Innovation is an important concept contributing to the fabric of our culture. MCM designers, architects and builders were largely interested in promoting the integral values of our society, such as increased family time, creating community, facilitating a connection to nature, and improved entertaining, as we’ve discussed in prior articles. These design leaders of the era recognized the movement for innovation during the mid-century and adapted commonly held principles in home design to support, if not enable, innovative thought.
So, what caused this focus on innovation? Many things contributed to the whirlwind of inventions in our society that boomed during the mid 1900s, including the emerging dependence on planes and automobiles, newly developed materials and building methods, and the rise in consumerism. Mid-Century Modern design was shaped by these triggers and further pushed the social agenda of advancement and innovation right down to new thought in residential architecture, appliance manufacturing and furniture design.
The post-war society unexpectedly created new opportunities in design. Materials scarce during wartime were now available to use in innovative ways in the consumer market. Aluminum could be used for other things outside of plane manufacturing, such as kitchen appliances and accessories, which inherited the streamlined design of the era’s airplanes. Plastic manufacturing boomed after WWII, as a result of refining the process for production of completely synthetic plastic.
Designers were able to use these materials and old materials manipulated using new technology, such as bent wood, to create exciting, new and inspiring designs. These innovative designs encouraged and stimulated further creativity in the design world. New thought in design was now in vogue, as it had never been.
Interior designers, appliance manufacturers and architects took to instilling innovation room by room in 1950s home design. The Mid-Century kitchen was of course the main stage for innovations in the domestic space. Instead of the kitchen being at the back of the house per traditional design, the culinary space was now opened up to the rest of living space so that the state of the art appliances and gadgets were on display for every visitor to see. The kitchen became a place for socializing and showing off.
Homeowners, particularly the wives who were still socially bound to the domestic role in family life, felt that they should be ready to adopt and incorporate new technologies as they appeared. Whether it was an advertising-induced need to “keep up with the Joneses” or not, the MCM kitchen was easily fitted with new products and technology as a principle of the original design.
MCM home design compelled homeowners to incorporate innovations into their home. Even the general focus on open, airy space in MCM homes was a revolutionary new thought in the design world. The open concept was intended to be inspirational to the homes’ inhabitants, encouraging residents to explore their creativity; enabling them to think freely.
Open concept spaces have seen renewed popularity again in the interior design industry. Unlike the spaces in the 70s, 80s, and 90s with their niches for large TV sets throughout the house and quickly outdated communication and television cables, the houses of the 1950s were built to accommodate the emerging technologies of the times and had to be adaptable. In this way, MCM homes seem to be the best design for our current trend away from wired devices.
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