identify mid century furniture

  • April 16, 2023

Identifying Mid Century Furniture

Mid-century modern is a popular design aesthetic that emerged in the mid-20th century, specifically between the 1930s to 1960s. It is characterized by minimalism, functionality, and an emphasis on clean lines and geometric forms. Furniture from this era has become increasingly popular among vintage collectors and interior designers. However, identifying mid-century furniture can be challenging for those who are unfamiliar with the period’s characteristics, materials, and production methods. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to identifying mid-century furniture.

Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Furniture

The mid-century modern furniture style includes a range of distinctive features that distinguish it from other design movements. Here are some key characteristics to look for when identifying mid-century furniture:

1. Organic Shapes

Mid-century modern designers often incorporated natural forms and organic shapes into their furniture designs. These shapes can include the boomerang, egg, and almond. The use of these shapes in furniture design was intended to bring a sense of nature into the home, creating a more comfortable and relaxing environment.

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2. Clean Lines and Simplicity

Mid-century modern furniture is typically characterized by clean lines and simplicity. The designers of this era focused on creating functional pieces that were practical and straightforward. The furniture was designed to be accessible and usable while still being aesthetically pleasing.

3. Use of Natural Materials

Mid-century modern furniture is known for its use of natural materials such as wood, leather, and metal. These materials were chosen for their durability and quality, as well as their organic aesthetic. The use of natural materials in furniture design was an effort to connect with nature and to incorporate the environment into the home.

4. Bold Colors and Geometric Designs

Mid-century modern furniture often featured bold colors and geometric designs. These designs were intended to bring a sense of fun and playfulness into the home. Some common color choices during this time included shades of blue, green, and yellow, among others.

5. Functionality and Versatility

Mid-century modern furniture was designed to be functional and versatile. Many pieces were created with multiple uses in mind, such as a bookshelf that could also function as a room divider. The furniture was intended to solve problems and meet the daily needs of the modern home.

Identifying Mid-Century Furniture Materials

Now that we’ve covered some of the characteristics of mid-century modern furniture, let’s take a closer look at the materials used in production.

1. Wood

Wood is a popular material used in mid-century modern furniture, and it was chosen for its durability and versatility. Walnut, oak, and teak were the most commonly used woods during this era. Look for wood that has been carefully crafted, with seamless connections and smooth surfaces.

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2. Metal

Metal was also a popular material used in mid-century modern furniture, particularly for chair frames and table legs. Look for chrome, brass, or steel finishes that are shiny and reflective. The metal should be sturdy and well-crafted, with no rough edges or visible welding marks.

3. Upholstery

Upholstery is another key component of mid-century modern furniture. Popular upholstery materials during this era included leather, wool, and tweed. The upholstery should be tightly woven and have no visible seams or loose threads. Buttons and tufting were also common design features.

4. Plastic

Plastic was a relatively new material during the mid-century modern era, and it was often used in the production of chairs and other furniture pieces. Look for plastics that are smooth and unblemished, with no visible seams or bubbles.

Identifying Mid-Century Furniture Brands

One of the best ways to identify mid-century modern furniture is by its brand. Here are some of the most popular mid-century furniture brands to keep an eye out for:

1. Herman Miller

Herman Miller is perhaps the most well-known mid-century modern furniture brand. This company produced iconic pieces such as the Eames Lounge Chair and the Noguchi Coffee Table, among many others.

2. Knoll

Knoll is another popular mid-century modern furniture brand that is still in production today. This company produced classic pieces such as the Barcelona Chair and the Saarinen Womb Chair.

3. Plycraft

Plycraft is a lesser-known mid-century modern furniture brand, but it produced some iconic pieces during its heyday. The company’s most famous piece is the Plycraft Lounge Chair, which was designed by George Mulhauser.

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Here are some frequently asked questions about mid-century modern furniture:

1. How do I know if a piece of furniture is truly mid-century modern?

Look for the key characteristics we’ve outlined in this article, such as organic shapes, clean lines, natural materials, bold colors, and functionality. Additionally, research the brand and production methods to confirm its authenticity.

2. Where can I buy mid-century modern furniture?

Mid-century modern furniture can be purchased from vintage shops, antique stores, online marketplaces, and auction houses. Be prepared to pay a premium price for authentic mid-century pieces.

3. How can I incorporate mid-century modern furniture into my home?

Mid-century modern furniture can be used in a variety of design styles, from retro to contemporary. Mix and match pieces to create an eclectic look, or keep it simple with a few carefully selected mid-century pieces.


Mid-century modern furniture is a popular design style that continues to influence interior design today. By identifying the key characteristics and materials used in production, you can become an expert in identifying mid-century furniture brands and pieces. Whether buying, collecting, or styling this design aesthetic, remember to keep it simple, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.