Even if you’re not a design buff, you’ve probably heard of mid-century modern design and most likely have been in a design-style room at some point in your life. And for good reason, because this is a timeless, forever chic design direction that never seems to lose traction or desire. But what does it mean?
To help you better understand the popularity of this go-to design movement and its endless resonance across generations, our goal is to highlight what makes mid-century modern design a standout part of any other design style why it might work for you and how to get the most of it with ease.
What does mid century modern mean?
Although the mid-century term modern wasn’t coined until the mid-80s and no one really knows that it is a real timeline, the era represents a combination of post-WWII practicality, 50s optimism, 60s earthiness and 70s tones and textures neatly wrapped in a stylish ode to Scandinavian simplicity.
Let’s call it a response to the decadence and gilded clogging of interior design and architecture well into the 1940s, if you will, as it was when it was first introduced, mid-century modern decor was a total refutation and a reboot for the senses .
The vibe is fresh and poppy, with a retro style and with their commitment to comfort and functionality, packaged in a beautiful design that never goes out of style, absolutely seductive. Unlike other aesthetic movements, mid-century modern decor is streamlined in design, as form follows function while highlighting the materials used rather than making them what they are not.
Why will you love Mid Century Modern Interiors?
- Mid-century modern design is great for those looking to add authentic vintage design to their home without having to go all out, as today’s iteration in nostalgia is much more subtle.
- Creating modern mid-century homes is fun and a great way to bring even the smallest of spaces to life with quiet design quirks.
- The perfect mid-century modern home has charming decor that is safe, but it also offers a practical, durable, and easy-to-source design at any price – easy on the eye.
- The era also allows for more freedom and is less restrictive than minimalism or traditional interior design.
How do you create a mid-century modern style?
Since mid-century modern design has its roots in architecture and its furnishings were originally designed to highlight the design sensibility of the era, here’s a quick rundown of the architectural details you want to highlight to make your home contemporary interior design effortless to lend from the middle of the century:
- Mid-century modern design born after World War II removed the superfluous in order to preserve the original essence of things. Take a similar cue and keep everything structured, practical, and durable with slight design flourishes for added interest.
- Take advantage of the natural elements in a room, from wooden beams to wooden panels to pristine brick walls, to let nature in.
- Add character through abstract prints, patterns, and art that are devoid of cultural references and instead more easily associated with the crafts movement of the era.
- One of the main reasons people continue to praise mid-century modern decor is its casual, lounge feel. Have fun with it and relax – just don’t go overboard.
Mid-century modern colors
As in fashion, the way we decorate our homes right now often reflects the energy and direction of the era, and mid-century modern design does just that, as its kitschy bright hues reflects the optimism of the 50s touch, while natural woods, greens, oranges and earth tones ripple the refined spirit of the 60s and 70s.
If you are not gifted with an original mid-century modern home, you can incorporate the style into your home using your color scheme as a starting point.
Think of more atmospheric hues like burnt sage, orange and rust for a decidedly mid-century modern living room, while colors like turquoise, sun yellow, bright orange and primary colors can be more playfully absorbed in any other room. Just make sure every room is grounded with sobering neutrals so the mix stays intoxicating and not oversaturated.
Mid-century modern style furniture
The uncomplicated and formal modern design of the mid-century stands for clear lines, simplicity, practicality and lush silhouettes. Rethink materials like plastic, acrylic, and even formica when considering furniture materials.
Further characteristics are hairpin legs, low, streamlined seating furniture, shell chairs made of plastic, cocoon lounges, matt surfaces and consoles with smooth surfaces that are interrupted by facades that exude personality through design flourishes.
Mid-century modern textiles
A quick look through every modern mid-century home decor reference reveals the obvious: the main pressure direction of the movement is naive, playful, abstract, full of geometric graphics and unfortunately a bit childish and overtly retro.
To bring your mid-century modern home design into the now, consider using materials similar to factories and textiles in small doses to avoid a stubborn kitsch approach. Take the space above, aside from the eye-catching curtains and the single pillow. The space is almost pressure-free while you choose just the right, concise color scheme to keep everything fresh and timeless.
Our interior designers suggest doing the same with pillows, throws, linens and curtains so as not to overwhelm the eye or get caught in a jump in time.
Mid Century Modern Style Accessories
In accessories, you can have fun with modern mid-century design without taking up too much space or overwhelming your budget. If you take a quick look at the rooms featured here, you’ll find that all of the well-considered mid-century modern homes share a common thread of replacement space and simplicity. Follow the example and just bring a few decorative pieces that are unique enough to stand on their own.
