What's Mid Century Modern?
Mid-century Modern is broadly described as a movement within architecture, furniture, and graphic design from the middle of the 20th century (roughly 1933 to 1965). It seems to be all the rage in these days, with millennials aggressively entering the housing market, and collectors and enthusiasts searching for vintage bar carts that resemble those in Mad Men. eBay auctions of vintage lamps, retro hardware, and furniture are priced at a 40% premium if listed with a 'mid-century modern' or 'atomic' label.
How Mid Century Modern Interior Designers Made an Impact in Hollywood
Remember Cameron's house from Ferris Bueller's Day Off? That was set at a mid-century modern home where all of us learned that you can't drive a Ferrari in reverse to remove unwanted mileage - whoops ;) Even in the 80's we knew it was cool, but we never knew why - it was just Cam's house with lots of glass.
Mad Men spurred growth and popularity around cocktails, slicked hair, and 3-piece suits. The set designers carefully chose mid-century modern designed furnishings and details to bring back some of the great things from that period... especially the three-martini lunch ;)
The movie Her, set in the future, also showcases mid-century modern (MCM) design utilizing iconic lighting such as the Nelson bubble lamp, floor to ceiling windows, and vintage MCM sofas and tables. Wood paneling and built-ins also rounded out the room.
In 50 Shades of Grey, we can also notice the glamorous interiors of a millionaire.
What Should I Look for in a Mid Century Modern Designer?
Consider a designer that can determine:
- The design basis: The bones of the home - was it mid-century modern, or just built in the mid-century? Decorating home in mid-century style is one thing, restoring a home to it's former glory to today's standards with a holistic design mindset, is another.
- What was original versus what was added on during the trends of the 70's, 80's, 90's? These days, new homeowners can easily lose track of finish materials as they've been replaced over multiple ownership and remodels.
- What is worth restoring versus replacing? Should those appliances, cabinets, walls, and floors just go - or will some of these materials look and function well for a modern family?
- The difference between mid-century modern versus mid-century modern-inspired versus modern.
- When it's worth buying the original designer pieces versus a replica.
- The finishing details - how are the baseboards and door jams finished? Are the trim pieces painted appropriately? These are the details that reveal much about how much care and thought was put into a restoration or remodel.
Mid Century Modern Furniture Designers - Understanding Designers from the Era
One of the classic MCM pieces of this time was the Saarinen Tulip Table
You'll find plenty of knockoffs of this piece, but a good mid-century modern interior designer can spot the roots of the design inspiration. Most of the modern pieces you'll see at major retailers are spin-offs of original works. This particular table was designed by Eero Saarinen - the designer of the Womb chair and Pedestal Armchair, all produced by Knoll. A couple of the key details missing on replicas would be the absence of one-piece aluminum molded base, and a marble top.
Remodeling a Mid Century Modern Home Tells a Story
Homeownership of a mid-century modern home can seemingly take a lot of responsibility. You owe it to the fans and admirers out there to make it your own, while enjoying the elements that made it exciting. It's analogous to vintage cars and their associated values after a restoration - no one wants to see a body kit bolted onto a classic car that could be worth a lot more, had it never been touched.
Almost every part of a home may require research before a renovation, so take your time and welcome the expertise of a designer well-versed with the era of Mid Century Modern.
Destination Eichler is a Walnut Creek-based interior design firm offering design services, from furniture and accessory selection and color consultation, to design concept creation (2D/3D renderings) and full home renovation/restoration consultation services.