Eames, Knoll, Bertoia, Saarinen, such names defined the lines of what we now call “Mid-Century Modern.” The start and end of Mid-Century Modern are debated, but the architecture, graphic design, furniture, and interior design of the 1950s rules.
The styles gave way to other influences by the 1970s, but the vintage lines and designs have been a strong influence over the last 10-plus years. Authentic vintage pieces are priced high when they are found.
What’s the attraction?
Some mid-century pieces have become iconic. There is a lightness in architecture, an enduring design, and an elegance in simplicity to mid-century furniture and accessories that have become classic.
Baby Boomers like the elements because they grew up when these shapes were original. Millennials like them because they are simple and functional. And, those just coming of age prefer contemporary collections of selected, eclectic, quality items from different eras.
Furnishings combined natural materials with plastics, resins, laminates, and fiberglass applications pioneered in WWII. Furniture designers favored quirky geometric and curvilinear shapes, impossibly shaped in days before the new materials. Plexiglass, chrome, and wood veneer became popular resources.
Fabrics turned to rayon, synthetics, and faux leathers. Colors were earthy, warm, and natural hues like burnt umber, olive green, and sapphire blue.
Clean, sculptured lines mark Mid-Century Modern architecture like Eero Saarinen’s St. Louis Arch or Phillip Johnson’s Glass House. But, those lines also dominate furniture and lighting fixtures.
Today’s designers prefer to start with a minimalist approach that allows them to add, mix, and restore large and small pieces to discover the right contemporary dynamic. That means the large pieces like couches, tables, and chairs require some sense of lightness and airiness. It also means that designers have a wider choice of accessories and accents to revisit or revise the Mid-Century Modern idea.
The emphasis favors simple geometric designs, neutral soft colors, and form over extravagant detail. Well-chosen Mid-Century light fixtures will dominate your plan and embolden your taste.
Lighting fixtures with a mid-century vibe
The Rhome fixture spreads its arms across 44-inches to end in bulbous crystal shapes. Its all function and form. A bold statement, it has memories of industrial origins in its retro glass and angular metals. It floats; it reaches; it diffuses light across your canvas.
Hung in the room shown here, Rhome is very much at home with the period chair, the low tables, and natural woods. It belongs there with the horizontal lines and various accent pieces. It makes an attention-grabbing statement without overpowering the combination of touches.
Ursa does something similar. A chandelier in black matte, black pearl chrome, and white acrylic, it hovers across 51.25-inches. Its eight branches lead to extraterrestrial triangles of illumination. Ursa is less industrial than the Rhome, but it recalls mid-century office design. It might have lit a secretaries’ pool or office lobby in Mad Men. The totally abstract impression is somehow familiar with its geometric angles softened with the rounded triangle corners. In the room featured here, Ursa hangs at just the right position in this tall room. The large windows, natural stone, geometric fabric patterns, and light lines of the table and accessories, these all echo the retro appeal of Mid-Century Modern iconography.

These light fixtures have similarities. Their effect lies in their stretch, industrial engineering, and light use of metals. They both have arms ending in lighting effects. And, both will command attention. But, they also, each in their own way, recall Mid-Century Modern classic motifs. They are retro redefined, attractive and magical in their design, attraction, and effect.

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