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Why I Hate Mid Century Modern Furniture! A Rant by Rachel LaBoheme

Mid-Century Furniture

Mid Century Modern Furniture

I don’t want to begrudge anyone of the pleasure they get from Mid Century Modern furniture and decor. Certainly, there are many die-hard Mid Century Modern furniture fans out there. (If you are one, please consider reading my husbands take on MCM Furniture.) But many people walking into our furniture store over the years have asked, do you ever get any MCM furniture?

The answer is yes and no.

Over the years, we have sold a handful of Mid-Century Modern pieces. Honestly, these retro furniture pieces were kind of pretty in a weird way. (What can I say, we have great taste here at Bohemian’s.) 🙂

Mid Century Modern Furniture

Overwhelmingly, though, I hate Mid Century Modern furniture. Here are my Top Nine Reasons why.

What is Midcentury Modern furniture?

Simply put, Mid Century Modern furniture is furniture produced roughly in the years from 1940’s until the 1960’s. Design wise, however, Mid Century furniture typically has simple lines and very little ornamentation. Typically, because it has no fuss, it is regarded as very functional furniture. New materials like plastic, resin and plywood found their way into Mid Century style furniture.

Now for the Reasons why I dislike it…

  1. It’s Pretentious.
  2. Mid Century Modern ironically started in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the idea of “bringing design to the masses.” Many of the original proponents of this modern design trend like Bauhaus and Le Corbusier (how pretentious are these names?) actually designed simpler furniture so that it could be accessible.

    However, Mid Century furniture today is anything but accessible.

    Instead, it seems MCM furniture name-dropping helps the upper crust feel self-important and stylish. They brag about their Miller chairs and Eames pieces as if God gave them a special place in Heaven for spending way too much money on ugly furniture.

    Likewise, there is such snobbery that surrounds “original” pieces by famous Danish designers. To me, they look like simple prototypes for bad motel furniture. It’s as if Motel 6 decided to save money this year by making these plywood chairs for their lobby.

  3. It’s Mass Produced.
  4. I love furniture. And I love factory produced furniture by Vintage makers. But Good Lord, high end factory pieces often take hours of workmanship to produce. A single Kittinger Clawfoot leg, for instance, can take several days for a craftsman to carve.

    However, most MCM and MCM knock-offs are made by machine, and quickly. Indeed, the look of MCM furniture often echos this “machine aesthetic.” Stark, inorganic and cold, these mass produced pieces lack the handwork of other vintage furniture styles.

  5. It’s Overdone.
  6. Mid Century Furniture styles have been reinvented in a thousands of different ways by high and low companies. Let me tell you, there just doesn’t seem to be enough diversity to keep reliving it! How many low back square sofas with stick legs can we tolerate?

    As Michael Boodro (former Editor in chief of Elle Decor, of all places) says in this article from the New York Times, “Your eye does get bored. Twenty years ago, when midcentury was first being discovered, you could do a straight interior, and that was exciting. People want to go beyond the expected.”

    Twenty years, people. There are really only a few things with that much staying power. Maybe Michael Jackson. And reggae. But it’s time for this overdone style statement to be over! RIP Mid Century Modern.

  7. It’s not as comfortable as they say.
  8. I don’t know about you, but the comfort level of MCM seems to be greatly over exaggerated. I see these little square dining chairs or low seated living room furniture with 1.5 inches of foam and I fail to feel the urge to snuggle up and watch a movie.

    Give me a dated 1980’s rolled arm sofa over a 1960’s Danish nightmare any day!

    PA House furniture
    Say yes to (tasteful) 1980’s sofas! Say no to Stick Legged Furniture!

    Likewise, I feel the itchy mohair of many Mid Century Sofas to be less than ideal, which brings me to my next point…

  9. The materials used are cheap!
  10. Plywood, plastic, mohair, vinyl, fake wood! Tell me again why I should buy this thing for well over $1000? I guess the one thing that makes MCM attractive is that is generally not as heavy as fine furniture…?

  11. It’s Group Think on every Level.
  12. I just don’t like conformity that much. The ubiquitousness and popularity of MCM just makes me uncomfortable.

  13. The Design Versatility is Questionable.
  14. I hear people say it all the time. “It’s just so versatile. You can put it anywhere and with everything.” This makes me say, “What the…?”

    I get that some people find it “surprising” and “fresh” to “juxtapose” their Victorian house with “Mid Century Pieces” (sorry, that was a lot of air quotes!) but I frankly fail to see the design versatility. To me, a piece of Mid Century Modern sticks out like a sore thumb in nearly every setting.

