MID-CEN­TURY MOD­ERN

RE­VEALED: THE TRUE STYLE OF ONE OF THE MOST POP­U­LAR DE­SIGN TRENDS THAT HAS RE­TAINED ITS TIME­LESS LOOK, DECADES AF­TER BE­ING IN­TRO­DUCED

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | HOME - WORDS: DANNI MOR­RI­SON

Mid-cen­tury mod­ern. The world is ob­sessed. Whether you’re aware or not, ev­ery­where you look — ev­ery restau­rant, re­tail store, and even your favourite cof­fee shop — will most likely fea­ture some sort of mid-cen­tury mod­ern de­sign.

This in­ter­na­tion­ally pop­u­lar style, how­ever, does have a name that’s thrown around loosely. Fur­ni­ture re­tail­ers love to la­bel pieces with this in­te­rior de­sign buzz­word, de­spite there be­ing noth­ing “mid-cen­tury mod­ern” about the items them­selves.

A style quite dif­fi­cult to de­fine, mid-cen­tury mod­ern broadly de­scribes ar­chi­tec­ture, fur­ni­ture and de­sign from the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tury, roughly 1933-1965. You’ve no doubt heard some of the names: Eames, Ch­erner, Pret­zel, Chip­pen­dale and don’t for­get the Marsh­mal­low sofa.

In the mid ’90s, a niche mar­ket of col­lec­tors started driv­ing prices to phe­nom­e­nal amounts.

An ar­ti­cle in the New York Times stated fold­ing ply­wood Eames chairs would sell for $10,000 in 1994, while the Marsh­mal­low sofa for a cool $66,000.

Mid-cen­tury mod­ern em­pha­sises pared­down forms, or­ganic ma­te­ri­als and con­tem­po­rary pat­terns, which in turn cre­ate func­tional com­fort and style.

Homes took ad­van­tage of creat­ing bal­ance and aes­thetic flow be­tween the in­doors and out, with the idea to con­nect the nat­u­ral world with in­ter­nal spa­ces. Fur­nish­ings and floor plans are pre­dom­i­nantly pared back to their es­sen­tial form with no ex­cess de­tail­ing, al­low­ing the beau­ti­ful de­sign and struc­ture of the pieces them­selves to flour­ish.

Now mid-cen­tury mod­ern fur­ni­ture is largely driven by in­no­va­tive busi­nesses and mass pro­duc­tion.

While orig­i­nal pieces will fetch out­ra­geous prices, there are nu­mer­ous com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture copied de­signs which have great suc­cess with repli­cas.

So why does mid-cen­tury mod­ern con­tinue to re­main at the fore­front of fur­ni­ture and de­sign, and why do re­tail­ers em­brace its clean lines so em­path­i­cally? I went to the most re­li­able source I know, Sotheby Holde­man, ar­guably the world­wide head of 20th cen­tury de­sign and here’s what he said.

“Mid-cen­tury pieces are sim­ply wellde­signed ob­jects, with a time­less look. They sit very well in con­tem­po­rary homes and in­te­ri­ors — they still feel fresh to­day, they still feel mod­ern. A lot of those pieces haven’t been bet­tered. They still stand the test of time.”

Sotheby ar­gues that orig­i­nal pieces will never be bet­tered, and while I most cer­tainly agree, I still won’t be pay­ing $3.9 mil­lion for a Carlo Mollino din­ing table any time soon, as one in­vestor did in 2005.

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