I recently overheard mid century furniture being referred to as “Brown Furniture”. They possibly weren’t au fait with Milo Baughman’s beautiful chrome framed loungers, Arne Jacobsen’s iconic Egg Chair, Pierre Cardin’s stunning Credenzas or the glamorous Willy Rizzo cocktail tables favoured by Jack Nicholson. This dismissal of a design movement with just a pithy phrase denies the impact the beauty and form that spans decades and continents. From Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, the Hollywood Hills down to the coast of Miami and further south to the Americas, Mid Century Modern Design endures because of it’s simplicity and innovation of form and the beauty of it’s craftsmanship.
Granted, for some, mid-century furniture will always be nothing more than ‘Brown Furniture” littering Flea Markets and collecting dust in charity shops. But for Hollywood ‘Greats’, past and present, mid-century design is as much part of the fabric of their lives as Paparazzi and Movie Junkets and it has as much allure now as it did in the days of Garry Cooper and Charlton Heston.
Gary Cooper was so inspired by his role as Howard Roark in the movie Fountainhead (1949) that he commissioned seminal Architect A. Quincy Jones to design his ‘dream house’. He lived there from 1955 with his wife Rocky and daughter Maria until his death in 1961.nc,
Charlton Heston’s stunning mid-century Beverley Hills home located above Coldwater Canyon is also inextricably linked to another great Hollywood movie. Heston began the build in 1959 whilst filming Ben Hur (1959) and the family moved in shortly after filming finished. Heston’s son Fraser is quoted as saying that his Father always referred to it as The house that ‘Ben Hur’ built. With every room reportedly having a view of the hills, his sublime library has the best of books and vistas and I’m not sure what could be better than that. He adored the house and lived out his days there until his death in 2008.
Legend Steve McQueen was also a huge fan of mid century design. His Palm Springs bachelor pad remains virtually untouched since he owned it in 1964 and his Hollywood mansion that was subsequently owned by Wes Craven is as breath taking now as it was way back then. Now back on the market following the death of Craven, it is set to sell for almost $3.5 million.us nunc,
Although there is a certain caché in two previous owners being Hollywood ‘Greats’, the added bonus for a C21st Real Estate Agent is the ‘Mid Century Modern’ tag that will sell the property regardless of the celebrity association. For many, the investment side is an important element to being a buyer or collector. Whether houses or furniture, these are heirloom pieces that are standing strong over the course of time. Something precious to be used and loved and cherished and of course to increase in value especially when interest rates are low.
Mid Century Modern Design may have taken a back seat during the 1980’s but with magazines such as Wallpaper and House Beautiful championing the style in the mid 1990’s, it made it’s way back easily to the forefront of design and public attention. The clean lines and timeless elegance of designs by the likes of Eames and Saarinen and the glamour of Harvey Probber have a freshness now, just as they did then. The connection between mid century modern design and Hollywood continues today. Hollywood Stars young and old are fans. Jennifer Anniston, Jonah Hill, Julianne Moore, Scarlett Johansen, Jason Statham, Kate Hudson, James Marsden and Will Ferrell have all invested in homes and furniture.
For a country such as America, with a short documented history, there is something intriguing about a piece of classic mid century design, whether it be a house or a lounge chair. As a movement it has historic significance. Many mid century modern designs were intended for smaller post-war city homes and were lighter in weight for a more mobile population, which is perhaps why they still resonate so strongly with us today. However, there is without doubt something special about the Californian climate and it’s dramatic panoramas that fit so comfortably with mid century design. Perhaps for those of us with clay feet, incorporating a Mastercraft Credenza, an Eames Lounger or a Harvey Probber sofa into our homes gives us our very own little piece of Hollywood.