Modern Design Then & Now
The furniture from the mid-century design boom has blended so seamlessly into interiors for decades that it's easy to forget how definitive it was of the style of its own era.
With the furniture riches of our Modern Art & Design Auction to inspire us, we took a comparative look at how this furniture was both completely of its time and utterly timeless.
The Tulip Table
Eero Saarinen's Tulip Table was/is/and always will be the little black dress of tables. It's never the wrong choice. The tulip shape is unassuming, taking up no more space than absolutely necessary, but also manages to shift the tone of everything around it. In the '50s it was the epitome of atomic design - it looked like it might rocket off to space of its own accord. In contemporary interiors it plays well with others, neither confirming nor denying the surrounding aesthetic.
The Teak Armchair
If mid-century modern was a country, teak would be on the flag. The Scandinavians imported masses of the stuff from the tropics post WWII, and found it to be well suited to the gentle, welcoming curves of their designs. The teak armchair in particular was a non-negotiable element of a certain kind of mid-century look. The low backs and open arms of the chairs signaled a more casual lifestyle than their upholstered predecessors. These are chairs for airy conversation and jaunty poses, not needlework by candlelight next to the fire. In today's interiors they continue to make a light, friendly counterpoint to our overstuffed sofas and prolific pillows. They add seating without weighing a room down.
The Cesca Chair
Never out of style, Marcel Breuer's Cesca Chair has recently become the status symbol of dining chairs. It's one of those pieces that lets design-o-philes signal silently to the other members of their species. If you know, you know. The cane seats and metal legs won't compete with other wood finishes and add a nostalgic note for those of us who grew up in the era of terry cloth halter tops, roller skates, and feathered hair. Back in the day, the chairs said "we are eating in the kitchen because we are laid back and stylish, not because we are the help."
The Barcelona Chair
No cast of characters is complete without a rockstar rebel. Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Lounge Chairs are the Keith Richards of furniture. No matter how old they get, they will always be cooler than the rest of us. Luckily, putting them in our homes can lend us a bit of street cred. The chairs have always been a natural choice in ultra clean, minimalist interiors, but because we are nerds at heart who can only handle so much coolness, we like them mixed in with other, granny-chic antiques to soften their rocker edge.
Inspired By....
Thankfully for design enthusiasts everywhere, the patent on Marcel Breuer's "Wassily" chair expired long ago. Inspired by the steel tubing on his first bicycle, Breuer designed the chair in the 1920s, and named it after Wassily Kandinsky, who was a fellow faculty member at the Bauhaus and asked Breuer to make one of the chairs for him. Kandinsky was on to something. Versions of the Wassily chair have proliferated for decades, to great aesthetic effect. Whether you need a white fabric version to match your shag carpet and aggressively labeled fixtures, or you prefer warm leather to strike the perfect balance of earthy and chic, there's a version of the Wassily for you.
Modern Art & Design
Thursday, March 27th
10:00am (EDT)

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