The 1950s saw the advent of a new concept in furniture design. Form followed function as it did in decades before, and designers now focused on creating high-quality, affordable furniture for the masses. Tables and chairs were no exception, especially since they were perhaps the most used furniture pieces.
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Charles and Ray Eames designed chairs for the home, airports and schools and stadiums. They designed chairs for Herman Miller in moulded plywood, reinforced plastic, wire mesh and cast aluminium. Seat shapes followed and supported the human body; the frame actually shaped to it rather than merely adding upholstery for comfort. They created the moulded plywood chair as their first effort to create a chair that was comfortable without padding. This evolved into producing aluminium and wire mesh chairs during the 1950s for a more lightweight, pliable option.
Both tables and chairs during the 1950s had organic shapes inspired by nature. While Charles and Ray Eames focused on the human body, designer Arne Jacobsen created the "egg" chair in 1957, an egg-shaped seat in moulded fibreglass sitting on a four-point pedestal. Eero Aamio's ball chair went even further toward organic inspirations, with a spherical chair with one side cut out so the person was actually sitting inside it. In West Germany, spare designs like the kidney table appeared with an asymmetrical, organic design.
Danish Mid-Century Modern
Danish designers also developed designs that focused on raising standards in furniture aesthetics and functionality. Designers like Ole Wanscher created designs that actually veered from the prevailing modern tendencies, looking to classic designs for inspiration. His designs, however, had simple lines and embodied functionalism, like his 1951 folding coffee table. Hans. J. Wegner focused on creating functional pieces from natural materials, like the Cow Horn Chair in 1952, which had sleek and simple, but slightly curved and organic lines. The Round Chair is his most well-known piece.
The 1950s saw a colour and material trend that juxtaposed natural materials and muted colours with industrial, manufactured materials and bold pops of colour. High-end furniture still used plenty of natural wood finishes, and movements like the Danish mid-century modern focused on using natural materials with novel designs. Muted golds, avocado, cognac, camel and leather tones were found in homes. Bold colour combos were also used in industrial-inspired designs, like the Formica kitchen table with aluminium trim and chairs. Red, yellow or even pink and black were common in American kitchens, getting their inspiration from diners.
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