Mid-Century Modern Furniture Then and Now - Paradigm Gallery Blog

Bauhaus color

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On March 23rd

The walls are painted to match the architectonic divisions of the room precisely. Just as the room is divided into two sections, the ceiling is divided into two rectangular fields of color.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: thecharnelhouse.org

great images and written as a diary….fabulous feeling of being there in that visit…touches on the philosophy of the Bauhaus Movement…fantastic!

Originally published as “Im Bauhaus,” Zwrotnica 12 (1927) . Translated from the Polish by Steven Lindberg. From Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes, 1910-1930. (The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA: 2002).

See on Scoop.itMid-Century Modern Architects and Architecture

The Essence of a Miesian Dwelling

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On November 22nd

A winter view of the house in 1971, showing the original insect screening of the porch, and the roller shades added by the owner after the curtains were damaged by flood waters. image via Wikimedia Commons

A winter view of the house in 1971, showing the original insect screening of the porch, and the roller shades added by the owner after the curtains were damaged by flood waters. image via Wikimedia Commons

The Farnsworth House is a 1,500 sq.ft home designed and constructed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe between 1945-51. It is a one-room weekend retreat in a once-rural setting. The design is recognized as a masterpiece of the International Style of architecture and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006, after joining the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.  The cost of project was $74,000 in 1951 ($648,000 in 2012 dollars). There was a cost overrun of $15,600 over the approved pre-construction budget of $58,400.  This created havoc,  lawsuits and counter lawsuits  ensued until the courts ordered Dr Farnsworth to pay her bill.



At his inaugural lecture as director of the department in 1938, Mies stated:

“In its simplest form architecture is rooted in entirely functional considerations, but it can reach up through all degrees of value to the highest sphere of spiritual existence into the realm of pure art.”

  This sentence summarized what had become Mies van der Rohe’s consistent approach to design: to begin with functional considerations of structure and materials, then to refine the detailing and expression of those materials until they transcended their technical origins to become a pure art of structure and space.

The dominance of a single, geometric form in a pastoral setting, with a complete exclusion of extraneous elements normally associated with habitation, reinforces the architect’s statement about the potential of a building to express “dwelling” in its simplest essence.


As Mies stated on his achievement, “If you view nature through the glass walls of the Farnsworth House, it gains a more profound significance than if viewed from the outside. That way more is said about nature—it becomes part of a larger whole.” Farnsworth House is the essence of simplicity in the purest form, displaying the ever-changing play of nature.




image via farnsworthhouse.org http://www.farnsworthhouse.org/history.htm

image via farnsworthhouse.org http://www.farnsworthhouse.org/history.htm


Information for this post was obtained from the following resources:   Wikipedia          http://www.farnsworthhouse.org/history.htm

1969 Mid Century Modern House in Iowa City: An Architects Story

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On June 7th

My dad had laughing blue eyes. We shared many amazing times together in his last years. One day, while asking him a question, he turned to look at me with serious “blues” and said, “we have merged, we are one, you can think for me from now on.” This Zen moment: poignant, sad, and joyful all at the same time was  a monumental gift, a shift. I paused in reflection and launched into deep, slow breathing to help prepare for what was ahead….Así es La Vida

 A few years down the road, on the other side of the country, we received a different kind of gift, one that came with invisible strings. A mid-century modern house, the history of two lives, two careers, an anthropologist and an architect. Their passion for each other, their pets and nature was evident throughout the home. I discovered why we were chosen to steward their legacy from a yellow legal pad on the side of my uncle’s bed.  In brief, he hoped we would preserve and restore his beloved home.  So many questions will remain unanswered and….once again the responsibility that is a part of a gift…breathe...C’est La Vie


King House 1969 Architect Pierce King

In order to understand this impressive mid-century modern home, I needed to embrace this turn of events and try to be as one with this house, this land, this place. A contemporary definition of Zen: It is the state of residing in such great understanding and depth, that no matter what life throws your way, you drop the illusion and see things without the distortion of your own mind, and  you are at peace with it. I remind myself of this often, five years into this project….Live and Learn

 The bones of this interesting home are solid, strong, and impressive. I have photos of my uncle in the mid to late 1960’s hunkered down in his few acres of timbers (a reference to woods in Iowa speak), plotting how and where to place his home. IMG_0513 - Version 2He removed only one tree throughout the build (he certainly would not have called his woods “timber” because it implies the potential to cut). The structure hugs and leans into the curves of the land. Approaching down the long steep lane you see virtually a giant, redwood rectangle. When you enter your eyes are drawn to angles, levels (4), light, space, and glass. The dynamic art of nature, trees and sky, completing the mood. The extensive walls of glass is a Mies van der Rohe way of extending the sight lines beyond the interior (ie Farnsworth House). To me, this home embodies the complexity of thought reduced to the simplicity of lines.

