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Who was the leading designer of Mid-Century Modern furniture?

Mies van der Rohe
Charles Eames
Harry Bertoia
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Mid-Century Modern
by
Bradley Quinn

The 1950’s house was a scientific triumph, designed in a laboratory and tested on inhabitants of all ages before being built for the masses. Never had homes been so thoroughly contemporary, with antiques and period styles entirely banished. Mid-Century Modern explores their interior decor—walls, flooring, surfaces, lighting, and, of course, furniture. The book suggests ideas for taking the 1950’s look and mixing and matching it with elements from other eras.
                                   
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Understanding Mid-Century Modern

With its clean lines and eminently cool vibe, mid-century modern decor has been popular for about the last decade. The comfortable and stylish designs fit with today’s more casual lifestyle and open floor plans. In fact, mid-century modern pieces have made their way into the offerings of many mass market furniture retailers.  
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LATEST ARTICLE_______________________________________

What Goes Around Comes Around
by Bob Brooke

 

For those born between 1940 and 1950, as teenagers the era was one of rocking or rolling or both. And as the old saying goes, what goes around, comes around. So the retro "teen" 1950s and 1960s and the grooving ‘70s are in—currently known as retro.

Back then television was king. Dick Clark’s American Bandstand got Philadelphia rolling after school and I Love Lucy kept the family laughing at night. The transition from an innocent era to the psychedelic "turn on, tune in and drop out" world of the 1960s and 1970s reminds many people of the radical changes culturally, socially and politically that rocked American society.

The 1950s were fairly conservative, although change was definitely in the air. Velcro, Tang, transistor radios, frozen pizza, coonskin hats, 3-D movies, chlorophyll, the hula-hoop and Frisbees were new on the scene. Bill Haley, rock 'n' roll and Elvis were in. The jukebox, a must at the ice cream parlor, would play three songs for a quarter. Still through it all our fathers knew best, the whole family ate together and mothers . were expected to be homemakers and dutiful wives. Those women who did have jobs were traditionally secretaries, nurses or teachers, specific professions considered permissible by society.

TV was new-sprung and nifty in the 1950s, a fresh-form of family entertainment. Instead of "watching'' the radio as households did in the 1940s, mom, dad, and the kids were now enchanted with the fuzzy images in a box headed by rabbit ear antenna. By 1957 there were 47 million TV sets in the United States; well over four times the number seven years prior. Variety shows like Milton Berle, Show of Shows, Hit Parade, Arthur Godfrey, Red Skelton, Perry Como and Ed Sullivan were big hits. While families laughed together along with Ozzie and Harriet, Donna Reed, Lucy, Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen, stay-at-home moms planned their afternoon ironing schedules around the soaps. By the late 1950s, game shows and westerns took hold and, there evolved more than one channel to choose from. Families began to watch T.V. incessantly. They even ate in front of the T.V., thus necessitating the invention of the T.V. tray and comfortable casual furniture without frills.

The 1950s were still pretty conventional. But changes were about to take place. Innovations such as Velcro, Tang, frozen foods, transistor radios, Frisbees and the hula-hoop began to appear. Bill Haley and the Comets rocked around the clock while jukeboxes filled every burger joint and ice cream parlor with the sounds of the young.

Conformity dictated fashion. Girls wore cinch belts, Capezios, cardigan sweaters buttoned backwards, horn-rimmed glasses and chiffon formals. Boys sported button-down shirts, white bucks or loafers, and the athletes, a letter sweater. And don’t forget those pink phones, flamingos, and poodle skirts.

Things started to get out of whack in the 1960s. Today, people recall that era through images of drugs, free love, Woodstock and Vietnam protests. But while all this was going on rock ‘n roll was climbing the charts. While Chubby Checker's Twist kept people’s waistlines in check, it was the Beatles who lit their fires. The space race captured everyone’s attention as astronauts walked on the Moon. Barbie and Ken were in their glory. Color TV, Sesame Street, lava lamps, electric knives, Petula Clark, James Bond, Twiggy, and of course, those prevalent colors, avocado and gold, exemplified decor in most homes. Hippiedom, the Corvair and the VW Beetle were components of the era as well. Ah, the age most now refer to as retro.

What exactly does retro mean?
The word "retro" derives from the Latin prefix retro, meaning "backwards" or "in past times" – particularly as seen in the words retrograde, implying a movement toward the past instead of a progress toward the future, and retrospective, referring to a nostalgic (or critical) eye toward the past.

According to the Oxford University Press Dictionary, it means,” imitative of a style from the recent past.” Retro is a culturally outdated or aged style, trend, mode, or fashion, most likely from the 1940s through the 1960s. Whether it’s furniture, accessories, clothing, and collectibles, especially those related to the Golden Age of Hollywood, retro is in.

Furniture and accessories, especially the ubiquitous pole lamp, featured streamlined styling in avocado and gold. By 1957 there were 47 million T.V. sets in America’s homes, four times the number of seven years before.



Ironically, even with all the great collectibles from those three crazy decades, teens and 20- and 30-somethings are seeking out objects and furniture that’s new but reminiscent of times past.

As with all past eras, people tend to focus on certain objects from them and not necessarily look at the whole picture. Today’s TV depicts the 1950s and 1960s as a rollicking good time. It wasn’t. Generally, people tend to forget the curfews, no sales on Sundays, dress and suit-and-tie world that dominated people’s lives.

A whole new generation of people are being exposed to Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, while Elvis and the Beatles seem to be as hot now as they were when they debuted. The likenesses of these superstars can be found on new clothing, handbags, posters and playing cards, just to name a few items.

One of the problems with items related to movie stars or comic characters is generally no one cares about them once the generations who loved them grows old. For example, not many 20-somethings or even 30-somethings are going to know what a Schmoo is, hence they are unlikely to be attracted to memorabilia featuring the Schmoo’s likeness.

Today, the concept of retro lends itself to interior design, furniture, accessories, jewelry and fashions. Unlike vintage which includes items created in the last 40 or 50 years, retro relates more to a specific time period from the 1930s to the 1970s. Today, younger people look to it as a source of chic interior design.

What does it mean to go retro?
While those in their twenties may seek out new items made to look like older ones, those in the know and a bit older are looking to the real thing.

For some, going retro means getting rid of a hodgepodge of furniture and substituting it with the sleek style of Mid-Century Modern. Chrome and formica tables for the kitchen, sleek leather-covered chairs, glass tables, and pole lamps for the living room.

For others, going retro means collecting pop art doodads from the 1950s or avocado kitchen utensils. Still others may want to collect a variety of plastic objects, some utilitarian, like Melmac dinnerware, others just plain fun like shag rugs,

Whatever a person decides to collect, there are plenty of retro objects out there like transistor radios, 78 rpm vinyl records, posters from early rock groups.

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