Mid-Century Modern: The Global Edition

Mid-Century Modern: The Global Edition

Discover four different expressions of Mid-Century Modernism aimed to create simplified well-made objects for a new industrial culture.
Discover four different expressions of Mid-Century Modernism aimed to create simplified well-made objects for a new industrial culture.

While Mid-Century Modern furniture and décor continue to populate most homes, the nuances within this movement are lesser known but incredibly rich on their own.

The early generation of Modern designers challenged the aesthetic of the evolving technical world. Many of these leaders changed design on a global scale and, for some, their specific visual language took firm hold on the local vernacular. For example, many United States’ Mid-Century designers elaborated on Frank Lloyd Wright’s design principles. In Europe, we see an homage and adaptation of the styles of Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Alvar Aalto throughout the 20th century. The admiration and acclaim for early Modernist fundamentals pushed the Mid-Century designers to consider their own insights of the expanding Post-War public.

With the interconnectedness of the global community today, the theory that propelled Mid-Century Modernism remains true: Deliberately designed objects anchor our experiences in an increasingly complex world.

American Mid-Century design interprets industrialism as a means to build a better future

International Silver Co., Alphonse La Paglia American Mid-Century Modern Silver Bowl

American Mid-Century Silver: Sleek and Enthusiastic

American Mid-Century silver stems out of the early draw to the Machine Age. Initially, the American aesthetic glorified sleek streamlined and reflective surfaces. Gradually, this gave way to more personalized and organic forms. Artists that emigrated to the United States during World War I and World War II introduced more international approaches to design, which were immediately adapted by enthusiastic young designers. The melting pot of new ideas, coupled with the consumer boom throughout the 1950s, shepherded brave and inventive forms.

The International Silver Company of Meriden, Connecticut, adapts the United States’ taste for the Machine Age and couples it with the international appreciation for Scandinavian Modern objects. Makers like Georg Jensen had become world-renowned for their cosmopolitan hollowware. International Silver pays tribute to Scandinavian Modern with the subtle flared rim and bowl, but adds a twist with the knuckles of the stem emulating gears of American progress.

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Mexican Modern considers lushness, exuberance and cheerfulness in the home

Attributed to Frank Kyle Mexican Modern Mahogany Four-Door Credenza

Mexican Modern: Inventive and Sculptural

The 1940 Museum of Modern Art exhibition “Organic Design in Home Furnishings” highlighted designers utilizing practical engineering for furniture pieces, which deeply influenced the market and contemporary designers of the day. The American emphasis on furniture manufacturing prioritized rethinking material and creating inventive techniques for decluttering spaces. Celebrated Mexican Modern designers like Arturo Pani, Pepe Mendoza and Frank Kyle created domestic objects that were both novel and sculptural in form. Frank Kyle, like his contemporaries, focused on the depth of his materials and imbued forms with subtle sophistication.

The design for this Mexican Modern four-door credenza welcomes the crossover visual language between Europe and the Americas. The sculptural stylized base and legs echo many of the Italian Surrealists as well as American Midwest Modern styles. In addition, the rounded corners of the body place this work firmly in the global aesthetic of the era. Kyle creates unexpected intrigue with the organic mirrored wood grain juxtaposed with peeking bronze pulls.

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Italian Mid-Century lighting provides some of the preliminary design language that we see take hold in the Space Age

Mid-Century Modern Sculptural Five-Light Chandelier

Italian Lighting: Surreal and Imaginative

The Italian Mid-Century fascination with the Surreal, the Modern and the imagination positioned their lighting fixtures as objects of intrigue. Wartime technology had a far-reaching impact on the Italian designers. The availability of new materials increased the possibilities for manufacture. In addition, the popularity of Italian designers was widespread, calling attention to those such as Piero Fornasetti, Gio Ponti and the Castiglioni brothers. The bold shapes and colors found their way into interior home design.

This design for a chandelier has five dramatic bent arms terminating in cone-like light placements. These beginning explorations would eventually propel Italian Mid-Century design to focus on the Atomic Age, making them leaders of the avant-garde vocabulary of a new era.

The functional organic design of Scandinavian Mid-Century makers dominated the international scene

Hans J. Wegner, Johannes Andersen Round Chair

Scandinavian Furniture: Organic and Proportional

The Scandinavian furniture aesthetic of Sweden, Denmark and Finland characterized much of the Mid-Century interior design triumphs. Imbued in Scandinavian design was an optimism to generate a new beginning and to revitalize social cultures. Designers favored simple, well-made curvilinear shapes that expressed natural organic forms. Abstracted furniture in plain woods and materials without an excess of ornamentation remain fashionable to this day. Another innovation of Scandinavian furniture that made its presence truly felt was its ability to be shipped all over the world. Many exports could be flat-packed and received all over the globe, and consequently generated significant appreciation. Arne Jacobsen, Verner Panton, Finn Juhl and countless others have made their mark upon the era. One of the most notable and untenable voices of Scandinavian Modernism was the Danish designer Hans Wegner.

Wegner’s Classic Chair, sometimes called the Round Chair, was originally designed in 1949. This monumental design was originally considered at variance with the opinions of the day. The chair was constructed almost entirely by hand, as opposed to the emphasis on machine manufacture from many of his counterparts. The attention to the scale of this piece was created through close examination of human proportions. The visual simplicity of the form is further enforced with the caned seat for comfort and refinement. Scandinavian furniture thrived throughout the 1950s and acted as the world leader of the style. Eventually, by the end of the decade, exchange between the Scandinavian and American designers became a crossover relationship that thrived even to this day.

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