Every creed has a sacred date around which life orbits. For hippies, it’s Woodstock. Christians have Easter. And design lovers, well, we geek out about the mid-century. The most important years fall between 1947 and 57, and are fondly remembered as a decade in which anything was possible. Designers brought forth experimental new furnishings and homes were transformed into temples of simplicity and style.
So rich is the era in good ideas that major design houses are frequently drawn back to it, often in search of those eclipsed by some of the bigger names like Charles & Ray Eames. This year has seen a particular boom in such lost & found styles, many of which feel even more pertinent to our lives today. Here’s all the ones we believe are worth collecting…
Gascoin Collection by Gubi
Designers in post-war France didn’t agree on much. However, there was a small stretch of common ground from which most creative projects departed. It dictated that any design that wished to be considered truly modern would have to work a lot harder than the decadent styles of the 20s and 30s. Beauty remained a key concern, but so too was the burgeoning context of smaller housing and urban-living.
One such disciple was Marcel Gascoin. As a child, he’d spent many years at sea in environments in which every single furnishing had to earn their place in a highly orchestrated dance of domesticity. The styles he brought forth in later life drew on this efficiency, often combining multiple roles into a single piece.
Just take a look at the B table. Inspired by the versatile bridge tables of old, it features clever fold up sections that transform it from a 4-seater rectangular table into a beautiful round option for six. All organic finishes and magnetic locks, it represents a thoughtfully-crafted solution for todays space-obsessed city-dwellers.
GNR Chandigarh Trays by Cassina
You probably know Le Corbusier for his chairs. The squishy, oversized kind penned in by a tubular steel frame. But over the course of his life he also authored entire cities, including the Indian metropolis of Chandigarh. Conceived as a visual talisman of Indian openness and independence, the brutalist walls were embossed with three symbols: an open hand, a fish and the infallible trajectory of the Sun.
In 2021, these poetic symbols have been translated into a set of stylish porcelain trays. Never one to do things by half, Cassina have also recommissioned the Service Prunier set, a beautiful tableware collection designed by Le Corbusier for Madame Prunier’s mid-century London restaurant. It features his iconic interlocking hands motif and is rumoured to be the only set of crockery upon which the Master would dine.
Saarinen Conference Chair by Knoll
When they weren’t off building utopias in far-flung lands, the architects of the mid-century could be found dedicating their energy to one single endeavour. The race to build the perfect chair. To outsiders, it seemed like a rather obscure obsession. Today, not so much. Even without a pandemic, the majority of adults spend on average 9 hours sitting. Many of them in varying degrees of discomfort.
Enter Eero Saarinen. Of all his contemporaries, he was perhaps the most interested in shaping our experience of sitting. He believed that the best chairs would act like sculptural exo-skeletons, capable of hugging and upholding the body. His big breakthrough came in 1950, with the release of the Conference Chair. Visually light yet comfortable, it fit snuggly into contemporary offices, a beautiful contrast to some of the more orthopaedic looking office styles. With the WFH revolution well underway, Knoll have rereleased the swivel base version, a nifty mid-century must-have for any home office.
Planner Collection by Fritz Hansen
Paul McCobb has the best excuse for disappearing from public view.
‘Twas a cold night in 1961 and he and some of the era’s best architects found themselves in the Playboy Mansion, preparing for a shoot with some of their latest designs.
When the call was given by photographers to come down to the lobby, McCobb was nowhere to be found. His secretary later confirmed that he had been “recovering” from the previous evening’s party in a room upstairs. Either way, he missed out on the legendary line-up. And his designs were lost in the winter of forgetfulness.
That was until the creative team at Fritz Hansen stumbled across his archives. Amid the many sketches was clear evidence of his no-nonsense design language, a style that felt both essential and luxurious in its renderings of everyday objects. After much negotiation, Fritz began to faithfully reproduce some of his most coveted styles. Among them, the PM02 Table Lamp and classic Planner Shelving units.
CH24 Glossy Mahogany Wishbone Chair by Carl Hansen & Son
How do you wish Happy Birthday to a long-lost loved one? It’s a question that’s plagued the team at Carl Hansen & Son ever since the passing of legendary designer, Hans J Wegner. In 2019, they struck upon the perfect solution. Every year, on the 8th April, they resolved to release a limited edition of his best-loved chair. Available for sale for one day only, it has become a doubly joyful day for Scandi design lovers everywhere.