We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: mid-century modern is a trend that’s here to stay! What is it about this particular style that has helped it endure the test of time so well? The list of timeless design elements goes on and on! For one, mid-century modern design was created with comfort in mind and it’s a look that is meant to be used and lived with. Who doesn’t love a practical design element that makes economical use of space?
Mid-century modern style also offers the perfect marriage between form and function. It features minimal ornamentation so it’s super easy to care for and keep clean. The design seamlessly blends clean, crisp shapes with bright colors and organic materials for a look that’s both bold and approachable. There’s a lot to love about this classic style, especially when it comes to mid-century living room design.
Thinking about designing your living room in mid-century style? Read on for our list of Modsy “Must-Haves”—the essential checklist of mid-century living room furniture to help you ace that perfect retro look. Incorporate one or two pieces for a slightly mid-century space, or go full-steam ahead with the whole list!
Furniture With Tapered Legs
No mid-century modern inspired space would be complete without tapered legs, as noted by Modsy’s very own VP of Style, Alessandra Wood in this HuffPost article. If you are looking for mid-century living room furniture, look for pieces with this signature look.
Why? Tapered legs add height and drama to any piece of furniture, making larger pieces—like a big sectional sofa—feel lighter and less cumbersome. The triangular shape of tapered legs draws the eye up and makes smaller spaces seem more open and airy. Not only do they look sleek, but they also make it easy to clean underneath pieces.
It’s a “must-have” because The simple elegance of tapered legs is perhaps the most enduring legacy of the mid-century movement. Their functionality and streamlined forms make them perfect for almost any space truly giving this trend a leg (or four!) to stand on.
A Retro Side Chair
Part of what makes mid-century style so distinctive is its clever mix of strong shapes, vibrant colors, and natural materials. A fun retro chair design, like this one, is the perfect piece of mid-century furniture to complete any space. Look for one made of natural wood and colorful upholstery—mid-century modern style is all about simple, streamlined shapes and organic forms.
It’s a “must-have” because: It not only provides extra seating but gives you an opportunity to highlight some of the best elements of mid-century style.
Natural or Acorn Wood Finishes
While mid-century modern design is known for popularizing a slew of man-made materials for the home (think fiberglass and concrete), its use of natural wood is truly exemplary. Warm finishes in acorn tones are super common in mid-century designs and they are used for their warm, inviting quality. Streamlined mid-century shapes and minimal ornamentation bring out the beauty of the wood and add to its popularity by bringing a friendly “everyman” quality to the design.
It’s a “must-have” because: We all need a little warmth in our space and mid-century wood pieces are the perfect way to add subtle (and design-savvy) sensibility to yours.
Accents in Primary Colors
One of the most fun components of mid-century design is its playful use of color! Historically, mid-century spaces utilized a mix of bold, primary colors. You can also try pairing complementary or secondary colors to capture that retro feel in a more approachable way—think yellow and turquoise or lilac and tangerine. Layer in pops of neutrals or beige to keep it from going too technicolor—there’s no need to go crazy with colors in a classy style like this.
It’s a “must-have” because: Vibrant color is an integral part of mid-century design aesthetics. It adds a sense of levity and joy to the serious designs and geometric shapes of the movement.
Geometric Shapes and Accents
Eye-catching geometric accents are absolute mid-century necessities. Hugely popular in mid-century design, the tripod lamp is exemplary of the movement for many reasons. Tripod legs add stability while maintaining simple and elegant form—it’s both functional and design-savvy.
The starburst mirror is a popular staple of mid-century style, too. It features a whimsical and retro look and creates an immediate focal point. And the beautiful brass end table exemplifies the mid-century love of form and function in the strong geometry of its design.
It’s a “must-have” because: The dynamic shapes used in mid-century design are not only eye-catching, they often work to enhance the quality of the space by creating focal points around a room.
Organic and Natural Textures
Mixing organic textures was all the rage during the peak of the Mid-Century era! Incorporating these textures is still a great way to bring a room together today. The square leather ottoman features a simple shape that really brings out the vintage of the leather and this jute rug gets double mid-century style points for its groovy geometric pattern and organic material. The marble coffee table adds a bright spot to the earthy palette in this design—plus the slender metal legs add additional mid-century finesse.
It’s a “must-have” because: A big tenet of the mid-century movement was making designs that were both comfortable and livable. The organic materials preferred by many mid-century designers (leather, teak, tweed, jute) reflected that sensibility, providing both natural warmth and durability.
Iconic Furniture Pieces
So many amazing signature design styles came out of the mid-century movement that it’s easy to find an item that’s perfect for your own take on mid-century. For example, the Nogucci coffee table designed by Isamu Nogucci is a classic representation of bold mid-century style, with its tear-drop shape glass top and boomerang-shaped legs.
Other iconic examples worth considering are the Eames recliner and ottoman or the Jeanneret Chair. There are lots of gorgeous (and affordable) reproductions that make them easily accessible—you don’t have to hunt down and pay the hefty price for an original!
It’s a “must-have” because: Having a recognizable piece of mid-century furniture will not only give you some design cred, but it also functions as a work of art and adds tons of visual interest to your space!
A Bar Cabinet
This bar cabinet serves up plenty of mid-century charm with its traditional shape and design. As we mentioned before, tapered legs are a hallmark of mid-century style and help add height and drama to the simple shape of the cabinet. The beautiful acorn wood finish and warm organic texture add visual interest that easily blends in with a variety of living room styles. Antique brass handles are a refined detail present in lots of mid-century furniture pieces! This cabinet offers plenty of storage for bottles and stemware—and it can double as storage for books and board games.
Style tip: Add some retro accessories like a gold martini shaker for extra mid-century pizzazz! We think Don Draper would approve!
It’s a “must-have” because: Not only is this bar cabinet an excellent example of mid-century style because of its elegant and streamlined design, but the ample closed storage is wonderfully functional.
A Conversational Layout
One of the key philosophies of mid-century design was to create social spaces that were equal parts functional and inviting for gatherings. This is why these spaces tend to have such a conversational feel.
To create a conversational layout in your space, keep things casual. Try an asymmetrical arrangement of your furniture, which will feel less formal and more casual and inviting. Play with proportion by using foundational pieces with different shapes and colors. This helps create dimension and draws the eye around the conversational area instead of into one focal point as more formal spaces do.
It’s a “must-have” because: Many mid-century designers wanted to create spaces which made social gathering feel more organic and fun. Using mid-century furniture to create a living room that feels open and welcoming is the perfect way to make your space feel both modern and homey.
Ready to Design Your Mid-Century-Modren Space?