Using new materials and methods to reimagine traditional pieces, mid-century modern design combines sleek lines with organic shapes. After the Industrial Revolution and the Post-War Era, mid-century modern design began to emerge in the middle of the 20th century in America, taking shape in the 1930s and lasting until the 1960s.
Mid-century modernism brought the geometric forms and clean lines of the Bauhaus to the Modernist movement, pioneered by designers such as Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames, Charlotte Perriand, and Arne Jacobsen to name just a few.
What is Mid-Century Modern Interior Design?
The mid-century modern home typically would be one-story, have an open-plan layout decorated with sleek, practical furniture, a lowered roof or ceiling, a lot of windows on the side and back, and emphasize the outdoor area.
Its influence extends beyond home decor and is seen throughout many aspects of our culture. Modernism was typically found in architecture first, followed by decor and design trends.
In mid-century modern decor, you will usually find elegant chairs with tapered legs, statement lamps, and TV stands that are characterized by bold colors, sleek chrome, and geometric patterns.
In the mid-20th century, furniture was designed to be multifunctional, based on the principle that small homes and apartments should not be overwhelmed by furniture. Original pieces can usually be stacked, folded, or nestled away for convenience when not in use.
Elements Of Mid-Century Modern Interior Design
Modern designs have stood the test of time and are as fashionable as ever in today’s homes, institutions, and offices. To this day, mid-century modern remains popular because of the simplicity and functionality of the iconic pieces.
Materials can be mixed and matched, making them an ideal addition to any home. Also, many buyers of furniture and homes today would have been raised around mid-century design, thus bringing back a sense of nostalgia from their childhood.
‘Form follows function’ is one of the key principles that define mid-century modern design. In other words, furniture, objects, and buildings designed in the modernist style reflect their intended use. If they aren’t practical, then they don’t belong.
Below, we have included a guide to mid-century modern styling to help you achieve this iconic aesthetic in your interior.
Whether you wish to style your living room with modern furniture inspired by the Bauhaus movement or you want to revamp some of your interior furnishings, you’ll find everything you need to know about this interior design style below.
Mid-century modern furniture used geometric patterns that added character to rooms because of their simplicity. Patterns resembling starbursts, atomics, and boomerangs were used commonly on prints, artwork, mirrors, clocks, and rugs.
Clean lines defined the mid-century look. The use of natural materials was often complimented by retro colors and Japanese minimalism approaches. Every piece of furniture in this modern interior design movement needed to have its place and was positioned to complete the space.
From the vibrant hues of the 1950s to earthy tones of the 1960s, the mid-century color palette was diverse.
Bright colors brought a sense of focus to simple, uncomplicated rooms and were used in contrast to black, white, or grey. The mid-century colors range from all types of bold colors from deep olive greens to stunning bright orange.
One of the ways in which interior designers with a focus on mid-century interiors manage to recreate the aesthetic is via color. If you are looking to bring about a mid-century interior design to your own home, color is imperative.
We recommend painting a wall in a statement color to bring about a point of focus and act as a backdrop to the mid-century modern furniture you have selected. Another way to introduce bold colors to your interior design style influenced by this movement could be through textiles.
The most popular shades in mid-century modern design were orange and brown. They created a warm, earthy interior that complemented the wooden furniture. Rooms looked fresh and light when they included pops of contrasting colors, such as green, as shown in the example above.
Many mid-century soft furnishings and textiles also made use of striking color palettes. Curtains, cushions, and rugs are perfect interior opportunities to explore color.
Everything is functional
Functionality was important throughout the mid-century modern style. Due to its minimalistic nature, furniture pieces could be transformed in terms of functionality. For instance, tv units may fold down into a table as an example.
Often with smart, fitted storage and space-saving furniture, a classic mid-century modern kitchen is highly functional. Open shelving helps to create a sense of extra space and light. And, quite often sliding doors were used to separate spaces to allow for open plan living where desired.
Use of teak wood
Furniture from the mid-century is typically slimline with minimal decoration and is made of wood. Most sideboards, cabinets, chairs, and sofas are low to the ground with slim legs to give the illusion of floating. By doing this, a room feels less claustrophobic and appears taller.
Due to its versatility and ability to marry form and function, mid-century modern furniture appeals to the masses. Teak wood brings about a sense of warmth among a clean, minimal space making it ideal for the likes of living room furniture.
Dark and durable, teak paired well with the bold colors associated with the era and was often used for tables, desks, and storage.
Bright and airy spaces
Like the Japandi aesthetic, modernists believed items should only be displayed sparingly and should be in keeping with the interior scheme rather than standing out. Surfaces should be clean so that furniture can be the focal point, and wall art should be minimal so as not to distract from the room as a whole.
Mid-century modern interior design did not shy away from decor, in fact, this was the very essence behind the movement.
