There are loads of reasons that mid-century modern style is so popular, not the least of which is its versatility. And, even as trends have recently moved away from interiors that are completely focused on mid-century design, that same versatility has made the style even more relevant for the eclectic decor being favored in today’s living spaces.
This is especially true when it comes to mid-century modern leather sofas. They are the perfect base for many types of living rooms and are not only stylish but super comfortable and family-friendly.
What is Mid-Century Modern Style?
The essence of mid-century modern style lies in the overall simplicity of its design, be it a house or a piece of furniture. It’s uncomplicated, unadorned and versatile, which is partly why it’s still so popular today. The shapes and lines are easily blended with other styles of decor. When you drill down to the core of mid-century modern style, there are really five defining features:
- It’s simple. There isn’t much — or any — embellishment, ornate carving or trim, and any accent elements are minimal at most. It feels light and airy compared to the styles that came before it. The resulting pieces are bold and clean.
- It puts function over form. American architect Louis Sullivan, known as the “father of modernism” and a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright, promoted this philosophy and it’s evident in all midcentury modern designs. Every angle, curve or corner has a reason for being.
- It’s organically inspired. In addition to the clean lines that are used, the shapes are inspired by nature in many cases, which accounts for the soft curves.
- Geometry is prominent. In addition to the sleek profiles and clean lines, geometry is found in many aspects, including the prints used in decor at that time.
- The designs are diverse. The advent of new technologies and materials figure prominently in midcentury modern furniture and the types of textures and materials — as well as colors — are wide-ranging.
If you start paying attention, it’s fairly easy to identify midcentury modern elements: slim legs on sofas are a major hallmark of the style. Also, lots of pieces that look a little retro-futuristic are actually part of the style.
The History of Mid-Century Modern Style
Mid-century modern evolved out of the Bauhaus and Danish Modernist trends in Europe that were introduced into the US. That said, it is actually associated more with International Style, which is defined by clean, simple forms. It came into popularity after World War II and took root in American culture thanks to the style’s spacious floor plans and open feeling. Midcentury modern remained popular from the ’50s through the ’70s only to see a resurgence in popularity in the past decade. Of course, it never went out of style.
Materials Used in Mid-Century Modern Furniture
Innovation in materials was a big driver behind many of the designs in midcentury modern style. Not only did designers of the age, like Eero Saarinen, use new materials, but they also made them the focus of their pieces. Take for example Saarinen’s Tulip chair from 1956: The base is made from coated cast aluminum finished to match the upper molded fiberglass body, which is coated with a bonded plastic bonded finish. Another example is the type of chair that Ray and Charles Eames made from bent plywood.
Aside from these newer materials, there is another traditional material that plays a big role in midcentury modern pieces, especially sofas: Leather. This material is ideal for use in midcentury modern furniture because the style is all about contrast and juxtaposition. Pairing this tactile, natural material with all the harder, shinier, rigid surfaces helps soften the look just the right amount.
Unless you are making a big splurge on a true vintage midcentury modern sofa, you’ll be buying a replica or a piece that is inspired by this era. When it comes to leather sofas, you want to make sure that it is made from genuine leather. Leather used in furniture is a byproduct of the beef industry. The cows that yield the steaks and burgers that we eat also have other parts that are useful in various industries and hides are one of them. When investing in a piece of furniture like a midcentury modern sofa, you want to make sure that you choose the right kind of leather.
Some furniture is upholstered in materials called faux, bonded or eco leather. These are not genuine leather and will not last as long as the real thing. Especially if you are investing in a piece that you hope will be an heirloom, nothing but genuine leather will do. It helps to understand a little bit about why.
Faux or eco leather is typically made from a polyurethane material (often misleadingly called PU leather) that is essentially plastic and based on fossil fuels. These tend to crack and warp over time and cannot be reconditioned. It’s usually made by applying a coat of plastic polyurethane to a fiber base, typically a polyester. No natural materials are involved and it is far less breathable than genuine leather. This is not something you want in an investment piece.
Bonded leather involves attaching a very thin layer of leather to a fiber base. Sometimes the leather portion consists of ground up and reconstituted leather fibers, which are also known to crack and peel after as little as. few years.
Bicast leather is a bonding of two layers: The lower grade of leather left behind after the higher-grade grain is removed is coated with polyurethane or vinyl, giving it a new leather look.
Choose the Right Leather
There are different types of leather that have variations in durability and other characteristics.
