Mid-Century Furniture

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

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

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

  1. I’m totally with you. I’m so sick and tired of showing someone a piece I own let’s say from the aesthetic movement which is very complex in design and it’s always followed by, “I love mid Century modern, I like to clean straight lines. “. What a surprise, you like clean straight lines like everyone else. And your boring interiors. It’s like you can’t like any other thing other than “clean straight lines” because it’s cool and that makes you a modernist and a free thinker if you’d like “clean straight lines”. And somehow because I like complex interiors and complex designs that makes me some kind of freak. Well then so be it I’m a freak. I think most people don’t know what they like and they’re just regurgitating what they hear from everyone else.

  2. Lol! I actually typed in “I hate mid-century modern furniture” just to see if anyone felt the same. This rant may be your opinion but to me it is factual, hilarious, and markedly on point. If I never saw another sofa with a one-foot back, covered in cheap vinyl or some other crappy material with peg legs, it would not be soon enough for me. To me, it is boring, uncreative, and plum ugly. I’ll take its opposite of overly ornate, maximalist styling made with solid wood any day. I LOVE this article! Thank you!

  3. I’m a millennial and I fully agree with you!! To me, any time I’ve thought about MCM my mind goes to cheap apartment IKEA furniture or my grandmas furniture which is real antique MCM worth a fortune…but I’ve always found it so ugly!! I’m fortunate and own a house and have been filling it with French antiques and traditional American antiques that are more chunky. My house is more rustic and my furniture choices go with it. The only MCM I’ve ever seen that I loved was the mid century home they did on Home to Win. Aaaand that was all of the top designers in Canada working on a MCM home. To me that’s appropriate…if you have a MCM home, you can do it up really well with unique finds of MCM furniture in there whereas my house would look weird with MCM furniture. I do agree it’s overdone, it’s tired anymore. Most ppl don’t style it right or they’re just being basic copy cats. Your post was great and don’t worry about the haters on here…a lot of ppl are offended by everything anymore and every chance they get to be a Karen…they take it. Keep this post up bc I found it by googling “does anyone else think MCM is ugly?” Lol. Just so the others of us with taste can find it.

  4. I’m all for a good opinion piece with well-reasoned takes, but damn, this had some weird s*** in it. Political dog whistles (“snowflakes”, “we don’t live in Moscow yet”) and generational insults (millennials are stupid and poor) in an article about furniture design. Odd choices. Also, as a designer I’m not a huge fan of Le Corbusier, but calling foreign names pretentious screams of American exceptionalism to me.

    To the points that had some validity, I still take some issue. I don’t think you can fairly accuse MCM of being cheap and mass-produced when, well before the revival of MCM, boho went (and is still going) through EXACTLY the same highly trendy, cheaply reproduced phase (Urban Outfitters? Madewell? anyone?) Looking through marketplace in my area, right now as I write this, boho and mcm are easily 90% of all furniture items for sale. I guess there are two schools of groupthink happening here? (TBH this use, and by default yours, isn’t the correct use of groupthink. It’s collective behavior.)

    Another point, cheap materials do not necessarily mean a cheap product. I have an incredibly sturdy credenza from a local company in town that’s made out of recycled MDF with real wood veneers. It’s heavier than any solid wood pieces I have in the house and I can’t see this thing ever falling apart.

    Anyways, I know this is an opinion piece and it seems likely you’ll just write this off, but before you do, remember that constructive criticism is still valid and opinions aren’t free of error. Peace.

    1. Appreciate your response, Jared. As you can see by the comments on this article, your opinion is shared by many! We do not write off any opinions or constructive criticism. Thanks for reading and your input.

  5. I am so impressed that so many young people know good design and see most MCM for what it is …or is not depending on the case. Excellent. To the author you have nailed every point. Well-said. Well-done.

  6. Yes, yes and YES!!

    “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.”

