Can you imagine spending $10,000 for a folding plywood screen? How about $66,000 for a sofa? Or $2,500 for a single pretzel chair? These prices seem outrageous but the designs of Eames, Nelson and Nakashima fetched this and even more. And, now, like all great inventions, these designs have made a return. They are taking their place as the latest obsession in interior and product design, featuring in furniture showrooms, evident in new-old television set design, and attracting many aesthetically aware consumers.
Mid-Century Modern Design Returns
Mid-century modern, the new lexicon in furniture design, is difficult to put into a specific time-frame box. Most agree that the term relates to furniture, architecture and graphics design from the years 1933 to 1965. The phrase “mid-century modern” was popularized by Cara Greenberg’s book, “Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s.” According to Greenberg, she simply made up the term, and it stuck. The book sold more than 100,000 copies and the furniture designs became the darlings of the interior design community.
Opening to the Masses
Furniture that was long since forgotten suddenly became a golden nugget. What you could once buy for bargain basement prices was now becoming priceless thanks to collectors. But everything changed in 1993 when SoHo’s Knoll opened its mid century modern showroom to consumers. Instead of special pricing for certain customers, everyone benefited from an affordable price structure. Many of the pieces from the most famous designers, such as Herman Miller, that had been out of circulation for decades made a reappearance. In 1999, Rob Forbes, a California entrepreneur, launched a direct-mail and digital retail outlet further expanding the reach and sales of mid-century modern design. More than just a sales magazine, each piece included information about the designer bringing Eames, Saarinen and Noguchi into the homes of consumers all over the country.
It’s not a passing trend or a mere hype, mid-century modern design has retained its popularity because it is well made, accurately designed and fits beautifully in today’s modern homes.