Mid-century modern is a chic, versatile, and attractive style that can add fun pops of color and zeal to any room of your house. While popular, the look carries a hefty price tag, especially if you’re searching for rare vintage originals from an era that roughly spans from the 1940s through the 1960s. If you’re on the hunt for affordable mid-century style furniture, then it’s all about where to look. The trick is knowing where to find licensed reproductions that would make even Don Draper feel at home.
The Mid-Century Appeal
You don’t have to recreate the set of “Mad Men” when outfitting your home with mid-century style furniture. Even a piece or two can add appeal to a room. Fans of the style laud it for its simple, streamlined elegance that seems to pair well with almost everything. The best mid-century modern furniture designers credit the style’s staying power with its undeniable beauty and functionality.
Whether you’re looking for a vintage original, a licensed reproduction, or an imported reproduction, you have a lot of options for finding the perfect pieces for a mid-century style living room — or any other room of the house — with timeless style.
Identifying Mid-Century Style
Mid-century furniture features telltale clean lines with curved angles or contours. Pieces can be identified by a contrast in shapes, bold patterns, detailed ornamentation, and finished metal, fiberglass, or wood construction. When comparing Danish modern vs. mid-century modern styles, you will find pieces with more natural elements, such as those same clean lines or rounded edges but in neutral or earthier tones. If you love the look of mid-century modern furniture but prefer a more minimalist or eco-friendly take, then Danish modern is an excellent alternative.
Buying the Right Mid-century Style Furniture
John Edelman, CEO of Design Within Reach and a board member of Be Original Americas — a non-profit group bringing awareness to the issue of authentic vs. counterfeit furniture designs — offers this bit of comfort to the novice mid-century fan who is worried about being duped. “I think new collectors can get ripped off,” he says of the typical trial-by-fire experience that someone goes through when first buying mid-century modern pieces. “It’s when they go to the next level of actually collecting that they learn about authenticity.”
If you’re seeking a pre-owned vintage piece, then you need to do your homework on how to spot authenticity and how it’s priced because original mid-century style furniture in perfect shape can cost thousands of dollars or more.
“Patina alone isn’t a sign of an authentic product,” warns Edelman, so be ready to dig into research. If you’re into vintage Danish modern, for example, a good starting point to educate yourself on authentic markers is a database of the style, such as Danish-Modern.co.uk. You can hire an appraiser who specializes in the era, or you can confirm a piece’s authenticity with the manufacturer if it’s still in business.
“People who have purchased or are going to purchase used chairs, usually from eBay or Craigslist, often contact us,” says Gregg Buchbinder, CEO of Emeco and founding member of Be Original Americas, citing the company’s famed 1944 Navy Chair. “We have them send in photos so we can easily identify counterfeits.”
Companies such as Knoll, Herman Miller, and Vitra have nurtured relationships with original designers and their foundations. They hold the patents, trademarks, licenses or copyrights to original designs and invest in materials, prototypes, and technologies that faithfully manufacture high-quality pieces to today’s standards. These pieces are typically called licensed reproductions.
For example, you can buy a licensed reproduction Eames lounge chair and ottoman from Herman Miller for a reasonable price compared to a rare, pre-owned original, which sometimes go for double the price. You receive unique properties of the original Eames version, such as the exact tilt the designer intended when he created the 1956 piece, intentionally wrinkled leather cushions, and a shell that matches the look and feel of the original rosewood chair.
Inspired Copies and Lookalikes
If you have your heart set on a mid-century living space but just don’t have the budget for vintage originals or licensed reproductions, then you can consider low-cost reproductions. However, if this is the route you choose, buyer beware. Many unlicensed mid-century modern furniture reproductions have quality issues. For example, chrome on the legs and hardware might wear thin and flake or peel. You will find quality reproductions, lookalikes, and inspired versions of many mid-century designs in your search. For the best mid-century modern design experience, however, aim for the sweet spot and opt for licensed reproductions for your home.
When it comes to mid-century modern design, experiment with the beloved retro style without exceeding your budget by turning to CORT Clearance Centers. The company offers affordable, gently used furniture, including mid-century-inspired designs, you can use to create the look in any room of your home.