by Mark Cutler

I am a firm believer that the way to build a bright future is to build on the past, and what better past is there then the great designers who have helped shape our world. With Modernism week in Palm Springs right around the corner I thought it was time to reflect on some of my mid-century favorites:

1. Charles and Ray Eames (1907-1978) (1912-1988)

This couple (husband and wife) embodied inventiveness, energy and the optimism that was at the heart of mid- century American Culture. They were some of the most influential furniture designers of our time, but also were known for being film makers, artists as well as textile and graphic designers. They were the pioneers of molded plywood furniture using a heat and pressure machine called Kazam. This lead to fibreglass as well. Charles once described the role of a designer as similar to that of a very good, thoughtful host who anticipates the needs of his guests.

2. Paul McCobb (1917-1969)

More than almost any other designer Paul McCobb is responsible for the introduction of Modern design into the homes of middle America. Among other things he designed the set for the original Today Show in 1952. He created cohesive furniture collections, the best known was the “Planner Group” which gave homes an instant look Like many of the modernists his work was completely without ornament of any kind, but his work would often reference classic silhouettes such as the Windsor chair.


3. Florence Knoll (1917- 2019)

Not just a giant in the design world, Florence is also a master business person and entrepreneur. She took over the fledgling design company Knoll after the sudden death of her husband. She went on to sign to the company such luminaries as Saarinen, Bertoia, mies and Noguchi. Making Knoll the leading modern furniture company in the world.  Her influence was founded on her dedication to practicality and functionality.

4. Edward Wormley (1907-1995)

Although not a strict Modernist, Wormley appreciated traditional design. As the longtime director of Dunbar Furniture, he was a leading force in the style of American Furniture throughout the 20th Century. A graduate of the New York Interior Design School and the Art institute of Chicago, his career started at Marshal Fields designing reproduction furniture. For Dunbar he would produce two collections a year, a traditional one and a modern one. As time went on the contemporary lines became much more popular but even those were rooted in traditional design.

5. Milo Baughman (1923-2003)

He became emblematic of the 70’s era furniture. Sleek and polished.  Always opposed to ostentatious design his furniture pieces concentrated on Lounge Chairs, but also included some spectacular tables and cabinets. His designs often featured flat chromed metal. He taught at Brigham Young and was thought of as an icon in late 20thC design.