Currents: A Reply to “Why Won’t Midcentury Modern Die?”

gln1Did you see the New York Times article published last weekend entitled, “Why Won’t Midcentury Modern Die?” The same question has hit me in recent weeks. Can it possibly still be in? Shouldn’t something else be coming next? Reading the article, however, I realized that this is the wrong question, and I also felt the article didn’t fully explain the reasons I was seeing for the persistence in Midcentury styles. Here they are from our studio’s perspective.

We use Midcentury furnishings regularly because our clients love them and insist on it! In many cases clients already own several DWR standards they want to incorporate, and name aside, these pieces are sizable investments that clients want to keep. They bought these things when they were younger, living in the city, and they want to hold on to the associations and vibe.

To most people, Midcentury modern still looks…well, MODERN! With a capital M. What the NY Times article doesn’t draw out is that most people still grew up in houses with far more traditional pieces, and outside of the urban center, mid-century modern can still feel new and fresh. As a suburban Gen X-er, I can say that it still feels stylish to me when I think of the floral chintz, turned wood legs, and sea foam green I grew up with! My contemporaries continue to see midcentury styles as a way to define themselves against the norm.

Midcentury modern styles can be less expensive to produce, and were designed to be democratic. The NY Times article mentioned this, but I think we should be totally clear on the point. Injection molded plastics and other new production techniques made production more cost-effective, and that continues to be a big draw today. These pieces occupy the same aesthetic space the iPhone does, they just happen to have been invented earlier. The iPhone is not going out of style. It is a necessary tool and accessory of contemporary life. That brings me to this.

Midcentury modern style is now firmly in the realm of classic and it is a permanent tool in a designer’s toolkit. All the pieces of furniture we use in a design signify something that we want to convey. I turn to classic English styles when I want to signify good taste and the comforts of an upper crust lifestyle. Italian when you want to signify precision, luxury, and glamour. Indian and Moroccan when you want to signify a global pedigree or relaxed, bohemian look. If we want to convey forward thinking, or the reinvention and updating of a traditional space, we still turn to midcentury modern. In some ways, technology and how we live is just catching up to these forward thinking styles, and they often feel totally appropriate to how we live now.

What’s next? As the article points out, Saarinen tables and Womb chairs are common, but so is a Chesterfield sofa or a traditional carpet. My guess is that we will no longer think of it as remarkable. Plus, there are many midcentury styles and designers that are less prevalent. I think we will see people on the cutting edge mining for less ubiquitous styles from this era. Finally, by recasting midcentury pieces with other styles into the truly eclectic looks of today, and working with new color palettes, we escape the realm of retro, and continue to reference the new, fresh, and forward thinking.

Case Study: Perfect Coffee Table Accessories


Getting back to school and back on a routine can be a CHORE! But we did it! And now, I can’t help but to get excited about all that fall and the holidays bring. Other than cool temperatures and the colors changing, entertaining with friends and family is definitely the highlight of the season for me. Prepping your home for guests can top the TO DO list now. If you really want WOW factor you have to go beyond the basics with your design. Gorgeous accessories become a necessity and not an extra. The key is to start with classics, and then be a little bit bold.

I love books on a cocktail table, so that is often my starting point. Choose titles that say something about you, or are just pure eye candy or conversation starters for guests. If you don’t like books you can also use a tray, or, better yet, layer books in the trays if you have a large table. After that you want a few sculptural objects. I love figures, but many of our clients prefer abstract and geometric pieces. You want some contrast, so here we did the white ceramic dog, paired with chunky gold candleholders. The finishing touch: florals! If you are planning to sit in the living room, keep the arrangement low, but if people will be in the dining room you can go for drama with a tall arrangement in the living room, and then move it to a side table or console if your guests end up lingering around your gorgeously accessorized coffee table.

Below is a guide for some of the essential elements in accessorizing a great coffee table. Pick a nice mix and remember to change it up regularly. Changing it up keeps your house from feeling staid and stale over time!

Coffee Table 2

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Please feel free to call us about your design project. You can call 973.762.0880 or email us here. We would love to hear from you!

Case Study: Lush and Happy Looks with Block Prints


Summer is almost over, my friends. Sad but true. If only we could bottle up the feeling and carry it with us for the year. The closest thing I can think of is the ever fresh feeling of Indian block prints. We built the design for this Short Hills master bedroom around block print bedding from John Robshaw. And the room carries that relaxed and happy vibe we crave year round. Here are some ideas for incorporating printed bedding in your rooms.

Layer printed bedding over a simple white quilt to keep things from looking too busy. The key to mixing prints is to look at scale and color. The large scale of the carpet design we used lets it work with the smaller bedding prints. You can add more patterns by keeping the color palette tight. Stick with the same two or thee colors for the room.

Below is a guide for some of the prettiest patterned bedding we could find. Printed bedding gives off a well traveled vibe, and can work really well for global, beachy, or bohemian rooms. This is a look that has staying power, so if you love it, go for it, and know it will always look en vogue.

Printed Bedding

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Case Study: Create a Casual Table Setting


If you are like me, most of your entertaining is not formal, but you still want it to be an experience for your guests. A beautiful kitchen eating area, and the right table setting and serving pieces are the key.

This kitchen area is one of my favorite spaces I’ve designed. Don’t you want to sit here?! The core elements are a beautiful table and a very elegant wool carpet to define the area. Check out the pinstripes on the carpet. This is a very special artisan product that I just love. The combination of chairs and benches feels comfortable and interesting.The berry upholstery on the chairs brightens everything up and makes people happy! The light fixture is simple, elegant, and impactful. Gorgeous window treatments add luxury, light control, and privacy. Original oil paintings are custom framed and grouped together to create interest. The perfect backdrop for a casual fete.

Below, we take this lovely space and get more granular on how you can set a table for a relaxed crowd of friends. Thursday night dinner, Sunday brunch, mom and dad in town, calling the neighbors over impromptu. You get the vibe, right?! Who are you most likely to entertain at your kitchen table?

Casual Kitchen Table

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Photo credit: Kitchen photo by Laura Moss.