In 1998 a new design trend, called mid-century, had become very popular: cool creative types were tossing aside their thrift store décor in favor of midcentury modern. Out went the funky votive candles and wrought-iron beds, and in came the clean-lined furniture of Arne Jacobsen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Florence Knoll. The look’s adherents were labeled “Generation Wallpaper,” after the magazine.
For some reason, time stopped.
Nearly two decades later, mid-century modern remains the rage. If anything, it’s even more popular. Flip through a shelter magazine or shop at a mass retailer like CB2 or West Elm, and it’s all variations on a spiky-legged-chair-and-Tulip-table theme. Mid-century is the decorating style that won’t die.
The best of midcentury design is undeniably beautiful and functional. But will we still be living in 1950s-inspired interiors through 2050?
Liz O’Brien: 20th-century decorative arts dealer: “I have three Tulip Tables at home. With a marble top it’s hard to beat. But I use Queen Anne-style chairs. It’s elegant.”
Jill Singer, a founder of the design magazine Sight Unseen: “When this stuff was designed, it was specifically made to be democratic and to be lived with. It makes sense that it has a wide appeal. It’s beautiful materials, classic simple shapes that can seem timeless.”
Jim Brett: president, West Elm: “I just bought vintage Italian Ico Parisi chairs. I also just bought an Italian midcentury curved sofa. I also just got some pieces mixing travertine and brass — all vintage. I went to 1stdibs and had an Italian midcentury buying spree. I’m redoing my apartment.”
Liz O’Brien: 20th-century decorative arts dealer: “It’s such a broad category. I continue to find super-exciting things. I just got a great pair of chairs by John Dickinson. That happens often enough to keep me hooked.”
Fall in love with Mid-century modern and choose your favorite exciting thing!