collage of family photos
Figure 1 Digging through family photographs

Do you have photos that look like this? Do you remember taking those photos or are you featured in them? If you answered yes, you can probably stop reading this right now because you likely lived through our next history of architecture period – Mid-Century Modernism. Everyone else can stick around.

You likely already know more about Mid-Century Modernism than you think. It’s everywhere. HGTV loves to reference it when they’re not gushing about modern farmhouse style.

My mom looks at it and scoffs – “that’s my parent’s house”, “lots of chrome and Formica”, “avocado green and harvest gold”, “pink and gray ceramic tile”, and “premanufactured homes”. And you know what? Mom is spot on – all the items that she rattled off were popular at the time.


Quick History

When: 1945-1969(ish)

Major Designers: Ray Eames, George Nelson, Eero Saarinen

Short Social Synopsis: World War II has come to an end. Society has become flush with cash and an optimistic spirit pushes people to buy new goods – out with the old, in with the new. The space race has begun!

What It Is: Influenced by the International and Bauhaus movements, but leaned into organic forms. Designers were having fun with materials such as wood, metal, glass, vinyl, plywood, plexiglass, and Lucite. Bold patterns and colors were in use. Generally speaking, many people look at Mid-Century design and say, “Oh! Frank Lloyd Wright”.

Common furniture that you might know:

Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen

Eames Lounge Chair by Charles and Ray Eames

Comprehensive Storage Unit by George Nelson


Perhaps one of the easiest ways to understand this style is through movies and television

1. The Jetsons

What other show depicts the pure excitement of the space race and its possibilities?

2. Revolutionary Road

A good depiction of middle-class living.

3. The Incredibles

The entire world is basically this style, but the crème de la crème is the magnificent house they move into in the second film.

4. Mad Men

The sets in this are spot on.

5. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Set mostly in New York City – Midge’s apartment is quintessential Mid-Century. Pink and Gray entrance anyone? This series shows the wealthier side of the style.

6. Supersizers: 50’s

This one is just for fun - how food changed throughout the decade (in the United Kingdom):

Have Questions? Get In Touch.

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