instantaneous hit among the day’s interior designers and architects who began buying NOVA’s Arc Lamps. The still-popular Mushroom Arc Lamp has been in NOVA’s line since 1964. 

Our still-popular Mushroom Arc Lamps debuted at the Chicago Merchandise Mart in 1964 and have been in the NOVA line for nearly six decades.

How to Get the Modern Look

Materials

Mid-Century decor style can be described as having clean lines and little, if any, ornamentation. Walnut and teak are often used along with plywood. Chrome, stainless steel, and powder-coated metals are also used in mid-century furniture. Plastic became a favorite furniture material and was prized for its properties, not masquerading as wood. The period designers also had an affinity for using natural leathers, cotton, linens, and high tech woven textiles and synthetics on their upholstered designs. 

Colors

The Mid-Century Modern color palette also tended towards naturals with pops of oranges, yellows, and greens; all colors found in nature. Bold hues are used along with black and white. Accessories in powder-coated finishes and colors, including metalwork and ceramic pieces, also highlight simple lines with little ornamentation.

Influence on Style Today

Mid-Century Homes are in high demand in today’s real estate market. Some of the most sought-after homes of the period have been meticulously renovated to maintain their original character while given a new life with sleek new furnishings or restored with period interiors. Eichler, Neutra homes in California are highly prized for their Mid-Century roots.

Original and reproduction furniture pieces seem to blend naturally into many of today’s homes, making for a beautiful eclectic look that fits our more relaxed lifestyles. . 

Designer Take-Aways 

  • The United States design scene benefited from the genius of both home-grown and immigrant designers and architects.
  • Charles Eames and his wife Ray played a significant role in American modern home architecture and furniture design. They were leaders in the California modernism movement.
  • The Mid-Century Modern movement gave us a multitude of beloved chair designs.
  • The humble material plywood was used to create innovative bentwood chairs, lounges and other iconic works.
  • Mid-Century homes were sleek with simple lines that were designed to fit perfectly into their natural landscapes, primarily in the Palm Springs area.