Why is Mid-Century Modern Furniture So Damn Popular?

In 2005, I began furnishing my first condo, mid-century modern design was just beginning to capture the popular imagination. Twelve years later, the trend shows no signs of slowing down, and the very designers and tastemakers once responsible for its popularity are baffled. Why hasn’t the furniture-buying public moved on to something else?
Steven Kurutz of The New York Times asks, “Why Won’t Mid-century Design Die?”, almost as if he wished it would. And a new article from Co.Design tells the story of “How Mid-century Modern Became the Pumpkin Spice Latte of Interior Design”.

But I disagree with the assertion in the title—mid-century modern isn’t the pumpkin spice latte of interior design. It’s more like the skinny jeans of interior design: attractive, versatile and with a staying power perplexing to tastemakers and retailers everywhere. I’m reminded of an article I read a few years ago, where clothing retailers bemoaned the continuing popularity of skinny jeans. How were they supposed to make money selling new clothes to women who liked the ones they already had?

The assumption here is that it’s not enough for a design to be good or functional—it also has to be new. The need for newness makes sense if you’re a retailer, that stays in business by convincing people they need new stuff, or a trend predictor, who is always looking for the next Big Thing, or a designer, who probably doesn’t want to do the same design indefinitely. But it doesn’t make as much sense if you’re a consumer, especially one on a budget, buying furniture, which is supposed to last a lifetime (or at least for a good 10 to 20 years).

A simple reason for the continued popularity of MCM (like skinny jeans) is just that, well, people like it. The New York Times dug a little deeper, asking a cadre of designers what, exactly, is so great about mid-century modern furniture.
Responses varied: It’s good for small spaces (which makes sense for an increasingly urban population). It’s easy to find and available at every price point. The shapes are classic. And it goes with everything. Kelsey Campbell-Dologhan, writing for Co.Design, suggested that mid-century furniture has become so ubiquitous as to be synonymous with design itself: “All of this suggests that mid-century design is less a ‘style’ or era of design as it is a byword for ‘design’ itself, as opposed to spaces and products that were not ‘designed’ at all.”

I think there’s something to this: thanks to the popularity of “Mad Men”, the widespread flowering of mid-century design, and the ubiquity and affordability of IKEA, many of whose designs are essentially just a distillation of the style, mid-century modern is starting to look less like a style and more like the style, nearly indistinguishable, as Campbell-Dologhan says, from design itself.

Designers and tastemakers are continually trying to identify what the new mid-century modern might be. While there’s definitely been a move away from all-MCM interiors and towards a more eclectic look that mixes pieces from different eras, I don’t think those designs are ever truly going to be “out”. And I think it’ll be a long time before we see another style that has the ubiquity and staying power of mid-century modern. Things like Biedermeier furniture or Art Deco designs may have their charm, but it would be hard for those styles to be as all-encompassing, versatile, and accessible as mid-century modern has become.

What about you: Have you grown tired of the look? Or do you think mid-century modern is here to stay?

Why mid-century modern is forever – the trend that keeps on ticking…

Design trends come and go, but is mid-century modern forever? The minimalist movement that first swept through U.S. suburbs in the 1940s and ’50s has gone through so many streaks of popularity over the years that it’s beginning to feel like a design staple. The current craze, which has lasted nearly two decades, is so overwhelming that mid-century modern dominates nearly every corner of the retail market, from Craigslist to West Elm to Sotheby’s.
So what’s behind our mid-century modern obsession? And how does a look so rooted in a specific time period evolve to stay current?
For one, the style’s simple and low-to-the-ground silhouettes are a perfect match for the real estate shift away from McMansions and toward smaller urban spaces. People want open floor plans, less stuff and room to breathe. Mark Riddle, an associate at Room & Board on 14th Street NW, says the style also has unusually wide appeal. Transient 20-somethings appreciate the light materials, slender frames and casual attitude, and older shoppers are drawn to its history and nostalgia. Anyone can appreciate its flexibility.

“Mid-century-modern-inspired pieces are versatile, so you can pepper them in without having to rethink the whole room,” he said. “And, especially these days, it’s not a look that needs to be implemented wall to wall, floor to ceiling. It should be mix-and-matched.”

Jessica Sutton, the lead curator for Dot & Bo, an online furniture company based in San Francisco that caters to millennial shoppers, says it took her a while to warm up to the look. She thought the furniture appeared uncomfortable (a common perception) and that the era’s signature colors — avocado greens, burnt umbers, mustard yellows — could make a room look dated or overly styled if they were employed too heavily.

