14 Iconic Mid Century Modern Pieces
The mid-century modern era started in the 1930s when people wanted to purchase attractive furniture at modest prices. Ironically, due to the furniture's popularity and timeless design, they are hardly affordable in this day and age, but still in demand. Its more than likely that you encounter multiple mid-century modern pieces on the daily without even realizing it!
As we revel in this resurgence of mid-century modern and loose ourselves in the simple silhouettes, minimal hardware, and pared-down color palettes, we must remind ourselves to not overlook the trailblazers who started the movement in the first place. Read on for 14 of the most iconic mid-century modern pieces and their designers.
1. Womb Chair
by Eero Saarinen (1946)
The Womb Chair was designed by Eero Saarinen, one of the mid-century modern design pioneers. Saarinen is famous for his Womb Chair, also known as Model No. 70. The Womb Chair was inspired by one of his bosses and design icon, Florence Knoll, who challenged Saarinen to create a chair that “she could curl up in”.
Its name expresses its purpose: "It was designed on the theory that a great number of people have never really felt comfortable and secure since they left the womb. The chair is an attempt to rectify this maladjustment in our civilization." Saarinen further explained, "There seemed to be a need for a large and really comfortable chair to take the place of the old overstuffed chair. . . . Today, more than ever before, we need to relax."
One of my closest friends has a gorgeous mustard yellow womb chair. I can, without a doubt, attest to this chair being one of the most comfortable chairs you will ever have the pleasure of experiencing. I have witnessed first hand how difficult it is to get out of this chair due to its level comfort.
2. Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman
by Charles and Ray Eames (1956)
Ray and Charles Eames wanted their Lounge Chair and Ottoman to have the “warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt.” Often referred to as a twentieth-century interpretation of the nineteenth-century English club chair, this seating instantly became a symbol of comfort.
It is one of the most significant designs of the 20th century. Unparalleled craftsmanship and attention to detail made it a fixture in homes across the world. Whether you are a lover of design or not, its hard not to find this lounge chair aesthetically pleasing and visually intriguing.
3. Wassily Chair
by Marcel Breuer (1925)
Some designs never age, and the Wassily Chair by Knoll is the perfect case study in this brand of timelessness. Breuer claimed to have drawn inspiration from the tubular-steel handlebars after purchasing his first bicycle. He reasoned that if the material could be bent into handlebars, it could be bent into forms for furniture.
The canvas seat, back, and arms seem to float in space; the body of the sitter does not touch the steel framework. Breuer spoke of the chair as his “most extreme work . . . the least artistic, the most logical, the least ‘cozy’ and the most mechanical.” This chair is not the most comfortable but it is a work of art and that can be appreciated in itself. If you sat in, you'll quickly want to get up and realize it's better off being appreciated from afar.
4. Arco Floor Lamp
by Flos (1962)
The Arco floor lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni is a design icon that has been in constant production since its debut in 1962 and is now considered a design classic. The famed Castiglioni brothers spared no detail when they created it, from the beveled corners of its genuine Carrera marble base (designed not to hurt should you brush against them) to the strategic hole that allows for easy lifting of the base.
The Castiglioni brothers drew their inspiration for the Arco lamp from something they saw every day: a streetlight. Using commercially available parts, they set out to design a piece that was technically innovative and visually appealing—a lamp that was functional but wouldn’t need to be stepped around. They finished it with a marble base, knowing that the same weight would take up less space, allowing the Arco to live in—not take over—the room it illuminated.
The strategic hole in base's design doesn't help much because the marble base is actually extremely heavy. I only know this because my close friend (the same one with the womb chair) was moving to a new apartment, and neither one of us could lift it without risking a back injury.