When was the Carnaby Era?
If you haven’t heard about the Carnaby era, it has an iconic heritage with a rich history and was the epicenter of culture back in the 60s. Carnaby is actually a street in London’s West End in the United Kingdom and it was the place to be for people searching for inspiration and creativity, including in their home decor. Carnaby Street was mostly associated with on-trend fashion movements, but that also encompassed architecture, furniture, and graphic design eventually. This is also how Carnaby style connects to the mid century modern style as they include the same iconic designs, despite midcentury furniture dissipating by the 70s (for a while anyway!)
The History of Carnaby
Carnaby Street may have been made famous in the 60s for the Swinging London style, but it has a long and rich history, so let’s take a brief look at it:
- Carnaby Street was actually laid all the way back in 1682 in the United Kingdom and it was named after Karnaby House, the first house built on the street.
- The Plague hit London in 1665 and so ‘pest houses’ were built to house any plague victims away from the rest of society, the first one was built on Carnaby Street.
- Carnaby Street wasn’t always a fashion center, it was redeveloped in the 1720s to include a market, selling vegetables, meat, and fish.
- The Shakespearean Public House was built in 1735 and still stands today on the corner of Carnaby Street.
- John Stephen opened the first men’s clothing shop on Carnaby Street in 1952. This then led to attracting many high profile people in the 60s, swaying the cultural shift to Carnaby Street.
- After this, Carnaby had earned their reputation and the street was always filled with the latest music, new cultures (especially the modern scandinavian style at this time) and bright colours, named carnaby style.
Where Did Mid Century Furniture Come From?
The midcentury designs started to show in the 1940s. The movement actually originated in America, but it was only used in furniture particularly from the 50s. They wanted the danish teak furniture and scandinavian modern style. This style then travelled across the ocean and us Brits wanted to have this new and trendy midcentury modernism. Due to it’s timeless aesthetic and functionality, when Carnaby started to attract cultured clientele to it’s stores, staying on trend was important. Carnaby always had the newest styles in it, yet midcentury carnaby furniture never went away and only evolved (much like interior design did back in the hollywood regency period) to include more furniture pieces with slight adjustments to modern design. So everyone wanted the midcentury furniture London had on offer by this period and Carnaby was the way to go.
How to Identify Mid Century Furniture
Mid century furniture has a distinctive look, yet a timeless feel and that is why it has never truly left the interior design gaze. Due to it being inspired by the industrial style of the 50s and 60s, the furniture is defined by its modern design with clean lines and a utilitarian edge with metal and mirrors. A key feature of this trend are tapered or hairpin legs and, although the centrepiece of a living would be a sofa or armchair, the rest of the accompanying furniture still needs to match. A mirrored console table or a mirrored chest of drawers would be great in a midcentury Carnaby home as colourful ornaments could adorn them and they reflect the pops of colour present in the rest of the room! People are also introducing this trend into their home office since covid began. Sleek office chairs are being paired with a solid wood writing desk.
Another aspect that should be observed is the functional design with plenty of storage spaces and open shelves to create space. What you should keep in mind is that the furniture should be designed to not only be functional industrial furniture, but fashionable as well, providing a curated space to showcase your trinkets and book collection. Like previously mentioned, perhaps pair your minimalist utilitarian chests of drawers with bright colours and century modern abstract designs.
The unfussy aesthetic of midcentury furniture should provide you with a streamlined and almost minimalist design. If the rooms of your home happen to be small, that’s fine! Our Carnaby mirrored furniture can help you with more storage space and make your rooms look much bigger. Adding vibrantly coloured accessories to your bedside tables will also help you achieve this century modern trend to add interest in this simplistic design.
Types of Mid Century Furniture Design
A man named George Nelson, a director of design in the modernism movement, categorised three different types of mid century furniture. These were the handcrafted, the biomorphic, and the machine.
Handcrafted Carnaby Mid Century Furniture
Handmade mid century furniture was actually nothing like you would think it to be. It was still in industrial production, which throws the handmade element out of it straight away. However, it expressed the principles of minimalism by including sculptural elements in metal or solid wood designs, especially surfaces such as a dining table, teak sideboards, a writing desk or coffee table.
