How Functionality Has (Literally) Shaped Mid-Century Modernism

While every design movement has had a signature force shaping it, mid-century modernism and its driving force of functionality is easily the most recognizable.

As the prevalent design inspiration and trend characterizing the 1950s and postwar America, mid-century modernism embraced the austerity that was driving the design landscape. Mid-century modernism incorporated beautiful graphics alongside graceful, sweeping furniture lines.

The result was an art form that is still beloved in modernity because of its nod to geometry and simplicity. We’ll explore the connection between functionality and mid-century modernism.

Functionality: The Force Behind MCM

Mid-century modernism, as its name may suggest, entered the stage in the middle of the twentieth century, just as the world was picking up the pieces of World War II. The economy was rebuilding itself, families were being reunited, and the workforce was grasping at straws.

Out of necessity, the furniture, homes, and industry developing in the 50s had to make do with the meager resources they had. Society placed a stigma on excess and luxury. Therefore, stark silhouettes and framework became popular as the decade came into full swing.

A growing awareness of the human body and how to care for it played a role in some of the common lines and designs used in mid-century modernism. One of the reasons mid-century modern design is so distinctive is because the lines of many of the pieces mirror the form of the human body.

With sculpted chairs and gently curved lines juxtaposed with the movement’s signature clean open framing, mid-century modernism was very different from any design trend that came before it. It has remained so influential in modern furniture design and architecture.

The Reception of Mid-Century Modernism

Today we have an appreciation for mid-century modern furniture and design, we are willing to pay big bucks for the high-quality and eclectic design that the pieces feature. Mid-century modernism is very fashionable in today’s day and age, as it evokes a simultaneous sense of beauty and minimalism.

When mid-century modernism first made its way into stores, it was similarly embraced. The world that necessitated mid-century modernism also, fortunately, nurtured it into being. While the contemporaries of the 1950s likely did not think of their aesthetic quite in the same way we do, it was clear from its earliest day that mid-century modernism was different enough from the style of decades past that it was here to stay.

The rise of mid-century modernism changed design in that pieces of furniture were once again optimized for form and function over opulence. Once the scarcity of material was no longer a problem, in the years after the war, furniture designers continued to mold their creations to the human body.

Final Thoughts

Clinging to the concept of austerity the designers worked to marry form and function. Gone were the stiff-backed chairs of the Victorian era. Mid-century modernism is here to stay and has proven itself as a juggernaut of the industry. A piece of mid-century modern furniture can help to pull together your home’s decor. Work with a designer to find a piece that suits you!