However, there was a distinct difference to be established; decor had to be tasteful and complementary to the surroundings. A mid-century modern home considered the entire space as a work of art, rather than bringing art into the space itself.
How To Make Mid-Century Modern Work In A Modern Home
Mid-century modern furniture’s shapes are timeless, so they can go with anything. Its simple, gently curved, and elegantly tapered lines are subtle enough to blend in with any style of decor, rather than being too prominent.
Below, you will find our tips on creating a mid-century modern style in your own home. While we have laid out the signature hallmarks of the movement above, it is also useful to consider these extra tips.
Avoid too much teak
Teak was the signature wood type of mid-century modern interior design. With this said, interior designers were cautious of not over-using teak. Many mid-century modern designers used teak furniture to accentuate the interior space and add character rather than define it.
When selecting furniture for your own mid-century modern look, you too should apply this mentality. One excellent example of the tasteful teak furniture of this movement is the Eames Lounge Chair. With its teak elements and curves, it is the quintessential chair when looking at mid-century design.
Combine modern and mid-century elements
We recommend blending both modern and mid-century elements for a genuine mid-century design. When you browse mid-century furniture, don’t shy away from contemporary options that carry characteristics of the iconic style.
You’ll likely find furniture ideas at a thrift store and likely can find some genuine vintage furniture from the era. Look for wooden legs on chairs, graphic shapes in paintings and home decor, and textiles that can add a contemporary twist with bold colors.
Add house plants
Every Interior design brings in elements of the outdoors with plants. In mid-century modern interior design, larger plants were often used to bring about natural color and they were largely considered as works of art themselves.
Some good options for houseplants for any living space include the Monsteras, Fiddle Leaf Figs, Prayer Plants, and the Dragon Tree.
Remember that mid-century furniture was designed for modern use
Every piece of furniture in mid-century design emphasized practicality. Therefore, every furniture piece served a function. Keep this in mind when shopping for your mid-century furniture pieces!
Mid-Century Interior Design Ideas
We’ve included some ideas for this particular style based on rooms you’ll find in the typical home. Keep an eye out for these trends and take inspiration to style your own home according to the iconic twentieth-century interior movement.
Mid-Century Modern Bedroom
Japandi is a blend of Scandinavian and Japanese design sensibilities (Scandinavian + Japanese), which already happen to be rather similar.
Clean lines, bright spaces, light wood, and natural elements all define this interior design style. Think about bringing these elements into a bedroom for a calm and refined space. Consider a low bed, tasteful use of wood, and neutral colors with hints of bold red.
Mid-Century Modern Kitchen
Open shelving was extremely popular throughout the interior movement and is a perfect way to style a kitchen. Not only does creating a gallery-like wall complete with shelving for displaying spices serve you practically, but it is highly in line with the mid-century style.
Mid-Century Modern Living Room
If you’re dreaming of your own living space dominated by the mid-century aesthetic it’s time to think about furniture. A mid-century modern aesthetic relies heavily on lightweight, thin-framed wooden furniture.
Go for simple silhouettes, tapered legs, and medium-stained brown wood to achieve this look, and don’t forget to add some beautiful complementary plants too.
Mid-Century Modern Bathroom
Marble countertops, vessel sinks, and under-mount sinks are common features of bathrooms from this era.
Many of the stylish bathrooms feature white subway tiles, which look highly effective together with wood cabinetry. Adding lighting to your bathroom is also important, whether using a chandelier, pendant lights, wall sconces, or stylish mid-century lamps on the countertop.
Mid-Century Modern Dining Room
Mid-century tables and chairs can bring a very elegant but functional touch to your home, whether they are large, or compact, stackable, or nestable.
Also, think about the colors used throughout this particular style. You could introduce a pop of bold orange or green along with modern wall art.
When decorating homes of the 21st century, functionality remains a key tenant of midcentury modern style. Many designers and homeowners alike take great inspiration from the movement, and it’s not difficult to see why!
Can you mix Scandi and Mid Century Modern?
The biggest differences between Scandinavian and mid-century modern design are in the lighting and color palette.
Scandinavian interiors are oriented towards maximizing light in a room, whereas mid-century modern interiors explore darker hues. Of course, you can mix styles but we recommend being mindful of how the two styles contrast.
Which are the best books on Mid Century Modern Interior Design?
Modern Retro Home: Tips & inspiration for creating great mid-century styles, Herman Miller: A Way of Living, and 100 Mid-Century Chairs and Their Stories are some of the books we recommend.
Is Mid-Century Modern style likely to stay in fashion?
Yes, the style remains in fashion as more people look to achieve a beautiful yet minimal interior space in which they can live functionally.
What’s the easiest room to integrate Mid-Century Modern design with?
A living room is a perfect canvas in which to explore this design style. You can really get creative with the modern interior in a living room as you can consider different chair styles, textiles, and color use.