Mid-century modern pieces have made a permanent mark on the way we design our interiors, becoming a classic symbol of 1950s furniture design. These days your Instagram feed is flush with homes incorporating the iconic style.
Despite its emergence in the late 1940s, mid century modern furniture remains to this day, timeless and incredibly chic. But what we now call mid-century modern design is a blend of decades worth of design. This is your guide to 1950s furniture design and decor.
Even if you haven’t heard of the names Eames, Saarinen, or Bertoia, chances are you’re familiar with their designs.
With the post-war baby boom, an increasing number of homeowners had an increasing demand for furniture. This inspired designers to create avant-garde seating, mostly using materials like steel, wood and leather. Sofas and chairs with tapered legs, geometric forms, and clean edges were popular, and often gave a futuristic vibe to the space. New materials were invented, too. Instead of cushions stuffed with straw or horsehair, the invention of cheap and shapeable polyurethane foam made it easier than ever to create cushions, sofas and furniture on a large industrial scale.
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman is one of the most recognizable designer pieces from the 1950s. Designed by husband and wife couple Charles and Ray Eames, the lounge set was inspired by a baseman’s mitt and soon came to embody ultimate relaxation. The set has made appearances throughout pop culture over the years, including hit TV-show Mad Men.
Named after its designer Harry Bertoia, the Bertoia Chair was the first of its kind at the time. Created with a process that resembled sculpting more than it did manufacturing, the Bertoia chair is a work of art ahead of its time.
Sleek Coffee Tables
Console tables, and coffee tables were also sporting irregular shapes, and tapered legs. Combining wood, metal and glass gave way to eye-catching table designs inspired by space exploration.
Designers in the 1950s also took the opportunity to get creative with lighting. Lighting moved from being a purely functional item, to a vital decorative piece that held great aesthetic value.
George Nelson was looking at a Swedish hanging lamp he wanted but found too expensive, when inspiration struck. Soon after, he designed the bubble lamp using a steel frame and covered with a translucent white spherical shade. Now, we see this design in a flatter saucer shape as ceiling lamps, or floor lamps.
Three Armed Lamp
Designed in 1958, Serge Mouille’s Three Armed Ceiling Lamp preceded the Sputnik chandeliers that gained popularity much later in the 1960s. Even then, the fascination for atomic and space-inspired pieces began to enter the market with innovative designs like the Three Armed Ceiling Lamp.
Aside from wooden dining sets, colorful dining sets were all the rage in the 1950s. Taking cue from American diners at the time, tables came with Formica countertops with matching vinyl and chrome chairs.
Pastels were everywhere – wallpapers, carpets, kitchen cupboards and dinnerware came in yellow, blue, pink. It was only natural that big refrigerators matched the rest of the kitchen.
While 1940s saw the popularity of floral prints and fabrics, 1950s paved the way for a frenzy of patterns. Checkered prints, polka-dots, and geometric shapes were available as flooring, rugs, furniture fabrics and lampshades.
Ingenuity and invention was applied to the home setting. From telephone answering machines to microwaves, the 1950s was a big decade for noteworthy inventions that shaped the homes of today. Color television broadcasting meant bright colorful adverts could be beamed into living rooms, as well as the first remote control (although it was attached to the TV with wires). The Kenwood Mixer, Teflon coated cookware and other kitchen appliances were all major labor-saving inventions from the 1950s.