Remember in 1999 when the Michael Graves appliance line launched at Target? His simple, organically shaped teakettles and toasters were all the rage that year.
The line not only solidified Target as a destination for home décor shopping, it played a role in the resurgence of mid-century modern design. In the years since, the style has grown from a small niche fan base to a full-blown design movement that’s super hot right now.
But what is mid-century modern design? Where did it originate and why is it so popular today?
The term itself is most-often attributed to author Cara Greenberg and her book, Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950’s, but the style spans architecture, design, and furniture between roughly 1933 and the mid-1960s. (Some prefer to shorten that span to 1947-1957.)
The “modern” half of the term, however, actually comes from an even earlier era. Modernism has its roots in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. A group of artists and writers—Matisse, Picasso, and T.S. Eliot to name a few—began eschewing the dark, busy, ornate furniture and art popular at the time for cleaner lines and simpler shapes.
The modernist ideal truly took off in the post World War II economic boom and shift toward suburbanization. The Golden Age of home and family living focused on both form and function. Spaces were designed for optimal flow and for easy transition between indoor and outdoor spaces. Furniture was visually simple and easier to move. Textiles and art turned toward basic geometric shapes and patterns. Mid-century modern style was born.
Today, the movement has seen such a strong resurgence for a number of reasons. Vintage styles are always intriguing and this one offers a sense of familiarity to baby boomers who grew up in the original era. As millennial home living trends move towards urbanization and smaller dwellings, this type of design is clean, airy, and less cluttered, yet still elegant and visually interesting. The well-designed furniture offers superior functionality while occupying minimal space.
In a world inundated with new technologies and a multitude of outside influences, it’s no surprise that people are looking to come home to something both beautiful and simple.
Written by Jessica Muncrief