 Mies van der Rohe was my uncle’s mentor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, originally called the Armour Institute, then merging with the New Bauhaus started by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in 1937. Mies as well as Moholy-Nagy both taught at the Bauhaus in Germany before immigrating to the US.

The International style is the name of the architecture associated with the American form of Bauhaus influenced design.  Some of the characteristics of this style are:

1. No applied ornamentation

2. A rectilinear shape

3. A light open space

4. Use of concrete and glass

  On my quest to understand more about the design of this house,  I reached out to Justine Jentes, Director of the Mies van der Rohe Society at IIT in Chicago. I asked her what she sees in the design connecting it to the International Style and/or Mies van der Rohe.  This was her reply:

     ”I agree, the details and the craftsmanship are impressive. While Mies did not work with wood for structure (It was more often used for interior doors, panels, etc) the overall box design, strong right angles, extensive use of large glass planes and what appears to be flowing “open plan” interior are reminiscent of Mies design.”


King House is all about the light….

IMG_0165 But their is more to this house then Mies, and International design. Frank LLoyd Wright’s philosophical presence is here as well. The extensive library has several FLW books, but “The Natural House” printed in 1963, stands out.  There are some pages marked and corners folded over, more pieces of this puzzle were falling into place. His last trip shortly before he passed away was to Falling Waters.  An architect friend* and his wife took Pierce to the place he had long desired to visit.  He was infirm, and nearly fell into the “falling waters”, fortunately Dwight grabbed  him before any damage was done.

“Plainness is not necessarily simplicity”…I can feel Pierce pouring over these words in this well worn fragile book. Wright later goes on to pull this idea together by saying, “ To know what to leave out and what to put in; just where and just how, ah, that is to have been educated in knowledge of simplicity—toward ultimate freedom of expression.

 So I continue to try to understand this interesting and intriguing house but I need a better understanding of FLW.  I am researching, talking, asking questions.  Following are some anecdotes from a handful of architects. I  asked them if FLW influenced them in how they design.


Lira Luis AIA is a global American Architect specializing in organic architecture. While working on her Master of Architecture degree at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture,  she lived at the two Taliesins (West and in Spring Green).

  “Words that come to mind about Mr. Wright’s architecture:

  Appropriate to time and place

  True to the nature of materials

   Form and function are one

My work tends not to imitate his style but rather be inspired by his Organic Architecture Principles.”   Lira Luis AIA


Harold F. “BUD” Dietrich, AIA shared a wonderful story with me of how FLW touched his family….

    In the summer of 1991 I was being transferred to the Chicago office of the company I worked for.  As part of that transfer we must have looked at 100’s of houses, searching for just  the right one. We decided to look at the Chicago suburb of Oak Park to see what we thought of it and, while there, visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.

     During our tour of the Home and Studio we arrived at the 2nd floor Playroom.  This room was an addition that Wright built to accommodate his growing family.  The room was designed and built very much with a child’s sensibilities.  A fact that my five year old daughter made me aware of.  While we were standing in the playroom enjoying the sense of space and views out to the Gingko tree, my daughter tugged on my arm and said “daddy, we should buy this one.”  She was mightily disappointed when I told her the house wasn’t for sale.

    The lesson I learned was how Wright, who had a tumultuous personal life to say the least, designed remarkable homes that truly accommodated a family life.  And this fact, at the end of the day, was where his true genius was.  Bud Dietrich AIA

Dwight Dobberstein AIA

 “To understand FLW’s greatness you have to look at the state of architectural design when he began.  Greek revival and gingerbread houses.  His buildings are the opposite, simple and clean incorporating natural materials and blending with the landscape. I like the long horizontal lines of his buildings and how they meld with their sites.

