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2017 Is The Year To Fall In love With Brazilian Mid-Century Modern Design

Brazilian Mid Century Modern furniture design is an increasingly popular style for many designers and decorators by virtue of being artfully crafted, having tropical influences, and sourcing native materials. And we are just crazy about it!

So whats makes Brazilian modern design truly special and distinctive from other mid-century design movements of Europe, Scandinavia, and North America?


A Brief History of Mid Century Modern Design

Mid Century Modern design refers to designs from the early 40s stretching into the 70s. This fascinating design movement has had a large impact on the way we live today.It brings a new focus to more simple, open, and elegant interiors.

The iconic name was coined by Cara Greenberg in her 1984 book, Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s. Mid century design combines an insistence of balance between elegance and craftsmanship with a utopian idea of widespread reasonably priced design championed by the Bauhaus movement.

If you look closely, you will also notice that furniture from this period draws strong influence from both the Art Deco style and the Bauhaus school. The Art Deco style lasted from the turn of the century to the late 1920s and is associated with the designers Jean-Michel Frank and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann. It also draws and strong influence from the Bauhaus School (1919 - 1933), which was founded by Walter Gropius and associated with famous architects such as Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier.

Many Mid Century designers also differentiated themselves from previous movements through a shared interest in crafting furniture with a more direct inspiration from nature. This can especially be seen in the curving forms of Scandinavian and Brazilian designs, which stand in contrast to the harder edges characteristic of the Bauhaus movement of the 1920s. However despite the more organic forms of mid century design, it still shares the same aspirations for affordable large scale production.


Rare and Exotic Woods From Brazil

Furniture from the Brazilian Modern period draws a strong inspiration from the surrounding natural landscapes, which can be seen in its organic curving forms. This can also be seen in its dedication to craftsmanship with exotic and luxurious woods from Brazil such as jacaranda (Brazilian rosewood), pequi, and caviuna. Some Brazilian modern designs are also lended a tropical touch with design elements such as caning, rope, and netting. These materials are often used in combination with sumptious leathers to create unique yet elegant style, which are immediately identifiable and uniquely Brazilian!

This can be seen in the architecture and furniture design of Brazilian designer Lina Bo Bardi at Casa De Vidro located in an outlying neighborhood of Sao Paolo. Originally of Italian origins herself, Bo Bardi became a naturalized and proud Brazilian citizen. She says "I wasn't born here. I chose to live in this place. That's why Brazil is my country twice over".  Today Bo Bardi is considered among the most influential architects and designers of the Brazilian Mid Century Modern period.

Casa de Vidro by Lina Bo Bardi
Interior of Lina Bo Bardi's Casa de Vidro. Photo by Henrique Luz.
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Designs That Work Incredibly Well With Different Architectural Styles

The Brazilian Mid Century Modern style produced many unique statement pieces that are at home in a wide range of interior designs and architectural styles. They are equally suited to trendy modern loft interiors as they are to century old landmarked city townhouses. Even, in a luxuriously wood paneled library, these pieces would serve as a stunning juxtaposition.

However, true to their original intent, they truly come into their own in a tropical oasis surrounded by greenery as shown in Oscar Niemeyer’s home below. The way these pieces intermingle with the sprawling glass facade looking out to the forest it is nothing short of extraordinary!

Home of Oscar Niemeyer
Interior view of Oscar Niemeyer's Casa de Canoas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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Noteworthy Iconic Brazilian Designs By Sergio Rodrigues

Sergio Rodrigues is one of the most important designers from this period and designed some of the most iconic pieces in the Brazilian Modern style including the Mole Chair, Chifruda Chair, Tonico Armchair, Kilin chair, and the Diz chair. These designs are immediately distinctive, recognizable, and are very much at the forefront of the avant-garde style for the period. They were immediately respected as historically important within the Brazilian modern movement.

Unsurprisingly, Rodrigues was one of the primary interior designers of choice for famed Brazilian architect and designer Oscar Niemeyer. The pair collaborated on many important projects. Shown below is a design by Rogrigues called the 'Kilin' chair, which features slung cowhide leather. Also shown below is another design by Rodrigues called the 'AspasChifruda' armchair, which was presented at the second Oca "Furniture as an object of art" exhibition, in 1962. As Sergio Rodrigues said,“The piece of furniture is not just the shape, not just the material which is made but also something inside it. It's the piece's spirit. It's the Brazilian spirit. It's the Brazilian furniture.”Brazilian mid-century modern sling armchair designed by Sergio Rodrigues in the 'Kilin' style with cowhide against Brazilian wood.

