The Mid-Century Modern style of furniture, known for its clean lines, innovative design and bright colors, became popular between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s and is still popular today.
Highlights from the time period are being featured in the exhibition Mid-Century Modern: Style in the Age of Mad Men, sponsored by South Shore Arts at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster.
The exhibit is curated by David Carter, who has been collecting furniture pieces from that time period since before he met his wife in 1996.
“Our mutual interest spurred our collecting, and we soon had more furniture than would fit in our home,” Carter said. The couple began selling their pieces, and it snowballed into a full-time business with a website, a studio and warehouse in Highland and a showroom in Chicago.
The couple lives in a mid-century home in Munster.
“We are very passionate about modern art, architecture, furniture and design and always interested in sharing our passion,” he said. “So when I was invited to curate an exhibit of this material, I jumped at the opportunity.”
Amanda Snider, owner of Homenclature in Valparaiso, said she continually has people come into her store to ask about pieces from the time period.
She said they offer reproductions from the era at an affordable price.
“We have pieces that are affordable, where originals from the era might be thousands of dollars and might not be attainable for the average person,” she said. “Things like the show Mad Men bring things back en vogue and really popularize and revitalize the period again.”
Laura Cutler, director of exhibitions for South Shore Arts, said the exhibit has been popular since it opened in November, with an average of at least 200 people visiting every weekend.
Cutler said the popularity of the exhibit, which includes about 150 pieces, proves the style never goes out of fashion.
“This is a style that was truly designed for people’s homes,” she said. “It was designed to be economical and appeal to a broader audience.”
The South Shore Arts exhibits focuses on post-war American and Scandinavian designs, Carter said, and has an educational component to it.
Some of the stand-outs include designs by Finn Juhl, a rare George Nelson chaise and an Alexander Girard lounge chair and ottoman.
“To me, the most interesting aspect of the exhibit is the relationships that are created when the different designs are all seen in the same space,” he said. “Many of these architects/designers and artists were friends or personally acquainted. Even if they didn’t know each other, they were very much aware of what each other was creating, and reacting to that.”
Carter said the furniture is a product of its time, and also timeless. The furniture was created in a the context of the confluence of events such as the development of new materials and techniques developed during the second world war, the housing boom that followed the war, the art that was being created and infusing the culture, and architecture, design and art that preceded it, he said.
“I think the optimism of the era, the idea that anything was possible, that things which were new were good and that the future was something to look forward to, rather than fear, all came together to create an environment which permitted unbridled creativity,” he said. “Many of the forms which were created during this time are so powerful, so well designed, that their influence is still being felt today and is evident in the work of many contemporary designers.”