If you’re looking for tips on how to decorate the modern mid-century on a budget, search local flea markets, thrift stores, and online auction houses like 1st Dibs for rare, one-of-a-kind finds that are sure to bring you something mid-to-mid Century modern house fantasies to life.
For a modern mid-century living room and common areas, consider using decorative extras that are reminiscent of the 50s and 60s in rich colors, like a trio of porcelain vases with naive patterns, sculptures of various sizes for added drama, and wall hangings and cell phones with it graphic shapes in vivid hues for unexpected bursts of color.
Mid-century modern window treatments
Take advantage of every window you have and let the light in. The natural elements and emphasis on nature are hallmarks of mid-century modern design. Be shielded by sturdy drapes, blinds, and window treatments that you can easily pull back to take in the sights outside.
And while mid-century modern home decor is all about clean, straight lines and playful pops of color and prints, Decor Aid interior designers recommend neutral window treatments that are simple in design and symmetrical to keep mid-century modern home design modern design you should never want your decor to be entirely vintage – it’s all about the mix.
Mid Century Modern Style Room by Room:
By now, you probably know what makes mid-century modern decor so alluring, but how can you make it come alive from room to room in your home?
To help you master mid-century modern design with serenity and authority, we’ll take you from room to room and split up on what you need to create a remarkably self-contained mid-century modern kitchen, chic living room and one Dining room with highlights from creating the design movement and comfortable oasis of a mid-century modern bedroom.
Mid-Century Modern Kitchen:
If you’re looking to add heady cans of mid-century modern decor to your home, the kitchen can be one of the most challenging spaces to complete with an authentic hand. For one thing, updated equipment is a stark contrast to mid-century modern design, and the scope of new equipment is often much larger.
To create a modern mid-century kitchen that is warm, inviting, full of personality, and practical, think about how to add pops of bright color, small vintage appliances, and decorative touches everywhere. And luckily, there are a number of well-made appliances modeled after retro kitchen appliances that come at a variety of prices.
For a modern color palette for mid-century kitchens, choose either high-gloss or matte finishes and cheerful base colors grounded with dark natural wood for added impact.
Mid-Century Modern Dining Room:
While we did a pretty good job of finding inspirational imagery that highlight modern home decor and mid-century architecture, we included the Paris dining room above as a great example of how you can bring the era into your home, regardless from its structure styling is like.
In fact, it can make for a pretty heady mix, as shown above. On the one hand, the robust, Danish-inspired dining table and matching chairs exude a strong atmosphere that complements the atmospheric color tones and slightly feminine curves of the room. But best of all, we think it’s good that the overall appeal of the space combines the best of mid-century modern home design with a playful feel of unusual quirk, thanks to such an unexpected mix – which still feels totally connected.
Mid-Century Modern Living Room:
As with any style, common spaces are important meeting places and decorative places for the interior design of modern mid-century homes. And as you can imagine, these are often the largest rooms in a house for good reason, serving as conversation areas to showcase a rich collection of furniture while having comfortable furniture and brilliant design.
If you want to look at a mid-century modern living room on your own, focus on the harmonious furniture and objects that you share with each other, bringing meaningful pieces of high and low depth and subtle nuances. Note that this mid-century modern home featured here may seem reassuringly simple at first, but there is a lot the eye can see and bounce off all over the room.
Bring surprises that are not from the time or dedicated to the era and still share a similar aesthetic and silhouette as they will help make your home unique to you and give you more freedom.
Mid Century Modern Bedroom:
When touring a vintage and antiques showroom, you’re sure to find a variety of timeless and beautiful bedside tables, headboards and bed frames that look timeless thanks to their clean, straightforward Danish-inspired design and durable construction.
And because the best mid-century modern interiors are about classics with a decidedly genderless spirit, you should be able to create a perfectly load-bearing mid-century modern bedroom with confidence and ease. Again, the trick is to stick with simple lines, muted tones, and textures.
Notice how the bedroom shown above does just that, while lavishly mirroring the architecture of the home to subtly stimulate the mid-century modern style. Follow the example and get extras like the oversized chair and multi-armed floor lamp to create playful silhouettes in any room in your home.
Mid-Century Modern Bathroom:
While a bathroom may not necessarily be the right space for a mid-century modern home decor and vintage-inspired zeal and dark woods, there are still many approaches to modifying the space with styles in small doses for a thoroughly modern mean of the century to spice up the main design.
The bathroom above, for example, has minimal marble and sleek lines for a timeless look but for a richer, layered look, a custom-made vanity with side-by-side wooden drawers, a simple but oversized black and white canvas wall hanging and a mid-century Modern stools were introduced for a wonderful, eye-friendly effect. Do a similar thing in small spaces in your home, adding even the tiniest details and extras to channel the era in style.