Interior Design | E-cquisitions

Midcentury modernism, with a contemporary twist

An e-shop that mixes midcentury design with a sense of fun

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Midcentury modernism, with a contemporary twist

December 16 2010
Dominic Lutyens

The current mid-20th-century design revival might be oh-so-hip, but Mark Hampshire and Keith Stephenson, who channel its aesthetic via their Mini Moderns homeware brand, are no Johnny Come Latelys. “We’ve been passionate about its optimistic spirit for 20 years,” they say. “We’re big fans of the Festival of Britain and have a huge amount of memorabilia related to it.” Next year, to mark the festival’s 60th anniversary, they will launch a wallpaper called Festival, featuring some of its pavilions (£50 for a 52cm x 10m roll).

The duo felt honoured, they add, when in 2008, London’s Southbank Centre commissioned them to reproduce as wallpaper a pattern called Net and Ball, designed in 1951 as a carpet for the Royal Festival Hall. Mini Moderns’ wallpapers, cushions, mugs, rugs and tea towels have a similar midcentury feel. But this range isn’t just conceived as a nostalgia trip for babyboomers: “It’s aimed at adults and children. The brand name tells customers it’s fun but also hints at modernist design.”

With its tangerine and chocolate palette and cartoony 1950s bungalow motif, the website doesn’t take itself too seriously. Click on the word “Shoppe” and you discover that its wallpapers are quirkier than their 1950s counterparts. These include Pet Sounds (second picture; an orange pattern of woodland creatures and musical instruments), Tick Tock (cuckoo clocks and sunburst clocks) and Fayre’s Fair (fairground horses) – all £38. One of the 100 per cent wool rugs depicts a gigantic owl staring out against a violet twilight (first picture, £495). Mini Moderns’ designs sometimes evoke the 1970s, too, among them its tape-cassette-print cushions (third picture, £35 each).

The wallpapers are all made of paper from managed forests and use water-based inks, so while the duo mine a postwar aesthetic, they’re more eco than those of the 1950s.