  15. It encourages minimalism.
  16. Minimalism requires way too much purging and editing for me. I like to put all my pretty things around so that I feel life has a reason for living and that reason isn’t some sort of cruel joke. Sorry, minimalists. I don’t get it.

    After all, this isn’t Moscow (yet), and I want some variety of color, rich patterns and glamorous accessories! (The layered Traditional look calls to me in a much deeper way.)

  17. It reminds me that Millenials have no money, can’t think on their own and have to live in apartments to survive.
  18. Sorry snowflakes (aka Millenials)! This one is a tough one. I feel that our generation could be the most susceptible to marketing schemes. And to me, Mid Century Modern Furniture is like the Emperor’s New Clothes. In many ways, furniture stores and online conglomerates (Wayfair, West Elm, etc) found a gullible market in order to further their agenda of selling cheap low-quality furniture for high prices.

    Plus, they figure, we can screw a peg leg into a piece of sawdust (as long as it’s pre-drilled) after all those years of our pricey educations.

    Furthermore, since we have no money or job prospects, living four to an apartment until our late 30’s seems like a great time to introduce this lightweight and small apartment-sized furniture to the masses. Dare I say, Ikea?

      So that’s my little rant about Mid Century Modern Furniture!

      What are your thoughts on this design trend? I would love to know whether you agree that it’s time for MCM to die or whether this truly is a classic here to stay!

      Thanks for reading!
      Rachel LaBoheme
      Head Creative Director of Bohemian’s

50 thoughts on “Why I Hate Mid Century Modern Furniture! A Rant by Rachel LaBoheme

  1. Hello! I feel a lot of your claims about mid century furniture being low quality and uncomfortable are overstated. One can find low quality and uncomfortable furniture from many time periods and styles, and many mid century items *are* quite comfortable (see how many Eames office chair designs are still in production and are sought after because of their ergonomics) and well-made (nearly all mid century mass produced furniture is made to a higher standard than today’s mass produced furniture). While it might not fit in some homes, MCM is scaled well for smaller homes with simple lines as well as grander, more modern-style homes, and can work well for those who don’t want too much ornamentation but still want some character.

    Honestly, I think you might need to learn more about furniture from that time period to make judgements (I mean, on an aesthetic level, you’re obviously 100% justified. Taste is personal and subjective!). I completely understand why a shop might not cater to this look, as all home décor and furnishing shops cater to a particular aesthetic and audience, but don’t yuck others’ yum! Like any classic design, there’s a reason many MCM pieces have been in continuous production since they were first produced.

    As for your number 9, those criticisms are valid about *any* popular style of new furniture. It’s nearly all crap. I can’t stand cheap reproductions of anything, and that isn’t exclusive to faux MCM.

    I think you aimed for satire but instead ended up with a rant.

    1. Kate, did you read Greg’s rebuttal to the rant? I think you may enjoy his take as well. He really feels the good MCM furniture (like the Eames chair) is comfortable. Thanks for reading and the comment!

  2. I’m puzzled why people would want to make their home look like a 1965 house trailer.

    1. Ha! Ellie your comment made me laugh! Thanks for that.

  3. What a sh*tty article. So, what kind of furniture do you like? Medieval? Louis XV? Your reasons to hate MCM furniture are trivial and your arguments are not solid at all. I could give you a whole dissertation comparing MCM to the sh*t produced nowadays and that could last for hours. Especially when you talk about esthetics. Nothing new has been created since the Eames times so, stop there and be reasonable. MCM is the peak of human development. De desire of men of leaving WWII behind made them progress exponentially. Same in mode, design, architecture, nothing done today surpasses that era.

    1. Thank you for your opinion and reading the article. It was meant as tongue and cheek and to provide a bit of humor to those who are sick of the MCM trends, which seem to be everywhere at the current moment! Best, Rachel LaBoheme

    2. Hi there ! I just came across your article, I love it you are spot on!
      One of my pet peeves is when people buy and old style home like colonial or Victorian and they bring in mid century decor I find this a lot on HGTV.. It drives me nuts! We built a center hall colonial farmhouse in 2006.. my formal living room and dining room is in line with 18th century reproduction.. My kitchen and family room are in line with early American primitive decor.
      That said even tho my house is not Victorian I find myself wanting to do classic farmhouse in the upstairs area which has lot of Victorian influence like my grandparent and great grandparents photos and would like to change my daughters bedrooms leaning twords Victorian in style.. Here is my dilemma:
      I wanted a brass bed in her room I found one for free is exactly like the American Doll ( Samatha original brass bed not their new one) it’s a very bright brass and would like to bring in a few pieces of antique oak furniture that we had inherited and had for years how ever the oak furniture doesn’t match in color the dresser is dark the bookcase medium and the quilt shelf is medium light.
      What shade of oak goes well with bright brass?
      I do not want Victorian overload but I do want a farmhouse feel that is historical. Any input would be appreciated. Thank you.

