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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. 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

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

  1. 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. 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. So agree with you regards MCM – I was a child of the sixties & grew up with those awful kidney shaped coffee tables with spindly legs with metal caps set at an angle looking like the whole thing was about to collapse even though it was hand crafted well by my father – not mass produced. Awful plastic laminated faux wood grain furniture, hard edges or wonky shapes, vinyl seat cushions, shiny sterile steel – much of which looked more suited to a hospital ward than a home. Then it all continued into the 70’s with plastic/synthetic everything unless it was macrame which was everywhere (I see that is making a comeback) & all overblown patterns – from wallpaper to fashion & all that brown, orange & lime – uggh!

    I also agree with the comments by one person regards ‘modern’ farmhouse style – yes, all those ‘inspirational’ signs & mass produced ‘farmesque’ themes are so overdone & I cringe when I see those signs shouting ‘farmhouse’ on suburban walls, ( I actually live on a farm, in a traditional style farmhouse & would never have such signs, or cows & chickens dominating my decor, but nothing wrong with farmhouse sinks if they look authentic). Real traditional/vintage rural style is simply a less affluent, slightly more rustic version of the high end furniture of the 1800’s to early 1900’s. The true ‘farmhouse’ style today is still traditional, warm & comforting, simple but aesthetically pleasing furniture left with it’s original wear suited to a mellow rural lifestyle. But to me at least the modern mass produced farmhouse style is trying to echo poorly a style that in itself is pleasing, whereas the MCM revival echoes a style to my eye that was never anything but hard edged, cold & emotionless, whether it was hand crafted or mass produced – still looks the same.

    But also worth noting – just because a style becomes popular & gets components of said style mass produced – it doesn’t make that style in it’s true form less worthy of admiration, it’s the true form that is still one that is pleasing aesthetically & comfortably functional or not, & MCM to me was never either of those to start with.

  4. OMG! I googled “when will this mcm bullshit be over?” and up popped your blog. I loved it! Everyone is entitled to their opinion and can furnish their homes as they choose. However, it was extremely refreshing for me to read what I have felt for a lifetime. Seriously, a lifetime. I was born in 1962. That crap was ugly then and it’s even uglier now. Cheap hotel furniture is what it brings to mind with no regard for true comfort. I couldn’t care less if someone compliments my home and I’m a designer! I live here! When clients want that crap I tell them you don’t need me….that stuff is everywhere. I won’t be insulting but I don’t want my name associated with mindless, for-the-masses design. My home is my sanctuary and that is what I strive to create for others. Craftsmanship and quality always prevail. Thank you for a delightful read.

  5. I just googled “f*** mid century furniture” because I’m so disgusted and sick of this trend. I loved your piece. It’s absolutely group think and people following trends b/c it’s easier than thinking about what they actually like and who they are.

    1. Haha Jessica, couldn’t agree more. Thanks for reading!

  6. I love you!
    and f*** Mid Century Modern!

  7. I was born in the early sixties. I was raised with midcentury furniture in their original version. I hated since I was a child.

    1. Maria, you are not alone! I hear that sentiment quite a bit! Thanks for reading.

  8. Rachel,
    Came across your rant, finally someone who understands me! Not only do I currently work at a furniture store that sells new furniture of many styles from high end to low but I work as an interior designer/sales person. I grew up with mid century as a child and couldn’t wait til we changed to more traditional american/european/Asian inspired design at home for more warmth and comfort. The store I work for with owners and co-workers prefer to have little or no traditional i am always outnumbered all because of television shows and social media pushing it all. I too get upset with the throw away younger generation that is buying into trendy junk from those put together websites, or customers come in saying that they want to get rid of all there traditional furniture and start over with trendy trash. Even though what they may have is made much better! That’s why I search sites like yours to see if I can still find high end traditional styles i still love and have!

    1. Brendan you are not alone! In the last few months, we have picked up two or three beautiful solid wood dining room sets by incredible brands like Councill Craftsman and Pennsylvania House from people “ready for a change.” When they show me what they are replacing their thirty year old dining sets with, I hide my face so that they don’t see my expression! Usually, a faux “farm table” made of particle board and cheap flimsy looking slipper chairs! In my head, I roll my eyes. Their new trendy set might make the 3 year mark, but I doubt that it will be around in thirty years. Keep being your stylish self, and I am sure others will see the light sooner or later! Thanks for writing!

  9. I love this article. I’m so sick of that mcm look. You are right, it is the height of pretentiousness. That crap is going to be worthless in a few years. If I see one more house with an Eames lounge chair i think I’m going to kill myself. And all this modern farmhouse industrial crap. Omg. It never ends. And those stupid sliding doors. In a suburban home no less. I mean in a loft apartment I could see it but in a suburban home?? It’s like the world is filled with sheeple. They just don’t know anything about style except what they are fed. Look at these home reno shows. Do you ever see anything but a white kitchen with a farmhouse sink? And stupid signs everywhere with cute sayings. And shiplap. It goes on and on. I have seen so many beautiful traditional style homes get a farmhouse modern makeover and it just ruins the house not to mention the whole neighborhood.

    1. Absolutely Clippa. The modern farmhouse + industrial combo irks me too. And the signs… My husband and I joke non-stop about the trite saying, “Live Love Laugh” we see everywhere. HA!
      Thanks for reading!

  10. So thankful and relieved to read this post. I keep “ trying” to find something (anything) appealing about MCM furnishings and cannot find one redeeming factor! I’ll be keeping my rolled-arm sofa and Louis XVI chairs with ottomans, thank you!

