More than a century after its beginnings it seems the world is still deep in its obsession with the clean lines and avant garde designs of the twentieth century. Mid-century furniture designers were true innovators, who set out to establish a style that would represent the modern times and the needs of the modern consumers. They achieved just that and so much more, with their designs still filling the modern homes of today and being sought out by every design savvy person around. Here’s our guide to the top mid-century furniture designers you need to make sure you know.
CHARLES AND RAY EAMES
The Eames are best known for their ground breaking contributions to architecture, furniture design, industrial design and manufacturing. Early in their careers together, Charles and Ray Eames identified the need for affordable, yet high quality furniture for the average consumer- furniture that could serve a variety of uses. For over 40 years they experimented with ways to meet this challenge, designing flexibility into their compact storage units and collapsible sofas for the home and chairs for virtually everywhere! Their chairs (which are still highly coveted and notoriously copied today) were designed for Herman Miller in four main materials; moulded plywood, fibreglass-reinforced with plastic, bent and welded wire mesh and cast aluminium. The couple’s conceptual backbone for this diverse work was the search for a seat and back form that comfortably support the body, using three dimensionally shaped surfaces or flexible material’s instead of cushioned upholstery. An ethos of functionalism informed all of their furniture designs. “What works is better than what looks good” Ray Eames said. “the looks good can change, but what works, works”
Best known designs: 670 lounge chair, shell group, the aluminium group and the LCW.
Italian manufacturer Stilnovo was an influential part of a wave of post-WWII Italian design companies specialising in innovative yet mass-market lighting. Founded in 1945 by Bruno Gatta, the brand had a very rationalistic approach to pursuing the form follows function principle of design. The brand manufactured under its own name and also found recognition in many of its high profile collaborations with designers such as Gaetano Scolari, Albert Fraser and Ettore Sottsass. The brand is acclaimed for its use of new materials and advanced finishes, which even today still have that highly futuristic feel.
Best known designs: Periscopio floor lamp, Treiedo spotlight, Lucetta table lamp, sputnik globe chandelier.
Edward Wormley began his career as an interior designer for Marshall Fields, however his legacy and true potential was cemented when he was hired by manufacturer Dunbar furniture co to update the brands product line. The resulting furniture was approachable, mainstream and extremely successful. His ability to combine the finest materials with outstanding craftsmanship became the cornerstone of his design work. Wormley is best known for his incorporation of European and Scandinavian detail blended with the best elements of classical, historical design all with the modern leanings of the day.
Best known designs: Shell console, drop arm sofa, the Janus collection, long john coffee table.
Florence Knoll Bassett established herself as one of the most influential American interior planners and designers of the second half of the twentieth century. Knoll is part of a generation of designers who had a democratic and social understanding of design. At a time when resources were scarce, she did more with less and found inventive solutions out of necessity. Her belief in “total design” architecture, manufacturing, interior design, furniture, textiles…meant that she integrated all aspects of spatial planning, furnishing and decorating into one seamless package. Her application of design principles in solving space planning problems were radical departures from the standard practices of the 1950s, but were quickly adopted and remain widely used today. She believed in and designed by the notion that good design “strikes at the root of living requirements and changing habits” Florence knoll changed the worlds conception of interior space with her innovative, art centred and Bauhaus-inspired notions of functional design.
Best known designs: Coffee and side tables, sofas and the table desk and storage systems.
Wegner was a world renowned Danish designer whose modern designs emphasised functionality. He designed more than 500 chairs in his lifetime, many of which became design icons. Wegner's chairs feature a pragmatic craftsman like approach to their design with traditional joinery techniques often mixed with materials such as paperboard, caning and upholstery. Wegner's designs are often described as “iconic” “timeless” and “free from passing trends”. In the dialogue between material and creativity, Wegner surpassed most of his peers and is one of the mid-centuries most notable designers.
Best known designs: Flag halyard chair, wishbone chair, ox chair, pp501 round chair
Born in Brooklyn, NY, furniture designer Harvey Probber invented the first sectional seating design in the 1940s. He's considered to be a pioneer in modular seating, as many of his ideas were later adopted by other designers of the Twentieth century and are still being used in modern design today. Harvey Probber favoured geometric designs and sectional piecing. He is known for his abundant use of exotic woods, highly polished lacquer and hand rubbed finishes with opulent upholstery fabrics featuring widely. “the key to salvation” he once said “was in bits and pieces of plane geometry”
Best known designs: sling back chair, deep tuft sofa, architectural series lounge, Mayan sofa, nuclear series.
Springer began his design career creating small luxury decorative objects mainly covered in fine leathers that often caught the eye of the social and design elite worldwide. Working mainly off European classical forms, Springer developed an irreverent and non-doctrinaire idiom of bold proportion’s, highly exotic finishes, and a sometimes flashy palette that cemented his status in the showier American design world. He is credited with reviving shagreen and celebrated for his work with inlaid wood veneers, metals, faux finishes and granite. His unique attention to detail, as well as his gorgeous sense of scale and proportion are what make his pieces most covetable. His work speaks off confidence and energy of the highest end productions associated with the disco decade.
Best known designs: Monumental goatskin table, glass and Lucite table series, sculptural desk lamps.
Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, the Swiss French architect, designer, painter and urban planner was one of the true pioneers of modern architecture and design. His furniture designs were revolutionary in nature and radically purists in notion with abundant functional logic. His aesthetics and ideations of design are still being assimilated throughout the design and architecture worlds today. Le Corbusier believed furniture should be a tool, albeit beautiful tools for their owners therefore his piece’s place emphasis on comfort and discretion.
Best known designs: LC1-LC19 range including sling chair, chaise lounge, swivel chair, table esprit nouveau
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