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Mid-Century Modern Home Furnishings

What Collectors Clamor for Today


Mid-Century Modern Home Furnishings

Better Home and Gardens Decorating Book - 1956

- Scan by Pamela Wiggins
Are you old enough to remember when '50s decorating styles came up in a conversation and most people began to yawn? You couldn’t say passé fast enough.

Once again, however, the decorating tide has turned. Vintage dealers and decorators use the phrase "Mid-Century Modern" with abandon when referencing classic '50s styles. In fact, many designers now imitate the clean lines and subtle curves of '50s design in compositions updated for the 21st century.

The Attraction of Mid-Century Modern

Like many other art forms, purists want the real thing rather than a replica when it comes to vintage design. Authentic '50s furniture pieces, lamps, clocks, artwork and other accessories get attention from those creating a retro lifestyle with mid-century flair. Many of these pieces reflect what the Better Homes & Gardens Decorating Book of 1956 terms "easy-care materials for informal living."

A number of chairs crafted during this timeframe were produced of molded plastic perfect for the busy homemaker as they were easily wiped clean. Boxy upholstered furniture popular during this era featured very durable fabrics designed for family wear as well.

The Collector's Compass title '50s Décor, offers a glimpse at what attracts new collectors to these styles time and again: "There's a certain amount of nostalgia about collecting '50s décor. Collectors are often drawn to an era that they connect with but didn't live through."

Looking at the accumulation of '50s decorative items in this light helps us understand why people now want all the "junk" original owners began to cast aside years ago. After an amount of time passes and styles come full circle, what homemakers shunned as old-fashioned and drab then looks fresh and appealing today.

Hot Names in Mid-Century Modern Design

So what exactly are people looking for when it comes to Mid-Century Modern style? It actually varies from coast-to-coast and town to country, but there are a few designers that hold their own across the nation.

The names Eames and Herman Miller come up frequently in discussions of high-ticket Mid-Century Modern items, and they have for quite some time now. Some Eames pieces can sell for as much as $25,000, and possibly more depending on the object, when the right customer comes along. Clocks designed by George Nelson in atomic starburst designs can bring hundreds, if not thousands, in the right market. Knoll also manufactured '50s furniture now quite popular with collectors.

"Of course, high-end items in any field will always be in demand and command top dollar," said '50s Décor. And because they're high-end names, you won't run across Eames, Miller or Nelson designs on an everyday basis.

More Realistic Mid-Century Modern Finds

What you will find at estate sales now as far as Mid-Century Modern is concerned will be copies of high-end styles using similar materials. These pieces weren’t as expensive as designer goods when they were new, and most will lack that level of quality craftsmanship. If these items are in very good to excellent condition, they still make good investment pieces so buy them if they attract you and look for them to hold or possibliy increase in value.

It looks as if prices will continue to go up on furniture and accessories produced by lesser known designers of the '50s, and "no-name" pieces as more and more people jump on the Mid-Century Modern bandwagon. You'll be one step ahead of them by recognizing quality furniture and accessories from the era whether or not notable designers can be attributed to pieces in your collection.

What’s Next?

If you're saying, "Well, I'll be darned!" about now as you ponder changing American tastes, hold on to your hat. What’s passé today tends to be hip and trendy tomorrow.

It's just a matter of time until all those Spanish revival and early American furnishings, along with the harvest gold and avocado green appliances popular when the Baby Boomers were coming of age, work their way back into American homes.

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