Unpopular Opinions: Mid-Century Overload


People: we’re all for clean lines, bare floors, bright windows, and cantilevers. In fact, maybe it’s a little silly to complain about the ubiquity of good taste. However, it’s doubtful that even Charles and Ray Eames (pronounced eeeemz or āmz, depending on who you ask) would approve of the mid-century fixation occurring across the blogosphere. After all, the fiberglass shell chair, upon its creation in 1948, was remarkable not just for its function, but for its revolutionary form. So isn’t it time we stopped aspiring to the following equation for a hip home?

Clockwise from top left: Eames shell chairs + Saarinen table, assorted sizes + Mies “Barcelona” OR Arne Jacobsen “Egg” armchair + variation of George Nelson desk/shelving + Noguchi paper lamp

Yes, all these pieces are lovely, both individually and together, but we’ve seen enough riffs on the formula to suggest that Design Within Reach has started a secret “Rooms to Go” program. Granted, a lot of these pieces — according to proud owners — have been picked up off the street or scouted from thrift shops. It begs the question, however, as to why lesser-known, off-brand, but equally attractive mid-century furniture isn’t as popular in today’s decorating schemes. Retail outlets high (UK’s Fears and Kahn and 1st Dibs.com) and low (Craigslist, Ebay, Housing Works thrift shops) are chock full of goodies with sexy lines and sturdy construction.

The point is this. Pieces like the Emeco Navy chair, a light, welded aluminum side chair* that you’ve seen knocked off everywhere from CB2 to McDonald’s, should not be everywhere as well as a collector’s item valued at a retail price of $415 each. Ditto the Tulip table, Plycraft lounger, or Bertoia chair. Get crafty, get cheap, and get creative, but don’t follow the herd just because it has a 60-year-old name brand attached.

*Disclaimer: The author is a proud owner of two of these babies and found them on Craigslist. They are indestructible.