    I could have laughed out loud at this statement, as this feature is as ubiquitous as, well, Waffle House in the South. Are designers and manufacturers really so lazy that they can’t think of anything better to prop up their tacky, vinyl-and-mdf pieces on? I suppose it’s only fitting that furniture with no elegance or craftsmanship would have feet with even less. I’m not a fan of “foofy” furniture with cornices and scrollwork, but there is something to be said for attention to detail and, as you point out, a sofa one can curl up on to watch a movie. I grew up around my parents’ (and grandparents’) hand-me-down, laminated MCM pieces and for the most part didn’t experience real furniture until I was married and moved out, so it’s only been since then that I’ve come into my own style. My family probably thinks us snobbish for insisting on solid wood (although many of our pieces are estate-sale acquired antiques and my husband is an amateur woodworker) and actual quality, but we’ve also had conspicuous bare spots in the house while we “made do” with what we had until we could save up for pieces that would last a long time and not look dated after a few years. It’s not just MCM that cuts corners in materials and labor (more and more it’s been Modern Farmhouse), but for me this style epitomizes all that is low-effort, low-quality and lacking in style or personality in the furniture industry.

  7. I think you are spot on! Loved it’s like the Emperors clothes. I feel that way about it. I hope the trend ends soon.

  8. I found this article somehow, even though I LOVE most MCM. Lol Design is subjective, and there is no style that is for everyone, so your points are fair. For years I tried to be “in style,” and wasn’t happy. I discovered it’s because I am tacky, and tacky makes me happy. 🤣 So now I am embracing my mid century, tacky loving taste (or lack there of 🤣,) and while I FULLY understand many people will look at it and say “WTH!?😳,” I smile every time I walk into a room filled with color and tacky mid century treasures! They’re not all “MCM” as much as kitschy, TBH, but oh how it makes me smile. I guess what I’m saying is, some of us just don’t care what is “in style,” and that should be the ultimate goal, IMO. Whatever makes YOU smile. Clearly, for you, it is NOT mid century, and that’s perfectly fine. ❤️

  9. Hah! I don’t think my search engine did a good job for me–I actually like mid-century modern and found this article when looking for people who like me hated Craftsman style.

    Seems like your bigger point is that current MCM style is too mass produced and cheap, and yet modeled on an elite aesthetic, thereby achieving a paradoxical status of being too common and yet not accessible enough. Like so many things, with mass production it no longer holds the original appeal or the qualities that made it special.

    Fair enough, I’ve never been able to afford things before they went mass-production so I can’t say I feel surprised or hurt by this observation lol.

    My only suggestion if you decide to edit or update–your main point is valid. I don’t think there’s a need for broad generalizations about people who buy it. Some of us just really like sliding glass doors and I don’t think there’s some social or generational reason. It’s just who we are, questionable taste and all.

    1. I don’t think she has to modify her opinion, as she us entitled to that. Furthermore that is exactly the point being made, conformity of everything such as ugly furniture, points of view, and oh be careful of what you say, as it may offend. As for affordability, how about buying one nice piece of furniture at a time. I save for everything I want instead of instant gratification. I agree that mid century is uncomfortable looking and to sit upon. Time for more traditional, comfortable and graceful looking interiors.

  10. I literally Google’d “who else hates MCM furniture” because I needed to not feel so alone, and found your post. Only note- I’m a millennial- we’re not all fart-huffing MCM gushing sheep. I just sold an inherited danish desk that I hated to a MCM dealer and the guy wouldn’t stop talking about how great the stuff was. Like, read the room, I’m selling it cuz I hate it. I’m keeping my solid wood furniture like my vintage Drexel french-provincial dressers. It’s taken me all my 20’s and countless garage sales and thrift store to get the quality old stuff, but when you see the new garbage out there, I’m glad I kept hunting for the good stuff.

    1. Chrissy, I am so glad you dislike Mid Century Modern Furniture as well. I, too am a millennial, so I guess we are not alone. Your comment about selling your mid-century desk made me laugh out loud. Also, vintage Drexel French Provincial furniture is a great investment, so I am glad you are going against the grain and finding quality used furniture at thrift stores and garage sales. No doubt it will prove to be a great investment. Best, Rachel

    2. I agree, a lot of it looks like the dorm room furniture of the 70’s ugly, cheaply made, uncomfortable, no craftsmanship what so ever, and definatly herd mentality, but hey how many gray on gray on gray on gray rooms have you been in lately! I fear the end of creativity is upon us!

    3. Jeff, yes and where did the gray trend come from? It’s quite oppressive if you ask me. Sure, a natural gray stone or slate is nice, but grey faux wood floors with matching gray walls have to go! Thanks for your comment.

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