    1. Thank you Carole! It’s always nice to here from some fellow traditionalists! 🙂

  11. Midcentury Modern with mohair upholstery? Not a chance. That style is all about synthetics. Mohair is expensive. Look for Deco furniture with mohair, and polyester on MCM. I mean, yuck.

  12. I am so relieved to find someone who says exactly what I’ve been thinking! I can’t stand this resurgence of Brady Bunch style home furnishing that are cheap and leave me running for the rolled arm sofa style…or French country or anying that looks somewhat comfortable and stylish! Thank you for this great summation of what I’m feeling inside but didn’t know quite where to put my frustrations and thought I must be missing something by not wanting to buy into this trend once again!

    1. Karen you are not alone! Thank you for reading and enjoy bucking the trend – You can never go wrong with a rolled arm sofa. 🙂

  13. I could not agree with you more Rachel! As an avid collector of all things antique (many of which are family heirlooms), I too wander my lovely home remembering where and when I first saw, sat upon, or swooned over so many cherished “friends”. I clearly remember my dear Mother stepping onto the “Danish Modern train” for a very short ride when she first furnished a “family room” in our basement for my siblings and I. Not surprisingly when we moved to a new home within a year of her purchases these pieces did not make the trip. They were worn out or simply too uncomfortable for any of us to use, so it was quickly back to the tried and true antiques we had owned for decades. Very sad indeed that so many young people do not recognize the fact that there is a reason that antiques are still around centuries after they were constructed – they were simply made better by skilled craftsmen who loved their work! Love the things you sell and the customer service you provide. Please keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Martha. You are absolutely right, quality is one of the major keys to longevity in furniture. But I also appreciate your comment about the craftsmen who loved their work! You really can sense that in older, finer things… Funny about your mom’s basement. I think my mom has an angled, itchy uncomfortable sofa like that around, too!

  14. Finally, someone who has put into print what my thoughts have been all my adult life while trying to build a beautiful and comfortable life for my family. I don’t understand the people on TV home and design shows who buy a beautiful traditional or Mediterranean homes and tear down walls with beautiful wood moldings and interesting niches to force a mid-century modern style inside and outside. So sad. One day we will live in stripped down homes with few possessions and no links to our past. It will be a test tube life and sterile.

    1. Very True Brook! I don’t understand forcing the “open concept” either! Do people not like privacy or rooms? Thanks for reading and for the comment. Hopefully there are people that still enjoy collecting and artfully decorating their homes…

  15. Highly refreshing and I laughed mightily. Thanks!

  16. BRAVO – Rachel LaBoheme
    Never apologize for accurately assessing the cheap and uncomfortable. Truly hype of MCM furniture is the rule. Neked emperor Emily, likely has her abode filled with this overpriced unappealing crap and is sensitive to its scrutiny. Only one endowed with a cube shaped ass will find pleasure parked there. I grew up surrounded with these rickety, angular non-ergonomic torturous monstrosities.
    As an “Art” student in the 1970’s frank and unapologetic criticism was strongly encouraged. Safe spaces have no place in reasoned analysis – my lovely. BTW “modern” is a fifteenth century word.

    1. Thank you Michael and thanks for your thoughtful reply! Love your language. I can tell you are a writer as well as an artist. 🙂 Thanks again for reading.

    2. I totally agree with you!! I grew up in the 50’s and ‘60’s and hated it then…hate it now. I was actually searching the internet to find someone who was honest in the assessment and description of this lack luster stay. I am grateful that, while others were building homes that looked like low slung cement boxes, my parents defied the trend and built a lovely colonial home which still looks beautiful today. As I remember, this trend faded fast…and will again. And, please God, dump the gray!

      1. Thank you for the comment Marci!

  17. Re: #9. Wow. I mean, just wow.

    We are all entitled to our style tastes, so I don’t care what kind of furniture you personally prefer, but not only is this vitriol baffling from someone who presumably would like to sell things to people (some of whom may have different tastes than yours), but you market your business in urban sales groups where you know your potential audience may (happily) have made lifestyle choices different from your own. Maybe you were trying to be cute and provocative, but frankly, this is just offensive and a very poor marketing strategy.

    You have some lovely pieces in stock, but so do lots of other people who are less judgmental. I’d much rather give my money to them.

    1. Hi Emily, Thanks for your comment. Although I am sorry that I offended you! Absolutely just an opinion piece regarding a popular style (with much tongue and cheek). In regards to #9 in this blog, I am not sure what made you feel as though this was a judgement on lifestyle… simply an observation on the state of the economy and culture that has forced much of my generation to delay home-buying… and instead live with roommates. This is not an attack. Simply an observation. Again, thanks for reading and for your honest feedback. I will be more careful with my attempts to be funny in the future.

    2. Emily totally agree with you… though we are not millennials, my wife and I love this MCM style, reminds us of a by gone era, as well as part of our childhood… Pretentious? Give me a break… I am still laughing at this ludacis comment… and mass produced, really? We have quite a few pcs that are one of a kind or were high priced back then not many pcs were made, some pottery yep sure was, but we love the style none the less, and if you want to bark about mass producing, yeah all the crap made today, not only is it mass produced outside our country, it is absolute throw away trash with no style… love the cookie cutter ikea and ahsley furniture in everyone’s home, blech! If you know how to design you can easily place almost any pc with anything, it was about color, design, boldness, uniqueness, etc. and we get compliments day after day on our home… yes you are all entitled to your opinion but come on!

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