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All About Tapered Legs

The shorter, the rounder and the more angled, the more the tapered leg says “mid-century modern!”

Any book on modern design worth its salt will have a section – or, more likely, four or five – dedicated to mid-century modernism. After all, the style defined one of the most aesthetically iconic eras in American history.  It also reflected an entire generation’s discouragement for a war-torn past, pragmatism for the present and optimism for the future. In a way, it embraces the American spirit at its finest, which is perhaps why it continues to reign dominant, and will always be considered (by us, at least!) one of the most timeless looks, ever.

tapered leg style

What Makes Tapered Legs Special?

The tapered leg is the pinnacle of mid-century modernism. If the style defined a generation, the tapered leg defined the style. With that said, its origins can be traced back to ancient times! Furniture makers for centuries have been carving designs out of wood, and, like artists of any kind, expressing flair through their craft.

Although the tapered furniture leg – or a furniture leg that gradually thins out toward the bottom – has been around, it didn’t rise to iconic heights until the middle of the 20th century.
To identify “traditional” tapered legs from “mid-century modern” tapered legs, take note of length, width and shape. The shorter, the rounder and the more angled, the more the tapered leg says “mid-century modern!”

The Tapered Leg and the Race to Space

While the literature on modern design will offer varying opinions on what events shaped the style evolution of mid-century modernism and the tapered leg, their inextricable connection to the space age is perhaps the most commonly held – and intriguing.
As America became more and more obsessed with developing advancements in technology and being the first to land in space, domestic life on the home front all but fueled the fire. Interiors saw a boom in “futuristic” aesthetics. The further away it looked from the intricate, traditional designs of the ‘20s and ‘30s, the better; the sleeker and savvier it felt, the more designers and homeowners just about ate it up!

Simple yet fresh and exciting, the tapered leg was one of the easiest ways for the average American to express an embracement of hope and possibility through interior decor. Who would have thought that something as simple as a little flare could represent such a world of feeling and ideas? Just goes to show why style isn’t just about looks – it’s deeply rooted within culture and society as a whole.

So, the next time you’re out and about and happen to spot a tapered leg (or four), take a moment to appreciate its stunning design – and the wonder it represented for Americans in the mid-century!

tapered leg design

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Editorial Disclaimer: Articles featuring tips and advice are intended for educational purposes and only as general recommendations. Always practice personal discretion when using and caring for furniture, decor and related items.

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