A style that’s been in the spotlight for years, Mid-Century Modern is one of the most popular looks among our customers. In our 101 post, we’re dishing the full scoop on this iconic style!
Mid-Century Modern 101 at a Glance:
- What is Mid-Century Moder design?
- The history of this style
- 5 design tips to get a mid-century look in your space
- How the mid-century trend is evolving today!
What is Mid-Century Modern Interior Design?
Inspired by mid-twentieth-century design, mid-century modern interior design combines elements like natural woods, bold colors, slightly whimsical furniture designs, organic shapes, and tapered legs. These spaces are comfortable and encourage lounging, relaxation, and conversation. This style also loves patterns, and often incorporates graphic ones with geometric and organic designs (think: diamonds, starbursts, and boomerangs).
1961 Mid-Century Modern Designers Playboy Spread
The History of Mid-Century Modern Design
Curious about the history of Mid-Century Modern interior design? We dug deep into this topic in episode 3 of our podcast, The Render. But we’ll give you a crash course here.
Mid-Century interior design came about in the middle of the twentieth century. In America, designers experimented with new materials like plastics, fiberglass, wire, and aluminum in their furniture and decor. As a result, some designers saw their popularity surge. For example, you’ve probably heard of Ray and Charles Eames, who were a prolific design duo of this era.
Fun Fact: Mid-Century Modern design was the preferred style of men for their bachelor pads. Learn all about the mid-century origins of the bachelor pad.
Around the same time, Scandinavian and Danish modernism was growing in popularity in Europe. Scandinavian interior design really hit the scene in 1954 at the Design in Scandinavia Exhibition. While it shares some similarities with the American take on Mid-Century design—like clean lines and geometric forms—Scandinavian design leans a bit more organic, with a focus on natural materials.
5 Tips to Bring This Look to Life in Your Home
If you love Mid-Century Modern design, there are so many different ways you can bring it to life in your home. Aside from plopping in an Eames Lounge chair, there are some guiding principles that will help you really nail this look at home.
1. Opt for Clean Lines
“Form follows function” is the moral of the story with mid-century design. Focus on finding pieces of modern furniture that are comfortable and livable. But that’s not to say that form isn’t important! In fact, in a Mid-Century Modern living room, dining room, or bedroom design, focus on clean, sleek lines in your furniture. These clean lines will help appeal to the minimalist side of this style.
2. Incorporate Plenty of Wood Tones
No matter what other styles you’re mixing with Mid-Century Modern, or what approach you’re taking (atomic, Scandinavian, or otherwise), wood tones are a must. From the tapered legs of sofas and chairs to credenzas, bar cabinets, and dining room tables, don’t be afraid to incorporate plenty of wood tones (and even to mix wood tones). Acorn, teak, or natural light birch finishes are most popular in mid-century-inspired homes, but you can also go for a dark walnut finish in statement pieces.
3. Consider Your Color Scheme
American Mid-Century design focused on incorporating bright colors into modern homes. In the 50s, this meant cheerful colors like teal, pink, and yellow. Later, these colors took on more earthy tones, with shades of olive, burnt orange, and mustard yellow dominating homes. In today’s Mid-Century Modern homes, accents of bright colors like these bring life to your home and, depending on the shade, can give a retro flair to your space. But you can also go neutral and just let the shapes of the furniture drive home this style. A black and white color scheme can still feel very Mid-Century Modern while being a bit more restrained.
4. Insert Pops of Patterns
Patterns like diamond, starbursts, and boomerangs were very popular when mid-century design first hit the scene. So, incorporating these patterns into your home can give it a delightfully retro vibe. But you can also do a less literal take on mid-century with other geometric patterns and prints.
5. Look to Pop Culture for Inspiration
And you can always look to pop culture for some inspiration! We all know that the Mad Men set designers absolutely nailed the classic Mid-Century look, so you can pull ideas from that show, especially if you want to go for a more retro take on this style. We also designed an updated take on Frasier’s Mid-Century Modern apartment, which can show you how to bring his style into today’s context.
What Does The Mid-Century Modern Trend Look Like Today?
In the last year or two, we’ve noticed a shift away from the “Mad Men” style of Mid-Century design, where a space feels almost themed it’s so on-the-nose, to something more organic and collected. But the Mid-Century Modern trend is far from dead.
Historically, when you look at the progression of trends in the 20th century, you see what looks like a cyclical change in our current culture. Postmodern design trends introduced organic shapes and whimsical feelings to interior design, while the 1970s and 1980s introduced drama and glam. Both of these styles have reemerged in our culture and trending with different groups. As we learn more about styles, we also see how they evolved over time!
Today, we’re seeing elements of Mid-Century Modern design come to life in several different ways.
We’re seeing a softer, earthier side of the mid-century look come out to play with the growth in popularity of Organic Modernism. This style uses mid-century design as a framework, but pulls in some rustic elements and infuses some extra creature comforts that make this style feel really warm and approachable.
Scandinavian Design and “Japandi”
In a similar vein, Scandinavian design and Japandi style (a mix of Scandinavian modernism and Japanese minimalism) are both experiencing a resurgence in popularity. In both of these styles, the use of light wood tones and natural materials is very popular. (If you read our 2021 Trend Report, you’ll know that we think that lighter-toned woods will continue to grow in popularity this year.
Mid-Century Boho Design
Then there’s a take on Mid-Century Modernism we love that’s more bohemian, with collected elements and organic shapes and forms. It feels more eclectic, mixing in worldly patterns, pops of color, natural textures, and lots of plants.
We’re also seeing some bolder styles that introduce glam elements in dramatic and sophisticated ways. Minimalist Maximalist design is on the rise and this trend is exactly what it sounds like—a style that plays with the unlikely combo of a minimalist’s design principles and a maximalist’s love of patterns, colors, textures, and all things over-the-top.
And speaking of iconic Mid-Century Modern furniture—we’re seeing the use of iconic pieces beyond the Eames chair, including the Cesca chair, Jeanneret chair, and even the Wishbone chair. Many of these were pieces that came from the Bauhaus in the 1920s, and were re-popularized in the mid-century and again in the 1980s. Minimalist at heart, these pieces give us mid-century and 1980s associations due to their ubiquity in design during those time periods. And we love incorporating these chair styles into home designs of many kinds!
Want to try on Mid-Century Modern style in your home?
Curious how you can bring some Mid-Century Modern interior design into your own home? On our Interior Design 101 page, you’ll learn how Modsy designers can help you bring your vision to life and narrow in on the exact brand of Mid-Century interior design that you’d like to try on!
This post was updated on March 26, 2021