Mood board and archive accounts have been the dominant source of fashion inspiration on platforms like Instagram for quite some time now, and are becoming popular sources for interior design and furniture inspiration by proxy. While these accounts are great at shedding light on beautiful objects of desire, the sheer number and frequency of similar posts leads to immense saturation of a small number of midcentury modern pieces.
One need not look further than the legacy of the Nike Dunk and Air Jordan 1, both of which are timeless designs that have fallen out of favor with many sneaker heads due to their current ubiquity. In the same vein, Instagram tastemakers have fixated themselves on something new (or old, rather): midcentury modern design.
Often touted as the pinnacle of industrial design, the furniture that came out of the 20th century follows the modernist philosophy popular during the postwar era. These designs often employed new materials and manufacturing techniques, pioneering ideas that are considered commonplace today. Popular midcentury modern designs are typically characterized by simple lines and forms, with straightforward use of materials and little in the way of decorative ornamentation.
Granted, the increased interest in furniture and interior design has brought about a much larger audience to a field that was once considered relatively niche, however the plague that is hypebeast culture has catapulted a fraction of the work from this era into a new echelon of recognition. Education regarding the history of these popular furniture pieces has fallen to the wayside in favor of simply sharing images of the pieces, leading to a consumer market that places value on recognition over historical context. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with liking something because it is popular, but in my mind the circumstances from which a design arises should garner equal weight as the aesthetic sensibility of the design itself.
The modernist principles that dictated much of the design language of these pieces must be acknowledged, in part, for its problematic undertones. Modernist homes conjure up mental images of pristine suburban homes and reinforces ideas of whiteness and control. A design is not inherently racist, nor does it necessarily impose these ideas, but the context in which they are created and used often can be.
Many of these modernist designs were initially created to be affordable pieces for the home, yet now they fetch prices in the thousands that are ridiculous by most people's standards. In addition, non-Western design and craft was frequently exoticized and regarded as a status symbol, emphasizing ones worldliness instead of the legitimatizing the culture that produced it. While this is not the case all the time, it must be made clear that the story of midcentury modernism is one of whiteness.
With all that being said, this is the perfect opportunity to provide some additional insight to the creation of some of the most iconic designs of the midcentury modern era, all of which I am almost positive you have seen on Instagram at one time or another.