Mid Century Industrial


The mid-century brought a more industrial feel to classroom and office furnishings. The availability of materials that had been used to produce war products could be used for mass produced products. Solid wood desks were replaced with metal leg desks and hard plastic desk tops. Classroom chairs were made with curved tubes of metal that formed the legs, connecting the chair backs to the chair seats. Even outside the classroom and office, chairs began to be produced from materials other than wood, including sheet metal and fiberglass. The swivel foot was soon found on the end of each metal chair leg. Metal storage, including modular shelving units and filing cabinets, could be quickly and cheaply produced.


After World War II, America went into a sustained economic boom that would last until the 1970s. Offices were being built across the country, and they needed economical, sturdy equipment. Swivel-based, adjustable chairs met the needs of the American post-war office. Industrial furniture was designed to be strong, easy to mass-produce, and made out of materials easy to shape or stamp, such as metal, or wood that was simple to craft with a machine.

Once the 1970s arrived, the market for industrial furniture reversed. The steel office chair started to be replaced with plastic, fabric, and leather chairs. Draftsmen tables on engineering floors were being replaced with desktop computers and cubicles. As fire systems improved, manufacturing with wood and wood-like products began to catch on, as there was less risk of furniture catching fire. Demand for executive desks, made of wood and glass, rose exponentially. As a result, the desks, chairs, drawers, and other industrial furniture that sold in the millions were given to college students, sold to smaller business, or melted down to be recycled. The companies that designed and manufactured this furniture moved onto other industries.



Today, vintage industrial furniture is back in demand. Since there hasn’t been much production of industrial style furnishings within the last 40 years, the demand for the distinct style has led to renewed manufacturing of products designed with an industrial look. This would be especially useful for retail businesses that would need multiple units to furnish their storefronts or restaurants. Rather than just being viewed as tools, the practicality and aesthetic simplicity of this furniture has created true value.


mid century industrial


Heywood Wakefield kids’ chairs/ wood chairs

These “Hey Woodite” chairs were at the height of popularity in classroom of the 1950s and 1960s. In a very mid-century modern style, the plastic seat and back of the chairs could be produced in a wide variety of colors. Throughout the Heywood Wakefield Company’s History, they have evolved the look of their products to match with the styles of the times. These chairs are perfect size for children who want a smaller chair for sitting at the kids table, playing outside, or as an extra furnishing in the bedroom. Alternatively, use these chair yourself as a wall hanging or step stool.


 'gym' flush mounts

Nothing says old high school gymnasium like industrial style lighting. But this cage light doesn’t have to be in an institution, it can also fit in your home. Produced by the Spero Manufacturing Company, besides having a cage to prevent the glass from getting hit by any flying objects, like that basketball you were using in P.E., the glass is also designed to be less likely to crack and be receptive to excessively hot temperatures. Place this light in a garage, kitchen, or even an industrial themed room.


Film winder

Ready to watch the in-class film projected to the screen at the front of the classroom? The film winder was called “an ingenious little apparatus”, and a “great labor saver.” Before the film winder, film would have to be wound by hand, even though film had to be handled carefully and kept clean and free from dust. Since it was small and compact, a film winder could be placed on any table or shelf that may be near the projecting machine. By turning the crank of the winder slowly, a 100-foot film can be properly wound in less than ten seconds. Place this antique in a TV room, near your collection of movies.


Industrial Coat racks

Did you have to walk to school 30 miles uphill both ways in the rain and snow? You’d probably hang your coat, umbrella, or boots on the classroom coatrack. This industrial coat rack answers you need for a place to hang your things in the most functional of ways. Most products with a “vintage industrial” look came out of the offices and factories of World War II. After the war, America went through a sustained economic boom until the 1970s, which required economical, sturdy equipment in offices across the country. Once the 1970’s arrived, the market or industrial furniture began to fade, but the style and functional design of vintage industrial was still appreciated for being both functional or aesthetically pleasing.


Chicken wire doors

You may remember this kind of glass from the doors of your high school gymnasium. By placing this wiring between two panes of glass, the glass is secure and adds extra strength, so it’s less likely to break and cause shattered glass to fall on the floor. These doors were salvaged from a school in Ohio, where the doors were on supply closets in each classroom. These doors would do a good job of letting light pass between two rooms if placed in a threshold that separates the rooms. You can spot some of these doors in the Quarters, a private dining room, at the 4Bells restaurant.