Why is Mid-Century Modern so iconic? The clean lines, organic shapes, and innovative designs simply have a timeless appeal that’s pretty hard to beat. Pieces from the mid-20th century bear a classic but strangely contemporary look, making them versatile and adaptable, even amidst recent trends.
Many popular furniture and decor designs today are clearly influenced by MCM classics. But the surge of these “inspired” creations makes it easy for us to forget the pioneers who launched the movement in the first place. This article is like an homage to the MCM greats, featuring some of the most iconic mid-century modern pieces that are still loved today.
Wegner’s Wishbone Chair
The Wishbone Chair was created in 1949 by Hans Wegner, one of the most important Mid-Century Modern furniture designers. The chair’s sweeping curves and clean lines give it a timeless, elegant, and refined quality. It features a distinctive Y-shaped backrest, which cradles the sitter’s back, providing comfort and support.
This stunning example of clean lines, natural materials, and simple silhouettes makes this piece truly iconic. Aside from the Wishbone Chair, Wegner created several other chairs that are still popular today and remain an inspiration to the true MCM style.
Eames Shell Chair
The Eames Shell Chair is a classic piece designed by Charles and Ray Eames in the 1950s. It was such a success that, to this day, it remains a very popular choice of seating, both for residential and commercial settings.
The shell seats are molded fiberglass or plastic with wood or wire (or both) as the base. The design is innovative, functional, and versatile, with organic and geometric features quintessential to Mid-Century Modern Furniture.
Flos’ Arco Lamp
The Flos Arco Lamp is a stylish floor lamp with a curved stainless steel stem and a large shade. Its design is so minimal and modern that many mistake it for a contemporary piece. However, this minimal and functional lamp was designed by the Castiglioni brothers many decades ago, in 1962.
One of its most distinctive features is the shade that’s suspended on an arched arm. This design allows it to be positioned over a table, sofa, or any other area where you need extra lighting. The lamp’s structure offers plenty of mobility, and its versatile design makes it adaptable to any interior design.
Saarinen's Pedestal Table
The Pedestal Table is an iconic design by architect and industrial designer Eero Saarinen in the mid-1950s. This timeless piece is the epitome of modern elegance with its smooth, minimalist lines and a round top that seemingly floats mid-air. The table is often crafted from marble or wood and stands proudly on a pedestal that is as sturdy as it is stylish.
This table’s simple design fits seamlessly into various interior styles. Meanwhile, the pedestal base allows for more legroom, making it an excellent choice for smaller spaces. It's no wonder that it remains popular to this day.
The Florence Knoll Sofa
The iconic sofa was designed by Florence Knoll, a prominent figure in modernist design and one of the few female designers at the time. The sofa’s clean lines and geometric shapes are quintessentially Mid-Century Modern.
Knoll’s iconic sofa also has a minimalist look that makes it adaptable for various spaces, whether at home or the office. Plus, the exposed metal frame and legs complete the modern-chic appeal. It’s the perfect amalgam of form and function, a piece that can truly transcend time and trend.
Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman were first introduced by Charles and Ray Eames in 1956, and to this day, it remains a popular piece of furniture. The molded plywood shell, leather cushions, and five-star base are so distinctive, not just for their style but also for their comfort.
This iconic pair screams mid-century modern design because it represents the era’s emphasis on clean lines, minimalism, and function over form. It was designed to be a comfortable chair that easily fits into various spaces—the living room, a reading nook, or the office. It was also considered a groundbreaking piece because it features molded plywood, a new technology at the time.
The Sputnik chandelier is widely considered a mid-century modern piece. It was inspired by the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite in 1957. With its unusual spherical shape and long, thin arms extending in all directions, the chandelier was supposed to resemble the satellite’s design.
The chandelier gained popularity as part of the mid-century modern design movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It was admired for its futuristic and geometric form, which looks unusual but still adds a touch of charm and glamour to any room. The iconic Sputnik chandelier remains a choice for those looking to add a retro (but also modern) touch to their home or office.
Jacobsen’s “The Egg”
The Egg Chair is a famous mid-century modern furniture piece designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958. It has a curved, egg-shaped seat with an organic, futuristic design that envelops the sitter, making the experience cozier and more comfortable.
The chair is upholstered in high-quality leather or fabric and supported by a star-shaped swivel base. Its unique shape allows for a high level of privacy while sitting, making it a popular lounge chair.