“For years, I could not understand the obsession with mid-century modern,” she said. “Did people really want their homes to look like the set of ‘Mad Men’?”
Eventually, though, she found that she identified with the style’s less-is-more philosophy and began experimenting with accent pieces. As more products with a neutral, nuanced approach to mid-century style hit the market, she began to see the look in a modern context. When she moved to a different apartment earlier this year, she did what most of Dot & Bo’s customers do and opted for a few mid-century-modern-inspired pieces, her own accessories, and a palette of black, white and gray.

“For me, it was all about the silhouettes,” she said, referencing the low credenzas, arching floor lamps and heavy dressers elegantly lifted off the floor on skinny, quirky legs. “If you’re reluctant, go easy on the retro nostalgia. Skip the shag rug. At the end of the day, your home should feel like you.”
Indeed, just a couple of mid-century pieces can powerfully affect a room, so it’s good to start small. Mainstream retailers often use iconic pieces as inspiration, with modifications to fit today’s market for a fraction of the cost of an antique. CB2’s Sidera Chair ($249, cb2.com) is based on Harry Bertoia’s iconic Diamond chair from 1952. The Sabine Sofa ($2,299-$2,499, roomandboard.com), a longtime bestseller, is based on a geometric leather sofa designed by Florence Knoll in 1954.
If you’re not ready to swap out entire furniture pieces, consider lighting. The era was known for space-age sputnik chandeliers and artichoke lights (Dot & Bo sells imitations), but for something tamer, try placing an arching metal floor lamp, such as the Basque Steel and Brushed Nickel Arc Floor Lamp ($270, lampsplus.com), in the living room over a low sofa.

The movement’s guiding principles — that furniture should be simple, informal, functional and fuss-free — are still intact. It also made elegant, smartly designed pieces available to average American families, a major retail shift that really gained momentum in the 1990s.
Thrift stores also can yield exciting results. Along with occasional hidden treasures, many store owners have carpenters on call to whip up custom pieces at a customer’s request. After months of searching for a long wooden credenza for my entryway, a couple of thrift stores offered to make me one similar to some of their current offerings. I finally bought one from House Candy L.A. for $400 with exactly the specifications I wanted.

Even though many major brands use iconic designs as inspiration, it’s not unusual to see outright copies, which are a major source of frustration in an industry that offers little protection for furniture designers. Of course, for consumers, it can be tough to argue against interpretations that cost thousands of dollars less than the real thing.
“It’s important to experiment with budget-friendly stuff while you figure out what you like,” said Henry Johnson, a principal with Johnson Berman Architectural & Interior Design in Baltimore. “If the shoe fits, it can be a lifelong hobby.”

Johnson has spent the past 20 years helping two die-hard collectors find vintage pieces for their 1954 home in Roland Park. It has accent walls painted in burnt orange and bright navy, glass panels to bring the outdoors in (a trademark of 1950s architecture) and furniture from the late modernist architect George Nakashima, who was widely considered a master of mid-century modern woodwork.
Johnson, who has been an architect since 1976, says few styles have mid-century modern’s lasting power. He shuts down the idea that it’s another fad.
“It’s so much bigger than that,” he says. “That’s why it always comes back and it always gets better.”

By Megan Buerger August 17, 2016
Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/why-mid-century-modern-is-forever/2016/08/16/f9b50a92-5e77-11e6-8e45-477372e89d78_story.html?utm_term=.c5e8a2e725c9

5 Reasons to Invest in Mid-Century Modern Furniture

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Mid-Century Modern furniture – that iconic style of the 50s and 60s – is still popular today. The designs, which range from sleek and elegant to curvaceous and funky, have become part of the indoor landscape in homes around the country. The “Mad Men” TV series might have given it a bump on the radar in recent years, but in truth the style never went away. In an L.A. Times op-ed article published in December 2015, writer Daniel Engber expressed the belief that MCM has “grown into a mass religion.” If you’re a convert, too, here are five reasons to invest in Mid-Century Modern.

