10 Jan Urban Culture – What’s the Buzz about Mid-Century?
Another core identity of Urban Culture, aside from it’s primary Rustic Oriental personality, is mid-century modern design, brought over from American consciousness between the late 1940s through to the 1960s. Mid-century design has a vibrant and sophisticated history, having largely evolved from the Bauhaus and Danish modernist movements brought over from Europe into America at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. At the time, everything about American style was about embracing the future. It was the beginning of the Space Age, of the Jetsons and the boom of the postwar economy.
Possessed by an obsession of everything science fiction, the aesthetic taste of the booming middle class naturally changed. Sooner or later, everything from furniture to skyscrapers became swept up in something that today, we call the mid-century movement. In that time, a group of brilliant designers, sculptors and architects became phenomenal icons, paving the way for a re-imaginations of furniture. These names included Herman Miller, Knoll, Eero Saarinen, George Nelson, Charles Eames and Harry Bertoia.
Mid Century Elements
1. Eclecticism & Color
One of the primary features of Mid Century modern design is its absolute eclecticism in form and color. Mid Century designers have demonstrated themselves to be some of the most fearless, unfettered and adventurous designers around. As a result, the sheer breadth and possibility of the design philosophy with regards to form and color is astounding. Patterns, textures, colors and materials of all kinds can be made to conform and identify with the style, with the only consistency being that they are bright and playful, courtesy of the influence of Pop Art so prevalent in the United States around the 1950s. This results in the tremendous diversity, versatility and flexibility of the mid-century design philosophy.
2. Geometric & Organic Minimalism
Another defining feature of mid-century design is its emphasis on geometric and organic minimalism – in other words, clean lines, curves, and smooth surfaces. Contrasted with the excessive, heavily ornamented pieces of the Baroque, Victorian or Colonial past, mid-century design focuses on basic elements, functionality, and simplicity. Urban Culture, thanks to our influence from Zenism, Japanese, and Scandinavian minimalism, idolize simplicity. Mid-century designs emphasize light and airy spaces with plenty of natural lighting, neat proportions and functional shapes. The essence of mid-century design is to achieve a clean, uncluttered atmosphere.
3. Modern Naturalism
Unlike classical rusticism, which emphasizes naturalism in a dressed-down sense, mid-century design emphasizes naturalism dressed-up. Thanks to plenty of influence from Scandinavian minimalism, the usage of natural elements like wood are stressed in the building of mid-century furniture. Expansive panes of glass and sliding glass doors are also an ideal in mid-century design, allowing natural light to flow into rooms from the right angles and reduce the need for artificial lighting that can clutter up a minimalistic design. Glass is also used because of its transparency, allowing more contact with the outside world as distinct from a solid wall. Homes are usually a refuge from the elements, but mid-century designers aimed to integrate their homes with nature, featuring wide-panoramic outdoor views, natural elements inside homes like potted plants, floral designs and prominent outdoor areas.
4. Mid-Century Legs
A key feature of mid-century design in furniture especially is the Scandinavian hairpin, peg or tapered legs, that is, legs that became thinner and thinner, until reaching the thinnest point at the tip. Tapered legs are tremendously characteristic of mid-century furniture. The technique was originally created as a way to visually reduce the impact of that furniture piece on the room it was inhabiting, lifting the majority of the bulk of a sofa, sideboard, cabinet or chair off the ground so that the space was not defined by how little objects there were in the room, but by how much floor space could be revealed by furniture with tapered legs. Today though, although this element of spaciousness is certainly appreciated, the aesthetic quality of the elegant tapered leg is the feature that is appreciated more instead.
5. New and Interesting Materials
The post-war economic surge provided the mid-century designers plenty of new materials to experiment with. Mid-century designers freely combined natural materials with man made ones, and as a result, many of the emerging furniture pieces were really an exploration. Materials like plywood, metal, glass, vinyl, Plexiglass, fiberglass and Lucite were all made and combined in fantastic ways, creating a new age of furniture that was unlike any of the furniture of ages past.
6. Artisan-Driven and Mass-Producible
Accompanying the post-war boom and the usage of new materials, there was an emphasis on furniture not only to be functional and aesthetically pleasing, but acquirable. There was a huge increase in American middle class home owners at the time, and subsequently, an accompanying increase in the desire for furniture. The mid-century furniture that emerged from this period were not only functional and beautiful, but mass-producible too. Furthermore, because of the culture of design of the period, there was an added artisan-value to each furniture piece. Many designers made names for themselves by designing iconic pieces of furniture that has withstood the test of time to this day. Toward the tail end of the mid-century movement, most furniture pieces designed were both functional pieces as well as works of art.
Famous Mid-Century Furniture Pieces
The Eames Lounge Chair
Designed by Charles and Ray Eames for the Herman Miller furniture company in 1956, after literally years of being in development. It was made of plywood, leather and steel, and the lounge chair was so successful as a furniture piece and a work of art that it has become a permanent installation in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The Eames Lounge Chair has since become the epitome of mid-century furniture and the combination of functionality and aesthetic beauty.
The Marshmallow Sofa
Developed toward the tail end of the mid-century movement by George Nelson, the Marshmallow Sofa embodied the combination of mid-century design with the influence of pop art. Presented in a wonderful array of bright colors and a funky, organic, biomorphic shape, the Marshmallow Sofa characterizes the ongoing evolution of mid-century design during that period.
The LC2 & LC3
Part of the earlier movement of mid-century furniture, the LC2 & LC3 (or the Le Corbusier) armchairs were developed by the eclectic Swiss-born French architect, urbanest, writer and designer Charles-Edouard Jeanneret. Jeanneret paved the way for a modernist style to design and the LC2 & LC3 were characteristic of that pioneering philosophy. The credo that motivated Jeanneret was simple: “That a useful object’s composition must be informed clearly and directly by its intended function,” falls in line with Urban Culture’s own design philosophy.
Urban Culture’s Mid-Century Identity
With Urban Culture’s tendency to modernism and Scandinavian minimalism, as well as our design philosophy towards naturalism, it should be natural that we adopt a mid-century identity. A large amount of Urban Culture’s products and even sofas carry mid-century features: interesting forms of alternative lighting, wall or floor mirrors that are as much functional mirrors as works of art, delightful chairs of all kinds and accent cabinets in particular. If you’re planning to adopt this sophisticated and wonderful style of interior design for your own home, look no further than Urban Culture.
Visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/urbanculturefurniture to find out more!