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Ones to Watch: Midwest Modern Design

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The Midwest might not be top-of-mind when considering America’s red-hot modern design regions. Yet this area boasts a healthy sprinkling of design companies that have played a major role pushing modern furniture forward—from the mid-20th-century through to today.

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Herman Miller, based in Zeeland, Michigan, is synonymous with midcentury modern design; in the 92 years since its launch, the company has issued dozens of now-iconic furniture and lighting products. Its list of collaborators reads like a who’s-who of midcentury design stars—think Charles & Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, and Isamu Noguchi, among others.

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The company also continually releases contemporary designs that are destined to be tomorrow’s classics, such as upholstered pieces by BassamFellows and Sam Hecht and Kim Colin’s Wireframe seating.

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Herman Miller had a hand in shaping many other designers’ careers. One such designer was Norman Cherner, who made waves in 1958 when he created a distinctive molded plywood armchair for the company. Forty-one years later, his two sons decided to revive their father’s designs and founded the Cherner Chair Company, which produces Cherner’s original designs using modern technologies and sustainable design practices.

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George Nelson, an architect, was Herman Miller’s design director from 1946 to 1972. While in that role, he designed the now-iconic Bubble Lamps, which were recently reissued through Modernica. George Nelson Bubble Lamps defined midcentury style in the 1950s and still look fresh today. Made of soft white polymer wrapped around a steel frame, the lamps come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but we’re partial to the iconic Ball and Saucer lamps.

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It’s not all about the past, though—the Midwest’s industrial and manufacturing history makes it a rich region for contemporary design, too.

Based in Duluth, Minnesota, Loll Designs, self-proclaimed maker of “outdoor furniture for the modern lollygagger,” has redefined the deck chair with their series of updated Adirondack chairs, minimalist lounge chairs, and outdoor accessories like birdhouses and planters.

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Cleveland company Rustbelt Reclamation fashions rustic-modern tables, desks, and stools out of reclaimed old-growth wood and stainless steel square tubing. Each piece is stamped with information about the wood’s original source, whether pecan salvaged from the floor of a Chrysler stamping plant in Ohio or wood reclaimed from soon-to-be-demolished homes.

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Their pieces include the wood-and-steel Mather Side Table, which handily doubles as a nightstand, and pleasingly chunky stools, tables, and benches in the Haymarket series.

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Minneapolis makers Eastvold Furniture create timeless pieces that clearly reference the past, yet feel fresh for today. The groovy Elko Credenza  and Alden Dining Table look like something you might have inherited from a stylish grandparent—and are so well-made they’ll become your own children’s heirlooms.

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The Palm Shelf and Palm Coat Rack, however, look completely au courant. And no matter your style preference, founder and designer Matt Eastvold embodies the ‘Can Do’ Midwest ethos by offering the ability to customize any of his designs to your unique needs. If interested, call us directly for more information:  (800) 236-9100.

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Tronk, based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, offers a colorful array of furnishings that pair hairpin steel legs and powder-coated bases with wood tops, some intricately inlaid with contrasting wood strips. Their new geometric Madison Stool epitomizes what they do so well—blend midcentury influences with modern silhouettes and a vibrant made-in-America ethos.

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Rachel Kemp

Rachel is one of the Merchandise Managers for YLiving with a long career in merchandising and is thrilled to finally be working through a channel that supports her passion for modern design. As a mother of two toddlers, she is practical, design driven in her decisions with furnishing her home and tempted daily with the endless options of home upgrades.