Mid-Century Modern: Interiors, Furniture, Design Details (Anglais) Relié – 1 octobre 2006
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This book is fairly short and slim, yet every single page and photograph has relevance. Each photograph is of some aspect of a home interior and is absolutely fantastic. Not a single wasted shot. I'm assuming that the majority of people interested in this book are admirers of 1950s decor and would like to incorporate elements of this into their homes. What is so wonderful about this book is that the pictures themselves are of contemporary homes that have been decorated in that Mid-Century style, resulting in achieving that look without appearing dated - certainly the effect that I'm striving for! You want elegant beige lounges or loud primary colored kitchens? It's all here. And you just gotta dig the living room on p.42! Wow - have red and yellow ever been used to such devastating effect in such circumstances? And this is just one example of many.
Although it's doubtful that people buy books like these for their text, I think in this case, they'll be glad they did. Quinn discusses at great length the various components that made up the Modern style, providing tremendously useful ideas for home decor. He doesn't get into tedious sociological analysis like so many of these type of books do. Instead, he goes straight to the interesting stuff - how mid-century modern arose within the history of design, the components of the architecture and the lifestyles of the homeowners back then. Each chapter is broken down into a different aspect of decor - color, materials, lighting etc. Why can't all interior design books be arranged in this way?
I can absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking for '50s ideas for their home. I doubt I'd ever need to buy another book on this topic. Unless Quinn sticks in more pictures for a second edition.
If you want inspiration and ideas, the excellent photographs will give you what you are looking for. Only one picture contains a human figure - the others let you concentrate on the design and the furnishings, with no distracting sign of any occupants.
Where the book falls down....
I found the writing is very heavy going.
On the dustwrapper, it mentions "Bradley also completed a master's degree in History of Art at the University of London".
It seemed to me that the book reads like a master's degree dissertation in which the writer's aim is to show his professor that he has thoroughly mastered the subject - rather than a book aiming to inform and entertain a general reader interested in the subject.
I'd read a paragraph and think "that sounds impressive - but what does it mean?" Then I'd read it again more carefully. At a third reading, I'd give up, not knowing whether it meant something profound or whether it was impressive-sounding but essentially meaningless.
A typical paragraph:
"The new styles of furniture took centre stage with the distinctive shapes that continue to typify the look today. While mid-century furniture is often recognisable by its balance of form and function, its impact resulted from its ability to convey the dynamics of lived experience in static form. Mid-century designers regarded furniture as tactile art intended to cradle the human form. Although the use of new materials and techniques pioneered a change of direction for furniture - with moulded and glued plywood, and plastics reinforced by fibreglass, among the exciting developments - the forms continued to take shape in relation to the human body. Designers used furniture to articulate the tension between movement and stillness, which can never be separated from the human body. Consequently, 1950s furniture often expressed a body-consciousness unknown to other traditions."
"... the dynamics of lived experience in static form." Huh?
".. to articulate the tension between movement and stillness, which can never be separated from the human body". Does this actually mean something that can be expressed in simple words? Dunno. Beats me.
The text is not always linked to the pictures. Descriptions of stylish objects in text, without linked illustrations are hard to follow. As just one example:
"In Isamu Noguchi's hands abstract art became applied art, In one of his sculptures, wood and glass were moulded into an arrestingly curvaceous silhouette that caught the eye of George Nelson, who identified the shape of a table in its form. An American manufacturer shared Nelson's view and in 1944 collaborated with Noguchi to transform the design into a coffee table. Organic in style, Noguchi's Coffee Table was manufactured with two wooden legs that interlocked to form a tripod, which supported a plate-glass top 2cm (3/4in) thick. Both parts of the design were reversible: the tabletop could be placed upside down or back to front, while the mirror effect of the tripod's design enabled it to maintain the same profile even when turned upside down. Needless to say, Noguchi's considered balance of sculptural form, design innovation and durable function inspired other designers of the period to pursue abstract shapes."
On checking the index, I found that there is actually a photo, earlier in the book, in which a part of such a coffee table is visible.
I recommend this book for its masses of interesting, clear and well-composed and chosen pictures of mid-century design. If you are like me, you'll finish up skipping over the text and enjoying it simply for its illustrations, which I found inspiring and first class.
Added 5 October 2010:
"About the Author" states "Bradley (...) has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society." This seems to be an error and would have been very surprising had it been correct - Fellows of the Royal Society are distinguished scientists.