I remember when I was a kid growing up on the east side of the state, Grand Rapids always meant one thing: furniture.

The industry here has suffered a bit lately, but in those last glory years of Michigan furniture making, their design aesthetic was among the cutting edge of its time.

A new book honors that era that spawned the Michigan Modern design aesthetic.

Amy Arnold and Brian Conway of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office have compiled an encyclopedic new book called Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America that looks back to the mid-century, from the '40s to the '70s, when Michigan Modern influenced design the world over, even as far away as Latvia.

The 352-page book packs in photos, essays, and interviews about the architecture and furniture design of the era. The Detroit Free Press said this about the contributions of local manufacturers:

Michigan led the design world in this period with architects like Eero Saarinen and Minoru Yamasaki, furniture makers at Steelcase and Herman Miller in West Michigan, fabric makers like Ruth Adler Schnee, and so many more players too numerous to name.


If you were a fan of AMC's hit TV series 'Mad Men' about an ad agency in Midtown Manhattan, you're familiar with the Michigan Modern design, part of what became known collectively as Mid-Century Modern.

There is a large number of West Michigan office buildings that feature the Michigan Modern design that you can see through this self guided tour, including the Cull Group offices in Eastown Grand Rapids and the City and County Buildings downtown adjacent to the Calder Plaza.

Many homes around Grand Rapids also remain from that era as well, even though there was a revolt against it, and eventually a return to a more classic look emerged. This listing of Michigan Modern designs feature several from West Michigan.