It’s no secret that mid-century modern is one of the most influential design movements to date. And even if decades have passed since the mid-century modern renaissance, the iconic style continues to reign across contemporary interiors, whether in the form of statement chairs, feature lighting or quirky coffee tables. Not that we’re complaining – having come up with a 1950s furniture guide on how to give your home that modernist look, it’s clear we love all things mid-century here at NONAGON.style. That’s why in this guide, we’re excited to take a look at the minds behind all our favorite pieces. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of iconic mid-century modern designers you should know about.
Danish Architect and Designer
Dates: 1902 – 1971
Danish architect Arne Jacobsen is probably best-known for his work in the SAS Air Terminal and the Royal Hotel Copenhagen, where he was responsible for inventing the famous Egg Chair and Swan Chair, both of which are still popular in the market today. He was known for his impeccable sense of proportion and was praised for designs that evoke free-form sculptural qualities and structural integrity. Having made significant contributions to the modernist movement through his work, he played a key role in introducing modernist ideas to Denmark and other Scandinavian countries.
Charles and Ray Eames
American Architect, Design and Filmmaker Duo
Dates: 1907 – 1978, 1912 – 1988
Probably one of the most recognizable names in the world of design, Charles and Ray Eames make up the American dream team behind the creation of the iconic Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. Their creative partnership led to the inception of the Eames Office, where they produced furniture and planned their projects. Their groundbreaking technique in molding plywood also led to the world’s first mass-produced design piece, the Shell Chair.
American-Finnish Architect and Industrial Designer
Dates: 1910 – 1961
Son of architect Eliel Saarinen and textile artist Loja Saarinen, Eero Saarinen took to design with no difficulty. After completing his studies, he began teaching at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he met Charles Eames. The two became close friends and contemporaries who pushed each other’s creative potential. During his career, he designed the Tulip Chair and the Womb Chair. Both designs were eventually taken into mass production by Knoll.
Irish-born French-based Furniture Designer
DATES: 1878 – 1976
Known as a pioneer of the modern movement in architecture and design, Eileen Gray took up an apprenticeship in lacquer work after being one of the first women admitted to the Slade School of Fine Art in London. She is most celebrated for her ‘Le Corbusier’ and Bibendum Chairs, which feature chrome, steel tubes, and padded leather. Aside from her contributions in designing furniture, she went on to design two houses in the Alpes Maritimes. Both projects were considered at the time to be extraordinary examples of domestic architecture.
American Architect and Furniture Designer
Dates: 1917 – present
Florence Knoll displayed a strong interest in design and architecture at a young age, which led her to enroll at the Kingswood School and eventually the Cranbrook Academy of Art. During her studies, she became close friends with the Saarinen family, whose influences and recommendations gave her an opportunity to study under the likes of the esteemed Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
American Woodworker, Architect and Furniture Maker
Dates: 1905 – 1990
Known as one of the leading innovator’s of the 20th century in furniture and design, George Nakashima earned his master’s degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before embarking on a journey around the world on a steamship. He eventually went to work in Japan, under American architect Antonin Raymond, where he spent the rest of his time exploring Japanese architecture and design. Now recognized as the father of the American Craft Movement, his signature style features high quality wooden furniture that blends sleek geometric lines with natural characteristics such as raw edges.
American Industrial Designer
Dates: 1908 – 1986
The list wouldn’t be complete without George Nelson, one of the most influential modernist designers of the 20th century. Aside from his contributions to modern workspace design, George Nelson was known for his trademark Bubble Lamp, Marshmallow Sofa, and signature benches. During his time as Director of Design at Herman Miller, he recruited some of the most iconic mid-century modern designers, including Charles and Ray Eames, and Isamu Noguchi.
American-Italian Artist and Modern Furniture Designer
Dates: 1915 – 1978
With a background in metalworking, Harry Bertoia is responsible for the creation of the Diamond Chair in 1952 – the famous metal lounge chair made almost entirely by hand. He gained recognition for introducing industrial wire mesh to modern design, and continued to work with the material to produce various seating pieces and sculptures. To this day, Bertoia’s iconic chairs continue to make an appearance in contemporary dining rooms and workspaces.
Who are your favorite mid-century modern designers? Do you own any of these modernist designs at home? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Want to learn more about mid-century modern design? Then head to our guide to 1940s furniture design to find out about the origins of the movement. Also, sign up for our newsletter to join our growing community of designers and enthusiasts!