 While simple and modern, his buildings are not void of ornamentation.  There is plenty of ornamental detail beautifully incorporated in his work.  Much of the ornamentation is derived from nature which reinforces the connection to the site.

 The open floor plans flow from room to room in a seemingly simple layout yet complex organization.  Falling Water is a good example.  The plan seems easy but try to sketch it.

Dwight Dobberstein AIA

NCARB Newsletter !979 Pierce and Dwight's history began here...the nation's first intern-architect to complete IDP gets certified.

NCARB Newsletter !979
Pierce and Dwight’s history began here…the nation’s first intern-architect to complete IDP gets certified.

The body of the house looks so International and Mies inspired, but a part of it’s heart and soul are perhaps more tied to Frank Lloyd Wright then I will ever know. This process is helping me to understand the collaboration (influence on thought and design) between Pierce, Mies, and Frank…. La dolce vita

Image 2

XOXO All Seasons


Cheers and Chairs for 2013

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On December 31st

Four Blue Chairs


I love chairs, all different kinds of chairs. It was the “Four Blue Chairs” that punctuated the turn in the road that led to being an e-tailor of chairs.  My personal collection has a sweet 70’s Thonet rocker, a pair of well worn and loved Siesta chairs by Ingmar Relling, an antique rocker from West Virginia, a pair of Otto Gerdau beechwood chairs, mid-century wrought iron chairs, and a handful of other mid mo chairs that have come along for the ride!

Mies ven der Rohe is often quoted for saying, “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. ” and since he designed both I take him at his word. The chair is the ultimate example of form and function…..

So friends, CHEERS and CHAIRS and a Happy 2013 !




The Furntiture Designs of Lilly Reich

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On August 15th

Furniture Designs of Lilly Reich (Photo Courtesy of Flickr user Gribiche)

Lilly Reich was a German modernist designer, and closely collaborated with Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe for over 10 years. In fact, the famous “Mies Chair”, was not designed by Mies alone. Conclusive records state that this honor should be shared by his co-designer, Lilly Reich. This Mies Chair has become an “icon of modern classic design, an international symbol of good taste, perhaps the classiest chair you can own.”(www.modernfurnitureclassics.com)

As with other women of her time, Lilly was confined to traditionally acceptable female careers. Therefore, she got her start working as a designer of textiles and women’s apparel. However, her passion for design and architecture surpassed the confinement of gender roles in society at that time. In 1912, Lilly joined the Deutsch Werkbund, and became the first female to be made director.

The Deutsch Werkbund is an organization credited with the first seeds of modern design, and was a precursor to the Bauhaus School. During her time there, Lilly worked in the studio of the famous Bauhaus designer Josef Hoffman. It was also during this time at the Werkbund that Reich met Mies Van der Rohe.

Many would argue that Lilly Reich was at least as skilled a designer as Mies, and was most likely more articulate than he was. Mies was typically more reserved. Although he was said to have rarely solicited other’s comments, he was always eager to discuss design with Lilly. Those who knew both Lilly and Meis regarded her as “the detail and execution person”, and Mies as the “broad conceptualist.”

Together with Mies van der Rohe, Lilly Reich designed many notable works, including:

Read the rest of this entry »

Paying Homage to Julia Morgan – Female Architect

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On August 1st

Hearst Castle designed by Julia Morgan

“My buildings will be my legacy… they will speak for me long after I’m gone.” —Julia Morgan

As the architect of over 700 buildings in California, and the first woman to receive a Civil Engineering degree from the University of California at Berkley, Julia Morgan was a force to be reckoned with. She surmounted gender barriers in the United States and abroad, and inspired generations of young women to follow their dreams.

Julia was born in January of 1872 in San Francisco. After graduating from the the University of California at Berkley, one of her instructors encouraged her to apply to the famous “École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts”, the distinguished National School of Fine Arts in Paris, France. However, she was met with a few hurdles. The administration had previously never conceived of admitting women, so Morgan was rejected. For the next two years, Julia Morgan participated in prestigious competitions in Paris, winning most of them.

In 1898, École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (National School of Fine Arts) in Paris finally admitted her, and Julia became the first woman to be admitted, and graduate with a degree in architecture from this prestigious institution.

