As a kid, I would read midcentury design books and magazines my parents had lying around, taking note of the pristine rooms styled just so, with floor-to-ceiling windows, teak wood polished to a semi-gloss shine, and all the right accessories (sculptural mod candlesticks! Macramé hanging planters! Riotously colorful art!). I remember thinking that someday I, too, could have a house like that.
But my love of midcentury modern design is well alive, and it all started with one piece of furniture: a Danish dining set that I inherited from my parents.
The oval table seats four to 12 people with extra leaves and comes with “Made in Denmark, Gudme Møbelfabrik” stamped underneath; Gudme Møbelfabrik was a midcentury Danish furniture maker, and similar tables can still be sourced on 1stdibs.
The six accompanying chairs, I learned, are much harder to find. Despite my infatuation with scouring the internet for vintage teak furniture, I’ve never seen chairs like these. They’re round with semi-circular backs that stretch to encircling arms, tiny lumbar cushions, and smooth, spindly legs.
As a child, they were fun. As a teen sitting across the table from my parents at family dinner, they were uncomfortable, though perhaps that had more to do with our conversations around that time. As an adult, I see them as art.
The chairs have lived many lives, including an ill-advised year wrapped in a light black silk. When I started looking for new fabric, I knew exactly what I wanted, but a cursory Google search for “midcentury starburst” led me in a more hokey direction. After browsing hundreds of image search results, I finally found exactly what I’d seen in my mind’s eye, and placed an order for a circa-1947 Charles and Ray Eames dot pattern textile, now produced by Maharam.
Since I’ve been sitting on these very same chairs for four decades, last year I started started thinking I should change things up even more.
I couldn’t bear to part with the set or break it up, so instead I decided to expand my midcentury collection and added two gleaming white Panton chairs to the mix. I love how they add a different texture and some bright liveliness to all the wood.
Despite its rich design pedigree, my evolving dining set is no museum piece. It’s one of the first things I see each day and a remarkable backdrop to every meal at home.
Erin Lawrence is a journalist and freelance writer with a fascination for architecture, design, food, and technology. A trained silversmith and jewelry professional, Erin makes sterling silver and gemstone jewelry in her free time.