We have a lot of awesome customers and perusers here at Mid Mod Collective. And one of the top pieces of furniture they ask about? The Eames Lounge Chair. It's seriously the Holy Grail of mid-century furniture. Everyone wants one (or thinks they have one), companies and designers have been making knock-offs for years, and you see it constantly in film and television.
But Charles and Ray Eames were so much more than that (obviously incredible) chair. They were a husband and wife team that came up with incredible ideas and inventions, had an impressive portfolio of architecture and film work, and happened to design furniture as well.
Their overall philosophy was that function is important to everyone- no matter who they who they are or what their status is in life. So even things that are incredibly "high end" or "designer" still come back to humans' basic need for functionality. Charles touched on this in a speech he made about design that has become known as the "Banana Leaf Parable." With that philosophy as their guide, Charles and Ray became some of the best well known designers in modern history- very much because their design was intended for all people.
But with genius design and creativity, comes both popularity and mimicry. This is how the Eames became mid-century poster children. You can find plastic versions of their famous fiberglass shell chairs all over the internet now. Even a copy of their coat rack is sold with dorm room supplies every fall. People are buying things they don't even know can be credited to the Eames. All they know is they like it, it mixes well with many styles, and it's wonderfully functional and useful.
So next time you walk into a hip coffee shop with a bunch of sexy seating or an office with sleek, modern chairs, notice how much of it can be attributed to Charles and Ray- you might be pleasantly surprised.
AMC's hit television show Mad Men had arguably the best mid-century set decoration and costuming in modern day TV history (nods to The Wonder Years and That 70s show too, among others). They got every detail right- the furniture, the dishes, the wallpaper, even the technology. The show's plot started in 1960 and continued for many years after that, and the sets' styles impeccably changed with passing time.
In season 1, the suburban New York homes are decked out in plaid wallpaper, colonial motifs, and fruity tablecloths. By the end of the series, the scenes are much more "Mod" with bright pops of color, lots of funky textures, and clean lines. Throughout the entirety of the show though, there are two consistent themes- Smoking and drinking- any amount, anywhere, anytime.
Besides entertaining the masses with retro drama story lines, Mad Men also had a noticeable effect on modern-day interiors. Suddenly folks realized how beautiful mid-century design was again or at least felt sudden nostalgia that had been long lost. Thus, the Mad Men effect.
Is it a blessing? Or a curse?
15 years ago, people were just trying to get rid of grandma's stuff. Huge ceramic lamps and orange sofas were being put out on the curb. Now you can't go to a thrift store without seeing prices that would make grandma blush!
But on the bright side- modern home interior design has gotten a boost of sophistication from designers like Charles Eames, Florence Knoll, Adrian Pearsall and many others who had timeless taste and ideas. Furniture has become sleeker instead of chunky. Color is alive and well. And ash trays and bars have made a comeback...even if smoking and drinking aren't the norm at every work lunch anymore.
Some may call it trendy, but Mad Men has been off the air for 3 years now and mid-century design is alive and well. So cheers to that (it's what they would have done in the 60s) and many more years to come!
Mid Mod Collective offers Knoxville a premier mid-century modern shopping experience. We are a collective of dealers who share a passion for the amazing designs of the era.