Biomorphic Carnaby Mid Century Furniture
This category describes mid century furniture that had smooth surfaces and accessibility with a more formal ‘machine’ aesthetic. However, this still includes organic elements of handcrafted midcentury furniture because there were molded shapes included such as kidney and boomerang shaped pieces out of carrara marble.
Machine Carnaby Mid Century Furniture
Take the biomorphic furniture and add even more streamlined components and exclude any hint of handcrafted midcentury furniture and you have got yourself some machine style Carnaby industrial furniture. This type of mid century furniture is stark with geometric features which had the highest functionality. At the time, the style was considered futuristic, but now, we see it as having that vintage furniture feel.
Our Carnaby furniture collection definitely fits into the machine category. We believe that our furniture is purpose built for organisation with minimalist sophistication as well as reflecting the rest of your interior design. That’s the best thing with mirrors, it will reflect your style (literally) no matter what!
Ways to Follow the Carnaby Mid Century Furniture Trend
You have heard a lot about the history of Carnaby and what midcentury furniture is, including the types and how to identify, but maybe you still need some ideas of how to start:
- Use natural materials – these include wood, glass, and metal. Having a hard wood dining table with mid century modern faux leather chairs. Or perhaps tapered wooden legs on your sofa could be a way of including wood as well and pair it with a carrara marble coffee table. Our Carnaby collection includes metal frames and mirrored glass, so you could always keep that in mind when buying furniture to fit the midcentury furniture trend!
- Use retro style lighting – having a brightly coloured light source in the room is a nice feature when trying to follow the trend. Whether it’s wall lamps, pendant lights, desk lamps, floor lamps or table lamps, try to find one with a retro feel. Standing lights with an industrial furniture style are particularly popular right now, just as it was back then, so choose a straight standing utilitarian lamp to match the ceiling light.
- Furniture with verifying heights – by using furniture of different heights, it prevents your rooms from looking too uniform. You could do this by having low lounge chairs or coffee tables with tall floor lamps above them. Or, your dressing table could match the bedside tables and have a vintage danish feel, yet it’s still modern design. The small height difference can really add interest and character to the home decor.
- Pair opposite colours – an opposing colour scheme could really help you achieve the mid century modern scandinavian furniture trend. You can use grey or a cool blue and match it with olive green, bright red and danish yellow or burnt orange at the other end of the spectrum.
- Use bright prints – another to include bright colours to stand out is to get nice prints for your wall decor. A geometric pop art print will allow you to include a beautiful pattern that still looks smart and fits in with the modern scandinavian style.
What Not To Include When Following the Midcentury Furniture Trend
Following on from the things you could do to follow the mid century modern trend, we also should inspect what not to do. Whether you have furniture matching the mid century furniture trend, that carefully thought out curation could be ruined if these simple mistakes are made:
- Do not add clutter – although you can accessorise with brightly coloured items and vintage decorations for your wall decor, you should keep the decorative objects on furniture to a minimum to maintain that sophisticated look and modern design.
- Synthetic fabrics – it was common in the 60s to have itchy coverings on the furniture made of polyester, but that is the one thing we are not including in the midcentury trend. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it is bad for the environment, opt for a brightly coloured cotton throw, or a woollen crochet blanket to hang over your velvet sofas and lounge chairs.
- Plastic covered furniture – just like the synthetic fabrics, plastic coverings should stay in the past. They are also uncomfortable and it looks very tacky. Scrap the plastic and show off beautiful velvet sofas, or perhaps something with faux leather.
With all this information learnt, you can use this resource to go and achieve your desired look with iconic designs of the 60s! With our new Carnaby range, a lot of the midcentury furniture trends can be taken care of right here! Take a look before investigating what to accessorise your rooms with, whether that is with vintage decorations, or something with a more modern design. Mid century furniture isn’t going out of fashion any time soon because the timelessness of it will always attract people and bring nostalgia for the boomers. Come and get your Carnaby mid century furniture.