Aniline leather is the top choice for a midcentury modern sofa and with good reason: It’s natural, soft, and treated with translucent and water-soluble dyes that bring out the natural markings in the cattle hides. The dye permeates the hide and is not just applied to the top with a paint or polymer. One of the most important features of aniline leather is that over time, it develops a natural patina that looks better and better. This kind of leather uses only the best cattle hides and is one of the most expensive types.
Semi-aniline leather also uses good quality cattle hides but it only has a thin layer of pigment, which does not hide the natural grain or pores. This type of leather typically is firm and might feel a bit colder.
Antique grain leather can also be called distressed leather. It is new but has been treated to look rugged like vintage leather. Generally, the leather surface is treated with a top coat of pigment that is then partially rubbed to show the underlying color. This type of leather is very popular.
Corrected grain pigmented leather is produced by sanding and buffing leather to get rid of scars, bite marks and other imperfections. The surface is then embossed to look like real leather grain and covered with a sealer. This type feels more plastic-y.
Pigmented leather has had a polymer coating with pigments applied to its surface to get the look the manufacturers want.
Midcentury Modern Sofa Types
Even within the category of midcentury modern sofas, there are different types.
- Mid-century modern sectional. This style of sofa has multiple detachable parts — typically three to five but in some cases, many more. If you’re the type of person who likes to rearrange and reconfigure the furniture, this is a great choice. The most common arrangements are L-shape sofas and U-shape sofas.
- A cabriole sofa is distinguished by its back and arms, which are designed in a continuous or almost continuous line. With the back and arms both at an equal height, the look is more like a singular whole individual parts. This is a great choice for those who want a really sleek, minimalist look.
- A Lawson sofa has premier comfort and its distinguishing characteristic is that the back is composed of detachable cushions. Quite literally, the backrest is composed of large pillows.
How To Choose A Midcentury Modern Leather Sofa
Now that you know more about leather and the types of midcentury modern leather sofas from which you can choose, it’s important to decide what’s important to you. Assess your space for size, but also for the specific look that you want. Ask yourself these questions before you buy:
- Do you want the classic, tailored midcentury look for your sofa with squared-off lines, tight tufting and a very angular look? Or, do you prefer a sofa that has a bit of a softer edge, perhaps with only a portion of the sofa tufted.
- Is a wood frame that wraps the entire sofa appealing or do you want a style that is all leather?
- Some midcentury modern leather sofas have cushions that are permanently attached to the sofa and cannot be removed for cleaning or restuffing. Is this an aspect that you want?
- Do you want to have a regular straight sofa or do you have room for a sectional style that includes a lounge at one or both ends?
Ready to shop for a midcentury modern sofa? Then check out these different options that will be the highlight of your living room:
For a quintessential midcentury modern sofa profile, you can’t go wrong with the Style Woodrow Skandi Modern Classic Sectional. It has the hallmark features of the style, from the clean-lined profile to the wood frame and brass accented slim legs. The cushions are upholstered in full-grain aniline-dyed leather, which is the best quality leather you can have for upholstery. The feel is soft and buttery and the supple leather looks natural and very tactile. It’s actually finished with natural oils and waxes and not polymers.
The style of the seats is tufted but does not have any buttons, which makes it more comfortable. The full cushion is removable and it has a zipper in the back so that it can easily be opened to replace the filling or to clean the leather. And speaking of the fill, it is a VOC-free, soft and durable foam composed of mixed densities that provides consistent support for hours of relaxation. The sofa is crafted by hand and the seating is also hand-stitched, while the wood frame is made of kiln-dried wood for stable moisture content. The Style Woodrow Skandi Modern Classic Sectional comes with two bolster pillows and is covered by a lifetime warranty
Premium leather upholstery set inside a walnut box-style frame gives the Woodrow Neo 99″ Leather Sofa Sectional extra style. This mid-century modern sofa is a sectional made for lounging as well as entertaining. The upholstery is 100 percent genuine top grain premium aniline leather for softness and durability. The back of this sofa has a one-piece design with an angled pitch. The seat cushions feature a zipper at the great so that they can be removed when necessary and the bottom seat cushion platform is reinforced for improved support. Inside the cushions, the fill is a multi-density foam that is wrapped in silk for added comfort and to give the cushion extra memory.
