Mid-century modern is one of the most popular trends in architectural, interior, product and graphic design. Roughly spanning the period between 1933 and 1965, mid-century modern design focuses on improving daily life through making simple things beautiful. With a functional twist, this is what makes mid-century modern design, particularly furniture, so sought-after. The period is recognized as one of the most significant design movements taking into consideration influence of industrial design and Scandinavian design. To get you started with the basics, here are 10 mid-century modern furniture designers you need to know.
Charles (1907-1978) and Bernice “Ray” (1912-1988) were an American husband and wife team who changed furniture design and architecture during the 20th century. They were vital in popularizing new materials and techniques for crafting furniture, such as using molded plywood, fiberglass, plastic resin and wire mesh and are regarded as some of the most iconic designers of the mid-century era. (Image credit: eamesoffice.com)
Finnish American designer Eero Saarinen (1910 - 1961) was famous for his flexible style, which varied from pared-down silhouettes to cold rationalism. Throughout his career, Saarinen remained close friends of the Eames and Florence Knoll, whom he had collaborated with in product design and production over the years. Saarinen's work has accredited him as being one of the great masters of the mid-century.
A leader in Danish Modernism and a pioneer in Organic Functionality, Hans J. Wegner (1914-2007) was a prolific designer known for his craftsmanship and ability to balance aesthetics with functionality and quality. Placing importance on ergonomic design, he fully believed that furniture was art made to comfort the body. Wegner is credited to over 500 designs from the mid-century modern era. (Image credit: danishdesignstore.com)
Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971) was a leader in Danish Modernism and Architectural Functionalism. His holistic forward-thinking approach was at first considered modern beyond comprehension, creating original backlash from the public; however, his work later became regarded as some of the most iconic pieces emerging from the mid-century. Jacobsen remains one of the most celebrated designers of his time.
Warren Platner (1919-2006) was an incredibly successful architect, interior designer and furniture designer. The American Modernist was known primarily for his 1966 chair collection and design work in New York City. Platner also worked with Kevin Roche and famed notary Eero Saarinen, though he was also incredibly successful on his own.
Norman Cherner (1920-1987) was a multidisciplinary designer who explored the Bauhaus movement and became a well-known pioneer of molded plywood and prefab housing during the mid-century. In 1961, Cherner became the subject of great controversy when he sued a manufacturing company who claimed design rights over a chair. Cherner won the suit, and the chair is now of the most iconic chairs of the era.
A pioneer of galvanization in France, Xavier Pauchard (1880-1948) was responsible for changing the face of industrial aesthetics. Pauchard became France’s first manufacturer of galvanized steel domestic products and trademarked the name Tolix in 1926, an iconic product line that included metal tables, chairs, and stools.
Mies van der Rohe
The designer of one of the most prevalent and recognizable mid-century pieces, Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969) and his Barcelona chair have been well loved for decades. The German American visionary was a pioneer of modern architecture as well as furniture, inspiring countless buildings and reproductions during his long career. (Image credit: farnsworthhouse.org)
Italian designer Harry Bertoia's career began in the 1930s as a student at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he re-established the metal-working studio and later became head of the department before the school closed due to wartime restrictions on materials in 1943. During the war, Bertoia moved to California and is credited to developing new techniques for molding plywood with Charles and Ray Eames.
Florence Knoll Bassett (1917-present) is one of the most iconic designers of the mid-century. Her product designs were based on the idea that furniture should be interpreted as architecture by transforming the principles of modern buildings into human-sized items. She also gained acclaim as an interior designer, helping define contemporary corporate style in post-war America.