What is International Style and Modern?

What is International Style and Modern?

Coming on the heels of the Arts and Crafts Movement, members of the Bauhaus who fled Europe in the 1930s gave us International Style. It prevailed for much of the 20th century and is with us today.

Thanks to a  project sponsored by the defunct magazine Arts and Architecture, leading post-war architects had an opportunity to build their dream hosues. Among the famous names are Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saarinen, A. Quincy Jones, and Ralph Rapson. Their iconic designs filtered down to the middle class and created what we now call the “open plan” concept. 

International Style Houses

Hollywood’s Stahl House, Case Study #22, by Pierre Koenig. A Historic Landmark Place.

The furniture that filled these houses and their middle-class counterparts conformed to the theory that “form follows function”.  Tubular steel and glass were affordable then and easily used in mass production. Shapes tended to be very spare or highly organic.  (Shown in today’s featured image; iconic chairs by Anne Jackson, Meis Van de Rohe, Marcel Breuer.) 

International Style Decorations

Lamp by Louis Kalff, 1950; Swedish candlesticks;; Charles & Rae Eames sculpture


Sinuous lines, like the Eames table top sculpture above, and clever design, as seen in the Louis Kalff lamp above, brought interest to an otherwise sterile look. So simple and straightforward were these designs, that once clever artist name Harry Bertoia added sound to the mix. His leggy sculptures of mostly vertical wires are designed to be stroked and emit sound.

International style, now called modern or minimalist, became so popular that it is being reprised today. If you think you have a valuable item from the past  be sure to get it vetted (another word for authenticated) before you try to sell it or pass it on. Their are a lot of knock offs of great designs on the market today.

As for the architecture of the period, international Style buildings are generally  rectilinear forms with  plane surfaces completely devoid of  decoration. Inside they have  open spaces that give off a visually weightlessness.  Glass and steel, in combination with  reinforced concrete, are the characteristic materials of the construction. In other words, you’ve seen them everywhere. Skyscrapers, for the most part. There were however iconic homes made in this style that influenced decor and furniture. One of them is the Stahl House shown above. Another is classic “Glass House” designed by Philip Johnson with furniture by Meis ean de Rohe . It  is in New Canaan, Connecticut and open to the public certain times throughout the year. 

At The Appraisal Group we value modern antiques – often called vintage – as much as 19th or early 20th century items. We can tell you if you’re in possession of a trove of valuable International items.

The Glass House

Philip Johnson’s Glass House with furniture by Meis van de Rohe.



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