Mid-Century Modern style doesn’t stop at architecture and interior design – it extends into outdoor living. A fundamental MCM principle is bringing nature indoors, so it comes as no surprise that the MCM aesthetic extends the other direction as homeowners looked for ways to make outdoor living spaces as stylish as interiors.
The post-war popularity of Mid-Century Modern design coincided with a sharp increase in available leisure time in America – and the creation of new types of homes where that leisure time could be properly enjoyed. While this new design aesthetic of course influenced interior spaces, it was also becoming more desirable to have more comfortable and enjoyable outdoor living spaces.
New outdoor furniture options were needed, stylish options that would also be also weather-resistant and durable. In Palm Springs and other milder areas of the country this new furniture would be in use all year long. Thanks to the post-war availability of metal and other raw materials, the development of new plastics and new innovations in manufacturing, Mid-Century Modern design was at the right place at the right time. New innovations in outdoor furniture echoed the well-established characteristics of MCM design in general: straight and clean lines, geometric forms, influences from nature, and often, the use of contrasting manufacturing materials.
Wire & Mesh Chairs
The iconic wireframe chairs, made popular by the Eames’ and Harry Bertoia in the 1940s and ‘50s, are fantastic patio furniture options for MCM-lovers. Their ergonomic shape paired with rigid, metal wires welded into a mesh pattern makes them visually appealing while still appearing minimal and simple. You can find a wide variety of wire/mesh chair styles in most any color you like. Classic black and whites can be paired cohesively with bolder furniture choices, and brightly colored wire and mesh chairs can work as eye-catching centerpieces of an entire patio design.
Wrought Iron Furniture
Wrought iron furniture was a huge hit that debuted during this period as its heavy-duty construction made it perfect for outdoor use. The contrast between the rigid, industrial material being elegantly formed into intricate furniture that appeared delicate made it a wildly popular during the ‘40s and ‘50s – not only for outdoor use, but for interior designs as well. Wrought iron patio and garden furniture is still the top choice of many for their outdoor escapes Thanks to the durability of these pieces, many wrought iron originals still come and go on the market frequently and of course new pieces are constantly in production.
Rattan furniture has been a popular choice for backyard living areas among MCM lovers since its return to popularity in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The combination of curving and organic shapes formed from straight rods of rattan resulted in furniture that was both intricate yet still minimal. Rattan pieces are great for those looking to create a softer, more comfortable space without sacrificing style. Numerous styles of cushions in a multitude of colors and patterns can be matched with rattan to create a range of looks from soft and tropical to bold and exotic.
Acapulco chairs make excellent statement chairs for any MCM patio. Instantly recognizable by their concave egg shape and geometric cord design, Acapulco chairs – named for their ubiquitous presence on the balconies and pool decks of Acapulco resorts – exploded into Palm Springs-inspired patio design themes just as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe exploded into American entertainment in the early ‘50s. Style does not overtake function with these iconic chairs as their airy design keeps them cool and breezy – even in the sunniest and most humid of outdoor spaces.
Chaise Lounge Chairs
Most every photo in existence of the quintessential MCM roadside motel features flat-roofed architecture with a bright blue pool – the pool surrounded by streamlined, and most always neatly-placed, chaise lounges. The sleek, slim-designed chaise lounge has been manufactured from a wide range of materials – including metal, wood, or hard plastic frames, with a canvas, mesh or solid seating area. The chaise lounge is the ultimate symbol of refined, outdoor relaxation – whether they be poolside or garden-side.
Retro Metal Lawn Chairs
These fun and funky chairs go by many different names – gliders, shell-backs, clamshells, or bouncers to name a few – but most everyone instantly recognizes these retro favorites. The combination of sturdy, powder-coated steel (often finished in soft, pastel colors) and rounded, organic shapes made them an extremely popular patio accessory. Their popularity skyrocketed post-WWII, thanks to the innovative steel manufacturer, the Warmack Company, which began mass producing lawn furniture from steel, all the better to keep up with the demand from the growing number of families with new homes – most with porches and/or patios – spreading across America.
From the classic, wooden Adirondack chair finished in stained neutral tones, to the vibrant-colored contemporary versions, these simple yet elegant chairs are a great option for patio relaxation. Equally at home as part of a pleasant conversation pit, or lined up poolside for relaxing summer days in the sun, it’s hard to beat the versatility of the Adirondack. And, while traditionally made from wood, there are also colorful new varieties made from recycled plastic. And, for added comfort, some even come with matching footrests!