    3. Hi Donna! I personally would like the lighter to medium honey color of oak with your brass bed. It sure sounds like a lovely home. Thank you for writing! And yes, I hate when they bring in MCM in old homes on HGTV as well. 🙂

  4. You are hysterical, I totally agree. Every thing you said is sooooo…. true. I am so sickened by the excess of MCM furniture on the internet right now. I hated it when I was a young child growing up in the 60’s and I still hate it today. I have to laugh when it is called a style. There’s nothing stylish about it. Thanks for telling it like it is!

    1. Thanks so much Helene.

  5. I too despise Mid Century modern BUT I am moving into a granny flat. Any ideas for the perfect design style for a tiny space? I generally like Italian provincial, or British Colonial. Right now I have a giant leather sofa, 2 large traditional armoires for TV and computer, two wicker chairs and six seater Italian dining table and chairs, and traditional style bedroom furniture except for bamboo bed.

    1. Hi Marilyn. I think I love your taste, but I do understand that tight spaces require a new look at what you own. Certainly, I think your leather sofa could probably still work in a tight space, and be useful… Why not start there? Maybe ditch some of the chairs for the dining set and whittle down the bedroom set to the essential pieces. Then, it just comes to color, accessories, art and beautiful lamps, etc. I am envisioning a swanky traditional bachelorette pad. Best of luck in the new place!

  6. I fully agree! I hate the MCM style so much! It reminds me of a doll house I had in the 80s as a kid, but my doll house furniture felt dated to me and I didn’t like it. Now I know that it WAS dated and nowadays would be a very fashionable MCM dollhouse. It’s so soulless and ugly. When do you think it’s going to go away??

    1. Joy, I think it will go away very soon. I am seeing a Renaissance of Traditional furniture and I think many are so tired of MCM looks. There is also a new trend called “Grandmillenial” style which may be taking hold. Basically, younger millennials are starting to embrace traditional, classic homes and I couldn’t be happier. Fine fabrics, high end traditional furniture, wallpaper are all coming back, perhaps with a slightly lighter touch. I think the color schemes are a bit less serious (so no more deep cranberry, or hunter green like in the 1990s), but I definitely see the mahogany and cherry 18th century style furniture making a comeback!

  7. I was born in ‘66 and have very found memories of MCM in my grandparents and relatives homes. Later on my mom preferred 70’s decor and that progressed to country (duck decor and lots of blue and yellow with antiques). What many of you find hideous, some of us find nostalgic and warm. I’m past the years of loving clutter in my home and was given my grandmothers MCM hutch along with her dishes. I’ll proudly display that along with the modern furniture I’m collecting. People always tell us how warm and cozy our home feels- not everyone associates MCM with cheap and cold. I never look at others decorating styles and demean them, we all love what we love. Why make others feel bad for that?

    1. The article is tongue and cheek.

  8. Oh my!!! I googled “Why in the h3!! are people buying NEW HOMES and decorating them like they’re in the 1960’s or 1970’s???” and I found your post! A feeling of relief came over me as I realized I am not alone in thinking the resurgence of these trends have never had comfort, staying power, and CLASS!

    I have found my people! I too enjoy going through my home and feeling comforted by the texture and depth of the pieces that I have, and I can see their style as having had many lives.

    Thank you for bringing some peace to my heart! ❤️

    1. Texas Girl <3! Thank you for your comment, and you are definitely not alone. Thanks for reading. 🙂

  9. This is brilliant!! Love the writing…the passion, the humor, the whole thing it is perfect!

    The hell with what Emily’s think. I want to your furniture becuase of this. Honestly the article on PA house was interesting for sure but I would.have forgetten about quickly your site of I didnt read this. That because your writing/stance has evoked emotion in people. So much so it causes the Emilys to respond negativily and people like to stand up and say hell yeah ebohemians are my people. Writing that appeals to everyone sells is also forgotten by everyone. You want people to love and as importantly hate your writing. Im typing this on my. phone because I felt answer and never bother to comment or review things. Please do not be more careful with your writing. Double down on this style. We are your tribe and we want someone to stand up and say this stuff and with humor.

    I own a marketing agency so.I know what talking about. You have pure gold right here. Your tribe has spoken lead us!

    1. Thanks Nev! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  10. What a boring and uneducated rant

    1. Thank you for your opinion, we all have them and we are all welcome to our tastes, happy decorating.

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