Mid-Century Modern style, which took the machined, precise angles of modernism and tempered it with curves, colors, and natural materials starting in the 1940s and 50s, continues to charm us. The designs were meant for everyone, not just an elite group of design connoisseurs -- even Barbie had a groovy midcentury house. Today, iconic furnishings like the bent-plywood Eames recliner, George Nelson ball clock, and sculptural Noguchi coffee table represent the ingenuity and playfulness of the time. For a broad selection of classics from that era, check out Design Within Reach, Hive, and Chairish (a marketplace for vintage furniture).
If you love the look, but want a fresh take instead of a replica, consider the three companies described below. Inspired by the past, they’ve brought that spirit into their contemporary designs. The Montreal-based lighting company Lambert et Fils
, which launched in 2010, offers its own take on classic midcentury fixtures. Founder Samuel Lambert started out by refurbishing vintage lamps before branching out into custom designs and cites Bauhaus and modernism as his guiding lights. The Grue Floor lamp ($960), with brass stand and black powder-coated aluminum shade, is reminiscent of
Greta Magnusson-Grossman’s delightful 1948 Grasshopper floor lamp. The Atomium chandelier (starting at
$1,115) and shown here in a bedroom, is available in retro brass or a more contemporary graphite finish.
Just in time for ICFF (New York’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair) is a new collection called Laurent,
which combines globe lights with Art Deco curves. The pendant shown (price not yet set) has a black powder-coated aluminum frame.
L.A.-based MASH Studios
has built a thriving business supplying companies such as Yelp and Airbnb with office furniture that doesn’t look corporate. Often made of wood, the pieces are highly functional while appearing simple: the hallmark of modernism. Bernard Brucha launched the company in 2002 with furniture for the home, and continues to offer a residential line. The LAX 3X Shelf ($788), with sliding aluminum panels,
was Brucha’s first product. The contemporary look of floating cabinets and shelving was popularized by Danish designers such as Poul Cadovius, who developed the wall-mounted Royal System in 1948. Part of the
LAX series, the Floating Shelf ($300) includes a thoughtful felt-lined compartment for keys and iphone. It’s made out of solid walnut for durability, as is true for the other pieces in the collection. The LAX wall-mounted desk ($720) shown at the top of this post, provides a streamlined workspace and has cubbies in lieu of traditional drawers.
While Fireclay Tile
got its start making traditional cuerda seca (or "dry cord" technique) tiles, the San Francisco company, founded by Paul Burns in 1986, has since transitioned to offer a wide range of modern tile shapes and designs. Manufactured in California, the tile is produced using recycled materials and
sustainable processes. This installation of Chaine Homme tile (pictured here in Turquoise, Rainy Day and White Wash; $50/square foot) combines a brighter color with neutrals. These strong geometric patterns are a
throwback to midcentury-modern wallpaper designs. The hand-painted Sakura River Rock tile ($40/piece) features a jazzy pattern in soft green hues. The hand-painted Contemporary collection represents a more
minimalist esthetic. Shown here is the Contemporary Isosceles tile ($40/piece).
If Mid-Century Modern style speaks to you in terms of house design, you can also browse Houseplans' collection of Modern House Plans
; there's even a group of designs by architect Gregory La Vardera
that were inspired by iconic 1950s architectures, such as the 1949 Charles and Ray Eames house in Santa Monica, a source for Plan 431-5
, above, and tract houses of the 1950s by Joseph Eichler,
which helped inspire La Vardera's courtyard Plan 431-11
, shown here.