Identifying Mid-century Modern Designs

Identifying authentic Mid-century Modern (MCM) design can be challenging, especially when it comes to modernist furniture. Many collectors are unaware that popular styles from the 1950s-1970s were routinely copied or reworked by other designers almost immediately after the original designs went out of fashion. Unfortunately, these later interpretations of MCM design are often mistaken for vintage objects.

Consider this modernist coffee table (15 ½” h. x 42” diam.”) and matching credenza (33” h. x 77” l. x 20” d.) that we appraised recently as part of an estate. At first glance, these two forms appear to be vintage abstract designs circa 1970; however, they are actually early 21st century creations by furniture designer Benjamin Le of AXI Contemporary Furniture in Fullerton, California.

Le began experimenting with post-modernist designs in 1994. His company, AXI, uses imported birch and maple veneers colored with aniline dyes to create abstract patterns. Each piece is then sealed with a polyester resin finish. AXI’s product line, which consists primarily of tables and case furniture, are appointed with black metal and glass accents reminiscent of authentic MCM design. But AXI contemporary furniture is still relatively affordable and easy to find. This colorful coffee table and credenza, for example, have a fair market value of just $2,250 for the set. On the other hand, a circa 1974 credenza by Paul Evans will cost you a cool $18,000 at auction.

So do your research and stay informed because when it comes to MCM, mistakes can be costly ones.

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