The sleek profile of the Woodrow Neo 99″ Leather Sofa Sectional is enhanced by the classic midcentury modern stiletto leg design that stands 8 inches tall. They’re accented with brass for added stylish flair. The sofa is entirely handcrafted and hand-stitched, which is highlighted in the neo-diamond tufting on the seat back and sides. The upholstery is also accented with matching leather buttons and piping. Two down-filled pillows add another level of comfort to the piece. Surrounding the upholstery is a kiln-dried wood frame finished with an American walnut veneer on the bottom, sides and back. This magnificent midcentury modern leather sofa is covered by a three-year limited warranty
Spacious but less expansive than a sectional, the Woodrow Neo 87″ Leather Sofa is another classic midcentury modern leather sofa silhouette. This one also features leather upholstery, surrounded by a gorgeous wood frame in a clean-lined angular design. The leather is genuine top grain premium soft aniline, the best type that you can buy. The frame is constructed from kiln-dried hardwood and finished with a veneer of American walnut on the underside, back and sides. The stiletto legs stand 8 inches tall and are accented with brass and finished with floor protection caps.
In addition to using high-quality materials, the sofa is stitched and crafted by hand. The meticulous stitching is evident in the neo diamond tufting on the back and sides as well as the stitched edges and matching piping. Constructed with a one-piece back that is also pitched, it is made for stylish comfort and relaxation. Seat cushions are filled with a multi-density foam that is wrapped in silk for good cushion recovery. They also have zippers at the back for easy removal. The Woodrow Neo 87″ midcentury modern leather sofa comes with two leather pillows that are stuffed with down for extra cushy comfort. The sofa is covered by Kardiel’s three-year limited warranty.
Perfect for a large, open space living area, this Woodrow Neo 126″ Leather Sofa U-Sectional can accommodate the whole family or plenty of guests. It has the classic midcentury modern wood frame that encloses the leather upholstery. The kiln-dried wood frame is designed to last and the high-quality leather means that it will get better-looking with age. Upholstered in genuine top grain premium aniline leather, the sofa is super comfortable as well as durable. The wood frame is finished with an American Walnut veneer on all surfaces and the 8-inch stiletto legs have iconic midcentury appeal.
Stitched and crafted by hand, the sofa has a tailored look that blends well with many an interior design. The back is composed of a single piece that sits at a pitched angle for extra comfort. The seat cushions feature zippers in the back for easy removal and the filling is a VOC-free, durable foam that meets all fire regulations. Down-filled pillows are included with this midcentury modern leather sofa for added style. Kardiel covers the Woodrow Neo 126″ Leather Sofa U-Sectional with a three-year limited warranty.
For a more plush but still streamlined look, the Woodrow Lush 87″ Leather Sofa is a fabulous choice. Although it still has the midcentury modern aesthetic, the seats are slightly overstuffed for a more contemporary vibe. Upholstered in genuine top grain premium aniline leather, the seating is supremely comfortable and ideal for sinking in. The design has the same high-quality kiln-dried wood frame construction that Kardiel is known for and the and American walnut veneer all around the outside and underneath. Stiletto legs that are capped with brass highlight the midcentury modern look.
Hand-crafting and hand-stitching distinguish this sofa design and the matching piping is a subtle accent. The seat cushions all have multi-density foam filling that is wrapped in a layer of silk for better comfort and cushion memory. They also have zippers at the back for easy removal. Altogether, this midcentury modern leather sofa is not just super stylish, but it’s also exceptionally comfortable and a bold statement for even a modestly sized living room. It is covered by a three-year limited warranty.
Long with a very linear feel, the Woodrow Box 100″ Leather Sofa Sectional features seaming and tufting that emphasizes the lengthy shape. It’s a midcentury modern leather sofa style that blends well with today’s contemporary spaces as well those that are more era-specific. From the kiln-dried wood frame to the leather upholstery and American walnut veneer finish, the Woodrow is made to last. Speaking of the leather, it is upholstered with only the best genuine top-grain premium aniline leather.
Stitched by hand, the seat cushions are fixed and not removable. The seating platform has tension spring suspension for added comfort and to resist sagging. Inside the upholstery, the foam is comfortable and durable, and it has no VOCs and meets all fire regulations. The wood frame construction is kiln-dried for moisture stability and the American Walnut veneer has a natural, rich brown color that adds warmth. Brass-capped stiletto legs are an iconic midcentury style element. The entire sofa is covered by Kardiel’s limited lifetime warranty.
The Lesa 88″ Genuine Leather Square Arm Sofa brings midcentury modern style to any room, with a slightly softer touch. The overall silhouette has the iconic clean lines and tapered legs you want, however, the cushions are a little more overstuffed, ideal for a more contemporary look. A kiln-dried solid hardwood frame is upholstered with genuine aniline leather from Italy for excellent comfort and long-term durability. Solid eucalyptus wood legs are tapered as expected and a wood platform supports the seating.
