Enduring Trend: Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Mid-Century modern generally describes mid-20th century developments in modern design, architecture and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965. The Scandinavian Mid-Century modern look has undertaken a resurgence in the last decade, with designers coveting the clean lines and quality workmanship. Designers from this era have become the rockstars of interiors, with designers like Eames and Parker becoming household names.

Online retailers have tapped into this market, selling reproductions for a fraction of the cost of original pieces. The industry is divided about the abundance of reproduction furniture pieces on the market, with criticism that the original designers are being short-changed by mass-production of replicas (you may remember Sophie and Dale from The Block criticising replica furniture last year). However, there is no denying that the proliferation of ‘fakes’ has allowed more homes to create the look they want for a fraction of the cost.

Mid-Century modern is a trend that you can embrace in large or small quantities, depending on your taste. Love the ‘retro’ look? Then why not go all out, with a Fredrik Kayser 711 Sofa, an Eames LCW, Arco lamp with marble base, and a Noguchi coffee table. Team it with a bright rug to bring it into the 21st century. Leave the oranges and browns behind, and focus on greens, greys, neons and taupe.

If going all out is not your style you could keep your interiors contemporary, and add a touch of Mid-Century modern through pieces such as your dining chairs (try the Bertoia wire chair for a clean look), pendant light (Louis Poulsen’s PH Pendants are modern yet interesting), clever storage solutions (teak buffets are useful and attractive) or a great wall clock (George Nelson ball clocks add a bit of whimsy to interiors). If you are on a budget but want an original piece, you can still find 1950s armchairs from second hand stores, garage sales and on eBay. Even if they are in a dilapidated state, they are easy enough to re-glue, sand and varnish and recover in a modern fabric (such as those by Tango and James).

Mid-Century modern works well with current interiors fashion, which embraces neutral foundations with pops of colour and pattern. Furniture from this era is a great base from which to build your home, and the quality of the pieces will last you a long time, which is perhaps why this trend has endured.

Significant designers of the time:

Ray and Charles Eames were a husband/wife team, who are perhaps the most iconic furniture designers from the era. The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman is a staple in any stylish bachelor pad, while the DSW dining chairs grace many fashionable dining rooms. However, if price were no option I would go for the side chair that Eames and Saarinen collaborated on for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition held at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1941, but at $15,000-20,000 it’s slightly out of my price range.

Finn Juhl (1912-1989) is a Danish furniture designer whose designs are still relevant in today’s fashion. His Poet Sofa has beautiful soft curves, while the 45 Chair has smooth lines that flatter the solid wood of the arms.

Parker Furniture is an iconic Australian company who were at the forefront of the Mid-Century modern industry in our region. They produced beautiful pieces from 1935 through to the 70s. Parker teak extension dining tables were made with a clever system for storing the extension pieces, which make them completely hidden from view, and sturdy when extended. You can still find many original Parker tables throughout Australian dining rooms (including mine, come to think of it!).

There are quite a few retailers in Australia who specialise in Mid-Century modern furniture. First, here are a few of the best retailers that specialise in authentic pieces:

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