Sergio Rodrigues 'Kilin' Chair in Cowhide

Sergio Rodrigues Chair

A Sergio Rodrigues "Aspas Chifruda" armchair presented at the second Oca "Furniture as an object of art" exhibition, in 1962.
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Influenced By Brazilian Modern Architecture and Landscape Design

Oscar Niemeyer and Roberto Burle Marx are towering figures in Brazilian modern design and cast a strong influence on the furniture design of this period. Niemeyer was the grand architect of many of Brazil’s most important buildings. This includes the Cathedral of Brasilia, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Rio, the seat of the national government in Brazil known as Palácio do Planalto, and of course his own personal estate in Rio. Roberto Burle Marx is one of the great Brazilian landscape architects, who among other achievements, famously designed the artfully curving Copacabana Boardwalk.

These photos show the presidential palace designed by Oscar Niemeyer as well as furniture designed specifically for the building by frequent collaborator and designer Sergio Rodrigues. The combination of the Persian rug, finely crafted wooden furniture, with such a modern interior is remarkable. The bottom photo shows the enviable weekend home of renowned Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx designed by Oscar Niemeyer in Petropolis, a city known as a beautiful mountain retreat for residents of Rio.

Sergio Rodrigues Design

Waiting room at the Brazilian Presidential Planalto Palace with Vronka armchairs by Sergio Rodrigues.
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Roberto Burle Marx Garden Design

A sumptuous garden designed by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.
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The Brazilian Culture Reflected In Design Elements

Brazilian Mid Century Modern Furniture exudes a playfulness and fullness of life, but also an appreciation for leisure that many would associate with the Brazilian culture. From traditional samba to the Copacabana Beach Boardwalk and the carnival in Rio today: Brazil is a multicultural country that continues to fascinate. It is in the spirit of this dynamic culture that Brazilian Mid Century Modern finds its form.

A perfect example of the style is Jean Gillon's 'Jangada' leather lounge chair and ottoman which features a roped sling and exquisitely sculpted jacaranda wood. This beautiful chair and ottoman perfectly brings together many of the elements that show the eccentricity and the spirit of the Brazilian Modern movement.

 Brazilian lounge chair with ottoman designed by Jean Gillon, titled 'Jangada', cognac colored leather upholstered tufted cushions against rope sling, with jacaranda frames.


Jean Gillon 'Jangada' Leather Lounge Chair & Ottoman

Sublime Comfort Is Crucial

Some of the best Brazilian modern furniture pieces are upholstered, tufted, and are extremely comfortable. Designers Jean Gillon, Sergio Rodriguez, Martin Eisler, and Percival Lafer all made armchairs and sofas in this style. In fact, Sergio Rodrigues is famous for noting how in some ways, he designed his furniture for a cat because they are one of the best judges for what is actually comfortable.

In many ways, this is such a welcome break from the rigidity of the Bauhaus and some Mid Century pieces where one can scarcely sit comfortably for more than half an hour. Pictured below is a photo of Sergio Rodrigues reclining in his own "Mole" (means soft in Portuguese) chair with one leg slung over the side arm and with a contented look on his face. Below is an original advertisement for the same chair.

Sergio Rodrigues Mole Chair

Sergio Rodrigues reclining in his 'mole' chair.
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Sergio Rodrigues Mole Chair

The original advertisement for the 'mole' chair by Sergio Rodrigues.
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 Delicateness and Lightness

 While some Brazilian Mid Century furniture pieces are meant for lounging and comfort without sacrificing style, this era is also known for producing some of the lightest and most delicately carved wooden pieces in the Mid Century Modern period. The pieces by Brazilian designer Joaquim Tenriero stand out, especially for these qualities.

 These pieces combine caning, which is particularly suited to the heat, with a simple and elegant style that brings to mind some of the designs by French Art Deco Master Jean-Michel Frank. Tenriero draws on this legacy and is claimed by many to be the father of modern furniture in Brazil. Tenriero also practiced as a painter and a sculptor. One can see this in the exact slopes and angles on Tenriero's furniture designs, which are extremely simple and inventive at the same time.

 Joaquim Tenriero Chairs

A set of Joaquim Tenreiro furniture.
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Joaquim Tenriero Chairs


Joaquim Tenreiro Dining Chairs in Brazilian Jacaranda with Caned Seats


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