Midcentury modern design style reappeared on our radar screens more than a decade ago, but the wildly popular show Mad Men has pushed it even farther into the limelight. Just as the name implies, it spanned a period of roughly two and a half decades in the middle of the 20th century, from the mid-1940s to 1970. Its uncomplicated, fresh aesthetic arose from a desire to propel postwar America into the modern era and recast design through a bold new lens.
The popularity of midcentury modern design today has roots at the time of Greenberg’s book. Most of the designs of the midcentury had gone out of fashion by the late 60s, but in the early- to mid-eighties, interest in the period began to return. Within a decade, vintage midcentury designs were increasingly popular, and several events helped to boost midcentury modern’s appeal from a niche group of design enthusiasts into the mainstream.
Why does midcentury modern continue to be popular, and why have contemporary retailers and manufacturers embraced its clean-lined look so emphatically?
Midcentury modern’s emphasis on pared-down forms, contemporary patterns, natural materials and a seamless flow between indoors and out create a medley of functional comfort and chic style. The look bridges the organic and the man-made, with one foot in the natural world and the other in brave new territory that still has the power to surprise us today.
t may sound quaint now, but back in the ’50s, the idea of indoor-outdoor living was revolutionary for the average American. Midcentury modern homes took advantage of the new passion for bringing the indoors out and vice versa: wide windows, sliding doors, patios. The idea was to create a connection with the natural world that worked equally well with a book in your lap during a quiet moment or a cocktail in your hand at a party.
Midcentury interiors are all about organic style and ease of living, and that’s reflected in their structure and trappings. Furnishings and floor plans are stripped down to their essential forms, with no excess detailing or unnecessary flourishes.
You miss your childhood home’s conversation pit. You’re impatient with people who take forever to get to the point. The old masters make you yawn — for you, it’s modern art all the way. You watch Pulp Fiction just to hear that Dick Dale–heavy soundtrack. You schedule Sunday nights around — what else? — Mad Men.
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