Growing up Mid Century Modern

by Barbara Schwab

I’ve had a marvelous growing up, surrounded by beautiful creative and loving people, who collected and created beautiful objects, environments – homes and studios and experiences.

My parents met in art school, Massachusetts College of Art, Dad was a vet and Mom a sweet thing out of high school at age 16. William Daley and Catherine Stennes married in 1950 and I was born in 1952.
I grew up seeing people make things, little things and big marvelous things, a lot of it was going on in the basement of our home. We would go down to the basement and Dad would make a project for us or we we would be drafted to help with his.

William Daley sculpture "Flight" 1967 BIG MARVELOUS THING.

One of my favorite Sunday afternoons was when Bill was making a wood piece. (I think I was about 6). There were wood chips everywhere. He gave us the job of sweeping the floor. Us- being my sister Charlotte and brother Tom.

We soon discovered that by sweeping with the wide shop broom we could make paths through the chips. Then we needed a house of course. This consisted of a wired hula hoop hanging from the pipes of the ceiling and newspaper sides that were patched together with T pins. There wasn’t room for interior design with 3 kids in a hula hoop house- but I might have designed it otherwise.

I grew up loving color and shapes, color aid and rubber cement, crayons and markers, fabrics and patterns, all led me to graphic design.

I graduated from Philadelphia College of Art (PCA, now University of the Arts) with a BFA in graphic design, which at the time had its aesthetic roots tightly woven with the Swiss Style (which is a term we would never have used because we did not consider it a style and hating it a being referred to as such) it is properly called the International Style.

The teachers at PCA, with Kenneth Heibert, Chair of the department, were brought to PCA, and other key design schools, as graduates of The Basel School of Design. This influx of new modern thinking influenced the international Graphic Design community since the 1940’s. Courses in Graphic Design and Typography developed by Armin Hofmann and Emil Ruder in Basel began being being taught by their students, in the US influencing several generations of Swiss modernist design students in Philadelphia.

During my time at PCA my father William Daley, was Chair of the Industrial Design Department at the school, and I was very interested in the problem solving elements of design, practical and aesthetic.

I began my career working for some of the top design firms in New York City in the 1970's. This was a marvelous time for design. We were the cutting edge with our American Swiss design education. We believed we could improve the world through clear communication, grids, and san serif typography.

Helvetica was king and rightfully so. Univers was the pre-curser and changed the world with the interchangeable type balls that went on the IBM Selectric typewriter.

People ask me if I watch Mad Men on TV, I tell them I don't need to watch it – I lived it – in the New York graphic design offices. It was all about the Men, and not much of a place for women. I was young, enthusiastic and assured that being a woman was an asset. My sister Charlotte was also in NY working as a creative force at a big cruise line, she was having her own brand of hard work and fun.

When I moved back to Philadelphia, I started running into George Schwab, who was going to architecture school with my brother Thomas Daley. George worked for the young firm of Kelley/Maiello. I was also going to school studying Jewelry design/metal-smithing with Richard Reinhardt and Sharon Church, at UArts while working for Noel Mayo doing graphic design.


George and I fell in love and moved into a 3 story brick front, in what is now New Kensington and was then his grandparents old family home. Wallpaper in every room, linoleum rugs with newspaper underneath and rooms filled with big heavy dark furniture (not our style), every closet and drawer filled with hand crocheted doilies. I knew that this project would require a long-term commitment.

And so we were married and blissfully happy about our relationship, careers, and new adventures in home ownership with dreams for the neighborhood and the urban Lifestyle.

I was working for Noel Mayo Associates, a industrial design office. Noel Mayo took over Carriero Design. Mid-century modern design was happening right there in that office in Philadelphia. My father worked as a young teacher and designer for Joe Carriero. Noel is one of the early renowned black American industrial designers. They all were respective chairs of the Industrial Design department at PCA.
I grew up in a “mid century modern world”. I was influenced by the graphic design of Paul Rand, furniture of Charles and Ray Eames, and my Father, William Daley, who, with his contemporaries, were creating what is “Mid Century Modern” as young designers in the 50’s and 60’s.

Eames-Chairs-Dining-room Our little bungalo, dining room Eames chairs. The sculpture above the mantle is by Brian Dickerson

A few years after our son was born, George Andrew Schwab. We 3 moved into our second home, a small craftsman style bungalow. It is a pretty house on a beautiful street in Jenkintown, PA. George being the architect is in charge of the house structures, I’m more in charge of color and textile selections. We have been through many phases of renovations, knocking down walls is one of an architects favorite activities. Actually, most of the home décor decisions we have enjoyed making together, bringing our own talents and interests to the project of loving and living in our home.

Recently, with a resurgence of the popularity of all things “Mid Mod”, we came to realize that we have a unique perspective on living with and collecting Mid Century Modern vintage furniture. And so MidMod-decor is born.

This blog written by the two of us – will tell of the adventures of Barbara and George and the love of all things Mid Mod.




Armin Hoffman
Emil Ruder
Kenneth Heibert ‘s book “Graphic Design Sources”
William Daley’s website
Noel Mayo
Thomas Daley
Charlotte Daley
Richard Reinhardt
Sharon Church
George A. Schwab
George M. Schwab