The back of the soft and the removable seat cushions are all filled with high-density foam padding and the seats also have pocket spring construction. With 95 percent four- and five-star reviews, this sofa is highly rated on all counts. Buyers love the smooth, soft leather and the premium comfort it provides. Reviewers say it’s not too bulky while still being very stylish. Finally, they say it’s ideal for napping, even for tall people. Partial assembly is required and wait is converted by a product warranty.
A mid-century modern leather sofa with the current appeal, the Apgar 88.5″ Genuine Leather Square Arm Sofa has a sleek, tufted seat paired with a plump, cushy back. This style blends perfectly with today’s interiors, lending just enough mid-century modern sophistication to the room. The Apgar is also built to last: It boasts a kiln-dried solid hardwood frame and genuine full-grain leather upholstery. The seating, which accommodates three people, is filled with polyester foam and features a spring seat construction for good support and a resilient shape.
This retro silhouette has the classic low back and square arms, all set atop tapered wooden legs. The bench-style seat cushion is embellished with button tufting, giving it a tailored appearance. By contrast, the back cushions are untufted and have straight stitching details for added interest. Two bolster pillows come with the sofa and provide a bit of extra support when desired — and they look very cool. Some adult assembly is required and the sofa is covered by a one-year warranty. Buyers love this mid-century modern leather sofa and say that it is the leather is soft and easy-care, all contributing to the more than 90 percent four- and five-star reviews.
The Embassy 84″ Genuine Leather Square Arm Sofa by Gus is the perfect retro touch in any room where you want a midcentury modern style element. The tightly upholstered back has a minimalist line of tufting and plump seat cushions that are super comfortable. Genuine aniline leather is durable and soft and the piping along the edges adds a sophisticated yet understated accent, typical of midcentury modern all of which will age beautifully and develop a rich, natural character over time.
The frame of the Embassy sofa is crafted from kiln-dried, FSC-certified hardwood and the solid ash wood legs are finished with a walnut stain. Removable seating cushions contain 90% foam 10% feathers, while the back of the sofa contains all foam. The seat is also supported by a sinuous spring construction. Buyers love the quality and style of this midcentury modern leather sofa and nearly all rate if with four or five stars.
For loads of midcentury style in a smaller form, the Beccaro 37″ Genuine Leather Recessed Arm Loveseat is a good choice. Pair it with a midcentury sofa or some other style for a sophisticated living space. This midcentury modern leather seating features top-grain leather that is distressed, giving it extra character right off the bat. A solid plywood frame and metal legs create a sturdy and durable base that will last.
The back and seating cushions are untufted, giving it a slightly more casual appearance. Filled with a mixture of foam and feathers, the loveseat has great comfort and a plush feeling. The cushions are removable but have no sippers for removal. Some adult assembly is required and the loveseat is covered by a 30-day limited warranty.
Even within the midcentury modern aesthetic, there are variations that can give your living space a different vibe, depending on the particular style that you choose. As with any major furniture purchase, it’s critical to measure your space and make sure that what you are choosing not only fits the space but doesn’t overwhelm the room with its size or proportions. Beyond those considerations, choose the sofa that you’ll be happiest with because a quality midcentury modern leather sofa will last for decades.
What is midcentury modern style?
Midcentury modern style consists of simple, largely unembellished designs that put function before form. They are organically inspired, geometrically focused and diverse in materials and textures.
Where did midcentury modern style come from?
This particular style is rooted in the principles of Bauhaus and Danish Modernist trends in Europe. It is also associated more with International Style, but once adopted in the United States, it evolved its own set of defining characteristics.
What types of leather are used in midcentury modern leather sofas?
A high-quality midcentury modern sofa is meant to last for a long time, you want to make sure that you choose one with the proper type of leather before you invest your hard-earned money. Skip materials like eco and faux leather, which are made using plastics and will crack and deteriorate over time. You’ll also want to pass on bonded and bicast leather because these involve thin layers of leather or reconstitute leather fibers being attached to a polyester base. These also don’t last because the material is not durable.
Instead, you want to make sure your sofa is made from 100% genuine cowhide leather. It’s natural, soft and will last for decades. Aniline leather is the best because it develops a natural patina over time that looks better and better. This kind of leather uses only the best cattle hides and is one of the most expensive types. Other good choices are semi-aniline leather, which has a thin layer of pigment, or Antique grain leather, which is also called distressed leather.
What are the different styles of midcentury modern leather sofas?
In general, there are three types: Sectional sofas typically have three to five sections that can be rearranged but they can have many more in special designs. A cabriole sofa has. a profile that is straight across the back and arms, which are all the same height. Finally, a Lawson sofa has a back made up of detachable cushions, which is extra comfortable.
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