15 Of The Best Mid-Century Modern Designers

The mid-century modern design emerged during the mid to late 1950s, and since then, various designers have popped up that have added their touch to the style and have served as inspiration for others.

Some designers have been pivotal in the movement, while others have merely added some fresh ideas and perspectives. However, all of them have further developed the mid-century modern design style.

A number of furniture designers and those who shaped this style created pieces that were out of this world, futuristic, abstract, and sculptural. New materials were used, and designers started pushing the boundaries when it came to their work.

It was a blend of modern design and comfort.

The Mid-Century Modern Designers And Styles Impact

Various designers became the masters of the movement and had a major impact on decor and design from the mid-20th century until today. The style is functional, simple, clean, and even a bit nostalgic.

The mid-century modern style encompasses industrial design and modernist architecture, furniture, and interior design.

The style was heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and his principles of simplicity, nature, and organic form, combined with elements from the industrial movements, the Bauhaus aesthetic, and the industrial advancements in construction and materials.

The style wanted to fulfil the needs of your average household, and form and function were equally as important. The mid-century style had an American and a Scandinavian style.

The Scandinavian side paired Modernism clean lines with traditional and softer properties resulting in a very comfortable aesthetic.

The Designers

1. Frank Lloyd Wright

The father of American modernist architecture. Wright believed that form and function were equally as important and that they should be balanced.

He also loved wood and curved lines, and the use of these in his work showed his distaste for the impersonal and rigid design of German Bauhaus. He believed that design should connect humans and nature.

Many of his designs blended in with their landscapes and impacted various other Mid-century modern designers.

2. Eames, the Dynamic Duo

Ray Eames and Charles Eames were a married couple based in California. Without mentioning these two, you cannot speak about Mid-century modern art and design. They strongly incorporated the experimental nature of the style into their work.

They worked a lot with plastic, plywood, and fiberglass, and they aimed to design and create a chair that was made from a single-form shell. They achieved this goal and mass-produced modern but practical chairs.

Between 1948 and 1950, they produced the Rocking Armchair Rod chair, the chair was made with interchangeable wood and metal leg systems, and they had versions with a dining shell in order to make the chair adaptable so it could fit in different spaces.

Other than making incredible furniture designs, they also produced art, homes, and films.

3. Eileen Gray

Gray was first known in the art-deco world, but eventually, she played a pivotal role in mid-century modern design due to her tables, chairs, and striking lighting fixtures. She was born in Ireland and moved to Paris in the early 1900s.

She worked as a designer and architect. Unfortunately, her work and significance did start to fade until much of her furniture was reissued during the 1980s. However, her influence on the midcentury modern style remains.

Some of her work can be seen in the Museum of Modern Art, like her extendable table from the 1930s. And various other designers and institutes also carry some of her work.

4. Finn Juhl

Juhl is one of the most influential designers, especially when it came to Scandinavian mid-century modern furniture designers. He is known for his beautiful sculptural forms and was heavily inspired by African sculpture and abstract paintings.

He also influenced various other designers in the movement. His signature piece, the Chieftain chair, is still around today and compliments almost any room.

5. Marta Maas Fjatterstorm

Martha was a very well-known rug creator from Sweden. All of her designs included bold colors and clean lines and were influenced by tribal aesthetics. Her rugs were perfectly combined with mid-century modern design furniture pieces.

Her Scandinavian rugs embodied the spirit of expressionism and abstract impressionism.

6. Gio Ponti

Gio Ponti was originally from Milan and left his mark as a furniture designer, publisher, architect, writer, teacher, and more. He taught at the Polytechnic University of Milan from 1936 to 1961, where he trained a whole new generation of ambitious creators.

He taught everything from decor to interior design. He experimented a lot, and this resulted in his Superleggera chair in 1957. The chair dates back to the 19th century. However, it is still used today for weddings and other fancy events.

Ponti founded a design and architecture magazine called Domus, which was a major success and released its 1000th back in 2016.

7. Isamu Noguchi

Noguchi was highly praised as a fantastic sculptor. He was also known for designing and creating set designs, lighting, and furniture design. He had studios in New York and Japan and mixed a range of influences in his work.

His aim was to create sculptures that were useful in our everyday lives. His work was said to display “the biomorphic imagery of his contemporary sculpture,” and he very quickly became known for this style in the mid-century modern design movement.

Many of his designs brought in a whole new era of furniture design. His designs looked more like a work of art rather than just ordinary pieces of furniture.

8. Charlotte Perriand

Perriand was born in 1903 and was a French architect; and she also dabbled in mid-century furniture design. She worked in Le Corbusier’s studio and created various items with him and a swiss architect named Pierre Jeanneret.

One of her works is the armchair with the tilting back and the LC4 chaise lounge chair. She later traveled to Japan, where she learned various techniques that inspired her to change and reimagine many of her older designs.