Upon returning to the States, Julia Morgan became the first female architect in California. She worked for John Galen Howard in Berkeley, drawing elevations and designing details for the Hearst Memorial Mining Building and helping with the design of the Hearst Greek Theater.

Over the span of her career, Julia was the architect of over 700 buildings in California. These included such projects as several private residential projects and the Oakland’s Mills College Bell Tower (1904), as you can see below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Learn about all of your favorite mid-century modern furniture designers before you begin your search for that perfect piece of furniture:

  1. Le Corbusier: Pioneer of “Modern” Furniture and Architecture
  2. Mies van der Rohe: Mid Century Design – Glass and Steel Architect Extraordinaire
  3. Eero Saarinen: Curling Up in Mid-Century Modern Furniture
  4. Arne Jacobsen: Danish Influenced Modern Furniture
  5. Poul Kjaerholm: The Final Figure of Danish Furniture Design
  6. Hans J. Wegner: Simple and Elegant Minimalist Design
  7. Marcel Lajos Breuer: International Style

Now that you’ve seen what some of the most popular designers have made, you can choose what type of modern furniture you want for your home.

If you’re still not 100 percent sure what piece of furniture you want, you should check out popular pieces like these:


– Lynne

Mies van der Rohe Chocolate Cake Day Bed created by Leandro Erlich


In your journey through the world of modern furniture, you may have heard about the “Barcelona X Chair”. This famous mid-century design was created by Mies van der Rohe. Born in Germany on March 27, 1886, Ludwieg Mies van der Rohe was an avant garde supporter and creator of modern art and architecture. He is known today as one of the leading and most influential exponents of the refined glass-and-steel architecture of the mid-20th-century.

Mies was famous for his use of…

Read the rest of this entry »

Adventures in Decision Making – Part 1 or A Walter Gropius Anecdote

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On November 29th

There are many integral factors that should be considered when making key decisions about  Mid-Century Modern designs. Color, size, shape, “feel”, and price should all be appropriately weighed in the mind of the consumer, but this quick story from the education of a well-known Harvard trained architect illustrates that there will always be unanticipated variables. As a side-note, the teacher discussed below is the famous Walter Gropius, who is regarded as a pioneering master of modern architecture.

“My mentor was Gropius, whose ideas were comparable to those of Mies van der Rohe. It’s rather sad, but after all my time at the feet of the master, the first thing that comes to mind after all these years is that silly conversation about the entrance stair to one of my building designs.”

“I designed free ‘floating’ concrete entrance stairs with steel reinforcing bars and an open area underneath. I thought it was quite sculptural and added to the overall lightness of the approach. When Gropius came for his critique he pulled at his eyebrow and contemplated my efforts for what seemed like an eternity. He then stated these immortal words which have been seared into my memory in his Germanic accented voice: ‘Roy do not do ‘dis – dogs will get under there and fornicate!’”

“These were hardly the words expected from a guy who to me was a near deity, but I have cherished them ever since. As far as I know, no dogs have ever had illicit carnal affairs under one of my structures.”

This is the first part of several amusing anecdotes that we are gathering directly from the memories of key figures in the colorful history of modern design. Please check back soon for another quirky true story.

Old Concept – New Design: Pre-Fab

Posted by Lynne van den Berg On November 7th
1970 style Pre-Fab Home
When I first heard people talking about the “New Pre-Fab” my first thought was of mobile homes and not at all what I am seeing today that is available in modern Pre-Fab style. Complete with: modern interiors, open floor plans, stainless steel kitchens full of light with floor to ceiling windows; just like the ranch homes of mid-century modern architecture… and just perfect for that Le Corbusier Sofa  & Noguchi Table
Whether you are a modernist or just looking to live green, pre-fabricated homes have something to offer for everyone. These houses are built in a factory or manufacturing site, and then assembled wherever the structure is to be located. The production costs are relatively lower and can be made with more energy efficient ways like sustainable materials solar heating, etc…
Here are some pre-fab modern home styles that I think are great examples of how far pre-fab has come:
Front Architects : Pre-Fab inspired by a city billboard.
Ok so I couldn’t resist this tiny little pre-fab. How is that for an ocean front home!
Ah the wonders of Pre-Fab Modern Design!!