After falling out of fashion in the 80s and 90s, Mid-Century Modern is back as one of the biggest interior design trends of the early 21st-century.
Last month in this column I shared results from Asheford Institute of Antiques’s annual “Antique & Vintage Trends’ survey, which reports buying trends in the antique marketplace based on input from Asheford Institute graduates and other dealers/retailers working in the marketplace. What is unique about their survey is that buying trends are identified by age group. In the last few years that we have been sharing their findings, the one market area that has been slowly and consistently making its way to the top of each chart across all age groups is Mid-Century Modern (MCM).
“Mid-Century Modern” itself is a difficult term to define. It broadly describes architecture, furniture, and graphic design from the middle of the 20th century (roughly 1933 to 1965), though some would argue the period is specifically limited to 1947 to 1957. Elements of mid-century modern interior design include clean lines, muted tones, and combination of natural and manmade materials, graphic shapes, vibrant colors, and integrating indoor and outdoor motifs.
In 1998, the New York Times first reported on the style’s resurgence, specifically for downtown Manhattan residents aiming to update their spaces with items revitalized from the past. It arrived in mainstream retailers and moved to more exalted spaces in antique shops a few years later. Dedicated Modernism shows and design exhibitions soon followed. So did sales, for both era originals and design-inspired. the tracking and trending of the category as reflected by the annual Asheford surveys. Yelp in its “2022 Home Trend Forecast Report,” reported that searches for mid-century modern were up nearly 50% year-to-date in 2021 (January to October 2021) as an indicator of the continued interest in the category.
So who is buying Mid-century Modern? Will the category remain in ascent, or will it peak in 2022 as buyers and collectors move on to the next design era of fancy? The answer depends on whom you ask and what types of era-specific and inspired items we’re talking about.
According to the 2021 Asheford Institute survey, interest in MCM across all age groups remained strong this past year. Among 20-40-year-old buyers, MCM comes in at #3. Although down from its #2 position in the 2020 survey, MCM continues to appeal to a wide range of buyers, especially young urbanites living with minimal space who are drawn to the design aesthetic of a statement piece. However, dealers noted that during the pandemic, buying was more heavily weighted towards “smalls” and carry-home items rather than larger pieces of furniture.
MCM was also #3 in 2021 among 40-60-year-old buyers and also down from its #2 position in 2020. Dealers note that like their younger brethren, there is a marked increase in this age group in interest and sales for larger furniture pieces when compared against items from last year. Darker teak pieces (such as desks, tables, and cabinets), being especially popular as they blend well with bold colors like yellow, red, and orange. Again, dealers report that growth is mainly limited to large urban areas with suitable architecture to compliment the MCM motif.
Interestingly, MCM has held the #1 position ranking in the Asheford survey two years in a row among 60-80-year-olds buyers. In 2020, the survey reported that four years ago dealers from this category reported almost no sales of MCM whatsoever. According to the survey, “since that time, senior dealers have been steadily adding to their Mid-century stock. While many acknowledge that sales are heavily influenced by geographic and architectural considerations, they also note that even in less urbanized areas, the popularity of the style is still very strong. Dealers from the Midwest have reported particularly good sales in some regions where one would not normally expect them. As price points for dealers have risen steadily over the last few years, sourcing affordable stock from even mainstream manufacturers like Knoll, Widdicomb Furniture, Stilnovo Lighting, and Paul McCobb, has become increasingly difficult. Most dealers expect prices will continue to rise as there seems little indication of abatement anytime soon related to a lack of interest in this decorative arts stalwart.”
The past, however, does not guarantee the future or ensure that any category is positioned to maintain its ranking, design, and collector trends being what they are. With the start of a new year, design and home decor publications across the country have been putting the question out there: Has MCM peaked or will it adopt and continue to be hot in 2022? Here is what some had to say:
– According to Lotta Lundaas, Founder and CEO of Norse Interiors, it’s evolving. “Mid century meets boho has dominated design trends the past couple of years, but in 2022, we’ll see less boho and more mid century meets discrete luxury. Our homes will remain multi-purpose, and the mid century clean lines, simple shapes, and emphasis of function will be central to creating a safe haven with a touch of flair for when it’s time to log off and relax.”
– In its article, “10 Interior Design Trends Going Away in 2022” that appeared in a December 2021 article in Forbes, “Mid Century Modern Meets Boho” was listed alongside “Monochromatic, All White Interiors,” “Stainless Steel Kitchen Hoods,” and “Open Kitchens.”“Mid century meets boho has dominated design trends the past couple of years, but in 2022, we’ll see less boho and more mid century meets discrete luxury. Our homes will remain multi-purpose, and the mid century clean lines, simple shapes, and emphasis of function will be central to creating a safe haven with a touch of flair for when it’s time to log off and relax.”
– An article in Realtor Magazine, put out by the National Association of Realtors, identifies “Mid-Century Modern + Contemporary Chic” will be one of “13 Home Trends Stealing the Spotlight in 2022.” “Mid-Century Modern architectural details and home furnishings stay a favorite, followed closely by contemporary, so long as the latter is warm and inviting rather than cold and spare.”
– “Mid-century modern seems to have been making an exit as a popular trend,” says Beth Diana Smith, the CEO and principal designer of Beth Diana Smith Interior Design.