MidCentury magazine is the only UK-based publication of its kind, celebrating the mid-century movement and the best of 20th century design. We talk to founding editor Tabitha about her magazine…
TABITHA, WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SET UP A MAGAZINE?
I was inspired to set up MidCentury through the renovation of my own 1960s London apartment. Having edited an arts journal for a couple of years, I was looking to start my own magazine and I could see that, despite several US titles, there was no UK publication dedicated to the subject. I had sought information on mid-century furniture as well as interior design ideas during our renovation project, but only found a couple of magazines from the States, with advertisements for high-end New York dealers (that I certainly couldn’t get to, or afford to buy from!) and articles on homes in California or Cincinnati that bore little resonance to my own lifestyle here in the UK. So in 2011, I set out to create my own magazine that celebrated real mid-century interiors, architecture and design, for people just like me!
Photo: Marcus Peel
WHERE DID YOUR LOVE FOR MIDCENTURY DESIGN BEGIN?
I was drawn to Modernist art and graphic design from an early age, but my appreciation of Modernist furniture and architecture came later. It was when I moved into the top-floor apartment of a 1964 high-rise on the Dulwich Estate in South-east London and was able to appreciate the mid-century preoccupation with space and light first-hand. The room dimensions were amazing by modern standards; most developers nowadays would no doubt try to squeeze an extra bedroom into the space, as was the quality of the original fixtures, like the solid Jarrah timber flooring and enormous Crittall steel-framed windows. The space was crying out for slim-line mid-century furniture and I took a lot of enjoyment in sourcing pieces that fit with the aesthetic.
Photo: Sheila Stewart
WHY DO YOU THINK THE STYLE HAS ENJOYED SUCH RESURGENCE IN RECENT YEARS?
The longevity of mid-century modern and its influence on contemporary design today is down to both style and substance. Its pared-down aesthetic forms the basis for contemporary design because it captures the essence of modernity – its purity of form tends to sit well in both contemporary and period homes, providing a versatile aesthetic. Much of the furniture of this period utilised new materials and industrial processes such as moulded fibreglass and bent ply, and these methods allowed for mass production and a lower price point – both of which are still relevant to today’s consumer market. Enough time has passed that we’re now able to look back at ‘50s and ’60s design with a renewed appreciation. We’re able to pick out the best elements and update them to suit our homes today, fusing for instance sleek modernist forms with a contemporary colour palette. It’s often the case that mid-century chairs are reupholstered in a fabric quite different to the original, for instance the dark, and sometimes fairly drab, tonal range of the original is replaced with muted pastel shades or vivid colours.
WHAT’S YOUR MOST PRIZED PIECE FROM THE ERA?
My most prized piece has to be my dressing table, a pared down little rosewood number by Danish designers Aksel Kjersgaard and Kai Kristiansen that I bought some years back. To me, it’s perfect – elegant and feminine but without curves or frills. I’d always longed for a dressing table and it gives me real pleasure to sit at it each day.
FAVOURITE FEATURE THUS FAR?
This is a tricky one – it would have to be one of the interior pieces, the David Shelley-designed Nottingham home of Simon and Monica Siegel in issue 06, the Mary Medd House in Hertfordshire and the stunning bungalow on the Dulwich Estate in issue 07, plus of course the incredible North London home of Cherrill and Ian Scheer in issue 02 – that was a real treat for me. Please don’t make me choose just one! I get to work with some amazing interiors photographers and hear the often inspirational stories of the people who inhabit these spaces first-hand. We pride ourselves on not providing ‘props’ – everything in the houses we feature is real and generally have a story behind them.
Photo: Jeremy Jeffs
YOU MUST MEET LOTS OF INTERESTING PEOPLE AND KINDRED SPIRITS?
Kindred spirits is right – that’s one of the things I’ve most enjoyed over the past four years, and could never have expected to have met such an open, friendly group of people. I owe a big debt of gratitude to Simon Esterson, our designer – as an established figure in the publishing world, he’s shown his support for our title from early on (through his own interest in the subject matter) and, when Simon offered to re-design the publication for us in 2013, I jumped at the chance to work with him and his team!
WHAT’S NEXT FOR MIDCENTURY?
Top of our priorities is to continue producing high quality articles for our print and web readers to enjoy. We’re hoping to offer our readers some mid-century inspired limited edition pieces this year, so watch this space!
Issue 8 of MidCentury Magazine has just been delivered and it’s another beautiful read featuring more real-life interiors, a buyers guide to Danish lighting and a feature on RIBA’s Brutalist Playground exhibition. Come and pick up your copy in the café this weekend!