Lounging in the 60s

Mid-Century Modern


1950s - Development of the design style
1960s - Height of design's popularity



The Sixties

The postwar years emanated optimism and witnessed a rejuvenation of the human spirit, evident in the bold, colorful, and experimental elements of mid-century modern interior design. Post-war prosperity allowed millions to indulge in their materialistic dreams, propelled by new, pervasive forms of mass media. Increasing disposable income transformed purchasing power of a growing middle class that was eager to fill their homes with the trappings of high design. Fast-developing technologies and new synthetic materials brought modular and sophisticated design elements to the consumer’s front door. Interior design embraced new materials and fresh ideas, echoing the movements in Pop Art, space exploration, and the electronic age, expressed in sleek lines and forms (Bradbury, 2014). Broader technological, economic, and societal developments set the stage for the proliferation of playful and attainable mid-century modern interior design.


The era of space exploration influenced concurrent trends in media, design, and consumption. The world was gripped by a fascination with the future. World’s Fairs – Seattle in 1962 and New York City in 1964 – were momentous international events that showcased the ingenuity of new technological capabilities and the marvels of futuristic design. Ad campaigns from companies like Motorola framed their products in an fantastical space-like future world, featuring homes and interior spaces that reflected extreme visions of the “soft modernism” found in mid-century modern interior design. Color televisions and stereos became ubiquitous in the sixties, inciting a new and increasingly important relationship between people and mass media. Advertising flourished in all mediums; images in magazines and on billboards and television permeated everyday life, displaying idealized images of joyful people, their lives enhanced by new things. A fast-growing corporate culture facilitated product familiarity and propelled sales through targeted and pervasive branding. Americans readily adopted visual tenants of the British “Pop” explosion. Mass-production of the exuberantly colorful works of artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein made art attainable in the form of prints and posters (Brown, 1982). Art was no longer the jurisdiction of the wealthy and the increasingly design-conscious middle class hungered for more.


Furniture Design Elements

The combination of innovation, contextuality, and organic materials resulted in the inspired and fantastical interiors of the sixties. Dynamic design approaches and manufacturing techniques responded to a revitalized public; the crisp modernity of mid-century furniture had a playful spirit, woven into vibrant, sculptural forms (Bradbury, 2014).


Interior design of the 1960s both mirrored changes in society and helped make them possible, laying the groundwork for a new agency-driven lifestyle made possible through a new wave of consumerism. Fresh and modern elements of interior design were contrived in tandem with the qualities and spacing of architectural forms, resulting in a total design concept that encompassed seating, wall paneling, lighting, trash bins, and even door handles. This holistic approach to interior design entailed special appreciation of materials: how they jived, how they conflicted, and the emotional result of such combinations. This fascination with material bled into consideration of engineering and form; furniture was one facet of a broader fascination with design in its widest sense (Bradbury, 2014). Work and living spaces were created with the intent to create synergy between the natural and the synthetic, light and shadow, sleekness and texture, and relationships between colors. The push and pull between vernacular and avant-garde is evident through the material manifestations embodied in mid-century furniture design.


New Materials

The use of new materials and manufacturing methods clearly distinguishes mid-century furniture from its pre-war cousins (Bradbury, 2014). Synthetic materials like plastics, polypropylene, plywood, low-cost foam rubber, and new stretch-jersey upholstery fabrics transformed the material culture of the period (Brown, 1982). Injection molding and other new manufacturing methods resulted in an explosion of affordable options for an eager middle class. Natural materials like wood were molded into interesting new shapes or even reworked entirely as particleboard, often used in tandem with colorful textile accents.


Rapid technological developments and prefabrication meant that designers needed to adapt quickly to create an entirely new generation of products (Bradbury, 2014). These new materials were utilized for futuristic effects; this was, after all, the design of the Space Age. Catalogs and advertisements featured clear plastic Lucite chairs, shiny vinyl wallpapers, modular chaises, and whimsical designs, all bathed in vivacious contrasting colors. Interiors of 1960s homes, offices, commercial, and even federal buildings became showcases for modernized furniture and other interior design forms. The parade of textures, forms, and colors that emerged during the 1960s challenged convention and tradition, yet often retained and embraced craftsmanship and contextual, vernacular themes (Bradbury, 2014).

Related Objects to Explore

Oak Arm Chair; Oak Bench; Table-top Ashtray; Trash Can; Two-Seat Oak Bench

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