During her time in Japan, she learned how to lacquer and basket weave, and she later redesigned the LC4 in 1940 as the 522 Tokyo chaise lounge chair. This chair was organic and lightweight and was produced by Cassina, an Italian furniture company.

9. Harry Bertoia

Harry Bertoia was an Italian-American, and we focused his talents on the realm of jewelry, sculpture, furniture, and design. He had a cross-disciplinary approach and created some of the most iconic pieces.

One being the Diamond chair, he also worked with Ray and Charles Eames in 1943 and then started working with Knoll. He was given a lot of creative freedom, and since then, Knoll has been manufacturing the Diamond chair.

Due to the success of his design, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a sculptor.

10. Arne Jacobsen

Jacobsen had an architectural background but is a very well-known midcentury modern furniture designer.

Jacobsen was inspired by Charles Eames and Ray Eames and collaborated with numerous other designers to create beautiful furnishings for the buildings he designed.

Jacobsen created each and every detail seen in Denmark’s SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. His Egg chair, a signature piece, was designed in 1958 for the hotel. This chair is still very popular today and is one of his most famous and known pieces. It can still be found today.

He also created the Swan chair and the Ant chair and also designed cocktail sets, flatware, and tea service sets. All of his designs are interesting yet functional, making them very valuable and intriguing pieces for collectors today.

11. Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen was a designer and architect of Finnish-American descent. He was the director at Cranbrook Academy of Art. The academy was seen as the “cradle of American Modernism.” He is well-known for his furniture design.

His parents were both into textile and architecture arts, so design was a massive part of his life.

Especially the Womb Chair and the Tulip chairs, they boast sculptural curves that perfectly hold and hug the body. Both chairs were launched by Knoll, and they are available today. If you are looking for some mid-century modern furniture, you cannot go wrong with these pieces!

The studio he worked for also produced some incredible architectural works, one being the former TWA Flight Center at JFK.

12. Robin Day

Robin Day designed the polyprop chair. This chair is very common and is also known as the polypropylene stacking chair, and you have probably seen it in offices or at various schools. Robin Day grew up in England and worked at the Beckenham School of Art.

In 1950 he won a design competition hosted by the Museum of Modern Art. He worked with a manufacturer named Hille for over 20 years, and in 2017 Hille relaunched the Polyprop chair with the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation.

13. George Nelson

George Nelson was from Connecticut and became an architect. During the 1930s, he traveled through Europe and connected with European and American design communities. Nelson was a known design critic, architect, and editor for the Architectural Forum​ magazine.

He then became a design director for Herman Miller, and they worked together for over 25 years. George Nelson and Miller worked together and found designers who brought in fresh and new ideas.

Nelson produced the Marshmallow sofa in 1956 and the Coconut chair in 1955.

14. Florence Knoll Bassett

Florence Knoll created some extraordinary designs and also had a massive influence on furniture designs and the mid-century modern movement. She grew up in Michigan and always had a keen interest in architecture.

She studied under Eero’s father, Eliel Saarinen, and in 1941 she and her husband moved to New York. They turned Knoll into one of the biggest leading manufacturers. She also made an effort to manufacture the designs of Mies van der Rohe and Eero Saarinen.

The Knoll catalogs had a wide range of Florence’s designs, from chairs to tables to credenzas. Her designs were the epitome of utility meets aesthetics and truly embodied the mid-century modern style.

15. Paul Evans

Pauls Evans’s work has been recognized by modernism enthusiastic for decades now. He shared a showroom in New Jersey with Philip Lloyd Powell during the 1950s and designed furniture for his company.

He also designed pieces for Directional Furniture, a North Carolina company during the 1960s. Eventually, he had his own showroom in New York, where he showcased his own designs and employed multiple people to help out.

His furniture had a Brutalism influence, and he was known for using sculpted metals like stainless steel, bronze, and copper. The tables he designed generally had a geometric bundle of wood or metal that would almost look like it was coming out of the ground.

Many of his pieces were very big and quite heavy and incorporated metal patchwork.

Mid-Century Modern In The World Today

This design era was renowned for its accessibility and affordability, and furniture from this era is as practical as it is beautiful. Many well-known works have been reinvented or continue to be reproduced, meaning that many of these works can be found in spaces today.

The midcentury modern movement has also influenced and shaped other styles and is being blended with our design styles today to create unique and contrasting looks.

Mid-century modern design is gaining popularity, and everyone is obsessed. And it is only fair to acknowledge those who created this style, influenced it, and contributed to it. Mid-century modern has a long history and has stayed just as relevant today.

Various designers in different fields have added their touch and helped accelerate the movement over the years, and it has resulted in a beautiful yet simple style that transforms any space it is used in.