Mid-century Modern goes mainstream

Mr Bigglesworthy furniture reflects the passion of business owners Dan and Emma Eagle. Photographed in the McClew House designed by architect Ken Albert in 1966.
STEPHEN TILLEY
Mr Bigglesworthy furniture reflects the passion of business owners Dan and Emma Eagle. Photographed in the McClew House designed by architect Ken Albert in 1966.

It’s perhaps the strongest furniture trend this year, and it shows no sign of slowing.

Mid-century Modern pieces are appearing in new furniture collections throughout the country as demand soars.

Of course, there are the classics that have never gone out of style, such as the Eames lounge chair, G Plan furniture and Saarinen tables. But, increasingly, the look is finding favour with a younger generation, which didn’t see the furniture first time round.

The New Zealand Modern Collection by Mr Bigglesworthy looks right at home in the McClew House.
STEPHEN TILLEY
The New Zealand Modern Collection by Mr Bigglesworthy looks right at home in the McClew House.

Andrew Lay, a director at Karakter, which specialises in Mid-century furniture, says shows such as Mad Men did bring Mid-century styling to people’s attention.

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“But it is very difficult to pigeonhole the interest,” he says. “Most people have always liked the iconic pieces, and it’s a look that works very well with contemporary interiors. But the way the furniture is used today is new and different. It’s not about turning your home into a ’60s museum or re-creating the set of Man Men. It’s more about taking a standout piece and adding contemporary items and artwork.”

The G Plan Floating desk is a vintage piece from Skandi priced at $1900.
SKANDI
The G Plan Floating desk is a vintage piece from Skandi priced at $1900.

Dan and Emma Eagle, who established Mr Bigglesworthy, a store specialising in the look, say Mid-century furniture has a lightness of form and a refined elegance that is very captivating. “In our complex and often cluttered world there’s something enticing about simple, beautifully crafted design that functions really well,” says Dan Eagle. “It also ties into important values like sustainability and a respect for the past.”

The couple say most clients love unique designs that are functional, made from quality materials and will make a statement. “Our sideboards have been popular as they can be used to display media devices, such as a TV or stereo equipment, and also have ample storage space to hide away clutter.”

The pared-back, slimline styling makes the furniture well suited to interiors where space is a challenge, including apartments.

The 59 leather sofa by G Plan Vintage, from Karakter, is shown in Capri Black.
KARAKTER
The 59 leather sofa by G Plan Vintage, from Karakter, is shown in Capri Black.

Emma Hart of Skandi in Wellington, a specialist in Mid-century Scandinavian pieces, says clients are after the three Ss – sofas, sideboards and signature designer pieces. She says people are also seeking out the mass-produced smaller items that started to appear in the middle of the century: “Everything from clocks to hifi speakers, pendant lights and salad bowls.”

All the companies say the real beauty of the Mid-Century Modern period lies with original furniture pieces, not replicas. “With so much cheap and disposable furniture being currently produced it’s inspiring to see thoughtful designs that are made to last a lifetime and get better with age,” says Dan Eagle. “We love that Mid-century furniture has a history and is crafted to a high standard from beautiful materials.”

Andrew Lay says the fact that so many pieces have been copied and mass produced is a compliment to their desirability and iconic status . “Naturally, these are available at a lower purchase price, but for obvious reasons these reproductions will not retain their value or continue to serve their purpose for generations to come.”

This Macintosh bookmatched timber sideboard from Skandi retails for $6500.
SKANDI
This Macintosh bookmatched timber sideboard from Skandi retails for $6500.

Lay also says few other furniture pieces will hold their value as well as original Mid-century furniture. “We have even bought back one of our pieces from a client for the same price he paid for it,” he says. “Sure, he was buying more, but the value of this furniture doesn’t drop.”

Hart calls it “posh recycling. “Buying real retro is sustainable. I cringe when I think of how many landfills will be lined with style-devoid overstuffed leatherette suites on permanent sale in the junk mail,” she says

Dan Eagle says collecting mid-century design can become highly addictive. “There is only so much you can fit into a home,” he says. “Our store allows us to share our passion with similar people.”

This G Plan Vintage chair from Karakter is titled The 62 and is shown here in Capri Black.
KARAKTER
This G Plan Vintage chair from Karakter is titled The 62 and is shown here in Capri Black.

Lay says his passion started with his first purchase 15 years ago. “Bizarrely, I fell in love with what we term as ‘mid-century’ by mistake when I was looking for an office chair for home and bought what I now know to be an Eames management chair. At the time it was simply the most comfortable and beautifully designed chair I could find.”

MAXIMISE THE LOOK

Mr Bigglesworthy: The biggest difference between a good and bad interior design that we’ve noticed is the simple problem of too much clutter. The best transformations happen when someone is selective about what they actually need and want to display in their home, removes unnecessary items and invests in quality pieces that they love. Our favourite interiors have a well edited mix of authentic, often eclectic furniture which includes Mid-century pieces.

Karakter: Take statement pieces from the period and blend these with contemporary lighting, fabrics, artwork and furniture.

Skandi: Buy what you truly can’t walk away from. One beautiful Mid-century investment piece carefully placed in a room that holds a theme is gold. No need to go all Mad Men on it. Less is still more, and contrasting different pieces will definitely hold the eye. Look out for Italian Mid-century Modern – edgy, slightly brazen but with definitive class. There’s a 70’s craft-based Modernism coming – think flokati rugs, woven wall hangings, bentwood chairs and dare I say it, macramé.

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