Please Let 2020 Be the Year Mid-Century Modern Design Finally Dies

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Please Let 2020 Be the Year Mid-Century Modern Design Finally Dies
Screenshot: (AMC)

Here’s why mid-century modern design should be canceled. Follow Jezebel’s Cancel Tournament to see what ultimately gets canceled.

Let me be clear: mid-century modern design, the dominant trend in home decor for what feels like eons, hasn’t done anything specific to warrant cancellation. An Eames lounge chair has not come to life and committed any significant transgressions. That hallway bench with the hairpin legs that AllModern seems to love has not intentionally caused any bodily harm nor has the brass accent lamp you got at Target insulted your family or issued a series of racist tweets. The only crime mid-century modern design is guilty of in 2019 is overexposure. Mid-century modern decor is oppressive and it must be stopped.

Every interior looks the same: right angles, clean lines, rounded edges. Brass, as far as the eye can see. That hideous Sputnik light fixture that, were it to come crashing down from the ceiling, would certainly kill someone immediately upon impact. There’s clearly a reason why this design style’s popularity has endured since its emergence in the post-war era. Mostly, I blame Mad Men. For a period of time during the height of its popularity, regularly watching the program was a perfectly acceptable stand-in for having an actual personality. There were theme parties and group Halloween costumes. In 2009, you could not swing a dead cat without hitting at least one person on Facebook whose profile picture was an avatar of a Mad Men background actor, holding a drink and smoking a cigarette in Roger Sterling’s office. It’s hard to say if the show’s popularity made mid-century modern style explode; most likely it’s because the look is easy enough to replicate and mass-produce.

At face value, a mid-century modern aesthetic isn’t the worst thing in the world. The lines are clean but there’s a playfulness in the rounded curve of an Eames dining chair or the cushions of a sofa. It’s nice to look at precisely because it is quiet. A teak credenza found on Craigslist for a steal doesn’t scream at houseguests when they peek into the second bedroom; rather it quietly communicates genteel taste. The marble-topped side table with the curved wood legs is nothing fancy—just an unassuming surface waiting for a tumbler of whiskey on the rocks and the thunk of grandmother’s ashtray, repurposed in 2019 for the occasional spliff and extinguishing a palo santo smudge stick every now and again.

The style continues to dominate because it is simple, clean design, intended to still look trendy regardless of the era. This is the reason for its ubiquity and is why the waiting room for an upscale pediatrician’s office in Williamsburg looks like the display unit in a high-rise apartment building in any major city in America. Though the current iteration involves more plants and less wall to wall carpet, the fact of the matter is that this trend is now everywhere, imbuing every environment with an oppressive sameness that I frankly hate to see. It is sucking the life out of interior spaces and I demand that it take a rest, for one year, or maybe for eternity.

Swap out that dining table and those horrid Eames plastic chairs that are not comfortable in the slightest for something a little fussier. Consider dipping a toe into the turbulent waters of shabby chic or, if we must, Memphis Design, which is already asserting its dominance thanks to Instagram, The Wing, and that goddamn squiggly pink mirror that everyone from Bella Hadid to Lena Dunham owns. Maybe the opulent stylings of Rococo are the new move—a house that looks like an anteroom in the big castle in Beauty and the Beast, complete with a possibly-sentient chifforobe and a candelabra dipped in gold. Anything other than the ten thousandth Saarinen tulip chair knockoff, arranged in conversation with a nesting coffee table.

Spice it up. Live a little. Make furniture fun.

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