1. Because of its enduring appeal, it remains a good investment.

“There’s a finite number of vintage Mid-Century Modern pieces,” says Cara Greenberg, whose classic book, Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s, was published in 1984 and helped launch a huge revival of interest that continues to this day. “This furniture is getting rarer, and there will never be a glut on the market.” While knock-offs and reproductions abound, only original pieces that are actually from the mid-20th century are worthwhile investments.
If you’re thinking of jumping in, start by talking to dealers and reading up on the subject. Larry Weinberg, whose New York–based company Weinberg Modern has been dealing in furnishings of the period for 25 years, says the amount of literature on Mid-Century Modern continues to expand. “That’s driving interest in the field,” he says.

2. It not only holds its value, it’s appreciating in value.

“These days, people are buying Mid-Century Modern furniture the same way they’d buy an artwork or a piece of stock,” says Weinberg. “As bigger money enters the field, it’s driving up prices, just as prices in the art market are driven up.”
Invest wisely by making sure you’re buying original pieces. “All the designers had unique designs and put distinctive maker’s marks on their pieces,” says Yuri Yanchyshyn, principal and senior conservator at Period Furniture Conservation. He suggests that interested buyers should begin by consulting books and other literature on the subject to find out exactly what to look for. “Often, a chair will be marked with a label, stamp or number underneath the seat.”
Yanchyshyn cautions against buying from online sellers: “If you can’t see the actual object, it’s hard to judge its condition. Go through a reputable dealer or someone you know.” However, other experts maintain that buyers can trust online marketplaces like 1stdibs.com, where dealers are thoroughly vetted and face bad ratings if they don’t represent their goods accurately. Estate sales are also good hunting grounds: “The original generation of collectors is dying off,” says Yanchyshyn, “so this furniture is showing up at estate sales. If you do your homework and only buy when you know the name of the designer, your purchase will hold up and increase in value.”
Everyone knows the names of the great designers – Eames, Noguchi, Saarinen and Jacobsen are only a few. But their work can be prohibitively expensive today. Try searching out lesser-known names whose pieces might not be priced as high. Weinberg mentions two French designers – Pierre Guariche and Joseph-André Motte – whose work might not fetch such a high premium. Nevertheless, there are no bargains to be had. “Increasingly,” says Weinberg, “you need money to get started.”

3. It was built to last.

Mid-Century Modern furniture was well made with simple materials. As a result, much of it is still in good shape today, and just as functional. “These pieces were never cheap,” says Greenberg, “and they weren’t cheaply made. That only adds to the reason why it’s good investment furniture.” And this is an investment you can live with – even sit on.
Yanchyshyn favors the durable furniture by Scandinavian designers, such as Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl. “The frames are made of wood, generally teak, and extremely well built, with machine-made traditional joinery.”
“You want to buy a piece that’s in as good condition as possible,” he says, “but still with its original features, nothing replaced or repaired. It’s important that the coatings are original – that’s what museums look for when they buy a chair or table.” If the original coating doesn’t look so good, the appearance can be improved by careful conservation techniques. But he warns against sending the piece to a restorer: “They might strip the coating or do other irreversible damage, making the piece worth half what it was before.”

4. It’s easy to live with.

The style works well with contemporary designs and is easily incorporated in most homes. “Mid-Century Modern looks amazingly good anywhere, even in a 19th-century apartment building with mantels and moldings,” says Greenberg. But inexpensive knock-offs from IKEA and Target, or pricier reproductions from West Elm and Design Within Reach, can’t replace the real thing, in terms of the intrinsic value, the patina and the classic design.

5. It will help save the planet.

As Larry Weinberg puts it, “Using vintage furniture rather than buying new is a form of recycling.” And, of course, there’s the undeniable cachet of having the real thing in your home. No reason to limit yourself to collecting mid-century furniture: Keep an eye out for classic lamps, clocks, jewelry, artwork and toys. In particular, Yanchyshyn mentions Jens Quistgaard, whose iconic teak-handled dinnerware was much used in 50s and 60s. Today, the Museum of Modern Art sells handcrafted reproductions, but you can still sometimes find Quistgaard’s original teak pepper mills. If they’re in good condition, they now sell for hundreds of dollars.

The Bottom Line

For serious collectors, the hunt is part of the fun. If you’re interested in buying Mid-Century Modern furniture and other period pieces, start by educating yourself: Read the literature and consult with reputable dealers. Don’t expect any bargains – but if you buy wisely, your investment will likely gain value in the years to come, while you enjoy living with your purchase.

By Barbara Peck | February 3, 2016 — 1:15 PM EST

SOURCE:  http://www.investopedia.com/articles/wealth-management/020316/5-reasons-invest-midcentury-modern-furniture.asp