Although the expression Mid-Century Modern was not devised until 1984 (by author Cara Greenberg) the movement emerged after the end of the second world war. There was a rise in demand for property and housing as soldiers arrived back home in the US, resulting in the expansion of cities and a large growth in the suburbs. Out of this expansion in home ownership came the arrival of Mid-Century Modern, a fresh and simplistic style characterized by the notion of functionality and the needs of the average family. For the first time, America had a generation of young people with a disposable income, not required to enter the national service and instead could focus on the pleasurable, relaxed manner of domestic life. This was reflected in the architecture and interiors that were born out of this era, with a booming post war economy, design was attainable yet exquisitely created.
Mid Century Modern was illustrated by three simple features: Clean lines, multipurpose design and an integration with the outdoors. One of the main elements of architecture during this design period was low level structures, only one or two stories, flat roofs and sleek angular lines. Architects such as Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe used new technologies and materials to design beautifully formed and practical buildings. There was an orderly, minimalist aesthetic to the exterior and interior, a straightforward simplicity that embraced new resources, such as plexiglass, metals, vinyl and plywood. Designers welcomed these materials and cleverly combined them with traditional forms to initiate a juxtaposition of sleek style combined with organic shapes.
One of the great architectural changes involved the removal of thick supporting walls and the introduction of slender posts, glass walls and exposed beams. Windows were plentiful and sliding glass doors allowed a connection to nature, combined with the uncluttered, open plan interiors there was a feeling of bringing the outside indoors. Furnishings were comfortable and there was a lack of formality and convention to the overall expression.
Frey was one of the most crucial architects during this era of a new modern style, specifically designing flat roof panes, sleek lines and minimal ornamentation in the home. With the expansion of cities and American suburbs after the war, Palm Springs saw the desert population more than double, and Frey was one of the key architects in this city. His work was called “desert modernism” and his particular style of low level, easy and bright architecture became infamous within Palm Springs. City Hall is a skilful example of his modern architecture, with a large flat canopy featuring graphic writing leading into the entrance and palm trees growing through the centre, symbolic of the connection with the outdoors in mid-century modern design. Frey used innovative materials and colour palettes, corrugated metal and muted turquoise colouring which communicate the carefree, joyful design ethos of the time period.
Girard’s work was energetic, cheerful and demonstrative of the mid-century modern movement. His daring graphic prints and lively colour palette matched perfectly with the charm and ease of design at the time. Girard had connections with artist such as Andy Warhol, Henry Miller and Charles & Ray Eames, and between 1952 – 1973 he was the director of the fabric division at Herman Miller’ design firm. He was inspired by Latin- American folk art and produced printed wallpaper and furniture with pops of colour and naturalistic and geometric shapes. The memorable Time and Life Building in New York is a brilliant model of his modern design and attention to detail, as he crafted majority of the details within, from the furnishings to the ashtrays, match boxes and menu covers.
An American industrial designer, Nelson fashioned mid-century modern furnishings such as the Platform Bench, which is still profoundly included within interiors today. His designs where fixated on rectilinear lines and an architectural organization that was inspired by his design background. Nelson’s furniture was mass-produced, made to last and affordable for everyone, suiting the mid-century modern attitude that good design should be available for everyone.
CHARLES & RAY EAMES
Iconic mid-century modern pieces that characterize the design movement, especially items such as their Wire chairs, the Lounge Chair and Ottoman that are still reproduced into the 21stcentury. They used up to date materials, such as wire and plastic resin, to make organically formed, comfy and ingeniously designed pieces. Functional yet visually stunning, a piece of art within your own home.