Furniture and Modernism Architecture: What is Mid Century Furniture?

Mies ottoman by Mim Concept

More than ever you hear it, you see it, and you touch it, mid-century modern is everywhere. A prominent design movement that can be found in your favorite homes. But what does it the term mid-century modern mean? It broadly describes architecture, and so much more. So, let me walk you through this, don’t worry I got you.

Why is it called mid-century modern?

Let’s break it down.

“Mid-century” because the design movement started in the 1950s- hence, “mid-century”. The term “modern” came from the infamous architecture movement called Modernism Architecture which is characterized by its emphasis on form over ornament; appreciation of materials and structure instead of idyllic revival constructions; and the adroit, methodical use of space.

Yes, it’s about to get very architecturally academic. 🤓

Are you still with me? You are? Good, let’s simplify the answer to “so… what is modernism architecture?” I promise to try my best and put my six-year architecture education to good use ;)

Architecture history 101

History background: Modernism architecture started roughly early in the 1900s to 1960s. Originating in Europe, architects Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier were the pioneers of the movement. Some architects who also played key roles in this movement were Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Loyd Wright. Their designs shaped our today aesthetic and set foundation for all modern designers.

Defining features: I can go on and on (and on…) about modernism architecture characteristics, yet, modernism architecture is simply defined by these predominant characteristics:

  1. Functionality. As Form follows function
  2. Less is more. Clean minimalist aesthetic. Minimal or no ornamentation
  3. Appreciation and use of modernist materials: industrial steel frames, exposed concrete blocks, ribbon windows, curtain walls and radiant heating systems
  4. Thoughtful relationship between the site and the building where interior space is planned to best compliment the surrounding natural environment.

TD Centre Toronto by Mies Van Der Rohe

Most of us Torontonians are familiar with The TD building. Designed by Mies Van Der Rohe, no single development has shaped and transformed the Toronto skyline quite like it did. TD Center is “Toronto’s quintessential expression of Modernism in International style” wrote William Kilbourn and William Dendy in their 1986 book, Toronto Observed.

Mid-century modern furniture

Womb chair

In the 1950s, adapting modernism architecture characteristics, furniture in this era was designed in straight delicate lines, graceful curves that mimic the human body shape for comfort, beauty of function as well as beauty of forms. Mid-century furniture created new patterns for living after WWII, it was a fresh beginning.

Egg chair

The designs were conceived for the smaller post-war home, they were designed to be mobile and lightweight for city residents who moved frequently. All of that still plays into the way we live today.

Why mid-century modern inspired furniture should be your choice?

Jerry dining table set by Mim Concept

It goes with everything! We can mix that with other pieces of furniture very successfully.

It’s known for the comfort, the accessibility and the scale.

It’s timeless (seriously, the style was born 70 years ago, and it still looks like it is of our time).

And finally, they are good designs, cliché but true, they are.

Anh Ly, Designer Mim Concept

By Anh Ly
Designer of Mim Concept


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