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GET THE LOOK - What is Mid-Century Modern Style?

Updated: Apr 14

***Original post 2021.***

Mid-Century Style falls under the category of Modern design. If you missed my last post where I discussed the difference between the words Modern and Contemporary give it a read. It's an important difference!

Mid-Century Modern is perhaps the most recognizable of the modern styles. A long list of iconic designers created furnishings during this time that we still recognize today. Eames, Miller, Nelson, Bertoia, Wormley, Noguchi...these are just a sampling of the star studded list. Go to any flea market or vintage shop and you're sure to find a number of vendors selling these a premium.

The most important thing to remember when decorating your home in a Mid-Century Modern Style is not to be too literal. You don't want to feel like you are living in a time capsule...unless that's your thing of course...and authentic pieces from the era can be quite expensive. It's best to use the elements of the style as inspiration and put your own spin on it. So, let's get into the nuts and bolts of Mid-century Modern style.

Mid-Century Modern Style

Midcentury modern living room using gold and turquoise accents and circular radiating shapes to add interest.

History lesson! (Not long, I promise)

Mid-Century Modern design spans roughly the mid-1930's to mid-1960's and was the American interpretation of Modern design. You can read about the Scandinavian interpretation of Modern design here.

After WWII there was rapid expansion of the American suburbs. Quickly-built, modern, ranch homes were thrown up seemingly overnight. The booming middle class flocked to them. These new open plan homes called for newer, sleeker interiors with new materials and forms. Suburbanites wanted more efficient and functional spaces. At the same time some German and Scandinavian movers-and-shakers moved to the States after the war and had a major impact on the direction of interior design and architecture.

How to Get the Look - Key Elements

  1. MATERIALS - A whole new range of materials was widely available due to advances in science and technology. Metal, glass, and concrete were in common use while still being combined with natural wood and stone. Additionally plexiglass, fiberglass, tubular steel, plastic and vinyl were popping up all over suburbia.

  2. FURNISHINGS - Simple sleek lines and organic curves were used with minimal ornamentation and function was of primary importance. The focus was on simple basics that were made to last. Plexiglass, fiberglass and plywood were molded and bent to create everything from chairs to coffee tables.

  3. COLORS & PRINTS - Colors changed throughout the three decades and spanned anything from warm, earthy hues, to bolder colors. Colors tended to be a little muted rather than bright, but bright pops of color were used occasionally. Prints were primarily geometrics and organic shapes often with abstract references to nature.

  4. LIGHTING - Lighting was also abstract in nature and often referenced technology, particularly our new ventures into space. Sputnik lights, glass globes, arc lamps and metal tapered shades gave spaces a futuristic feel.

  5. ACCESSORIES - Even accessories were functional in Mid-Century Modern interiors. Clocks, mirrors, planters, candle holders...these were often given sculptural forms and doubled as art. Paintings and sculpture was largely abstract or geometric...think Rothko, Pollock and Klee...or Andy Warhol-esque pop art.

Now that you have the tools, start creating your own Mid-Century Modern paradise! Click on any of the products below to Shop the Look.

***Updated April 2024.  In the case that the same items were not available, similar items were chosen.***

Mid-Century Modern Style

Not a fan of the options above? Here are some alternatives so you can make it your own! Click on any of the items to get a closer look.

Mid-Century Modern Sofas & Chairs

Mid-Century Modern Coffee & Side Tables

Mid-Century Modern Lighting

Mid-Century Modern Accessories

Mid-Century Modern Rugs & Pillows

Websites to shop for more Cozy Transitional Style:

If you haven't yet, take my Design Style Quiz to see what your personal style is!

There's more Design Styles to come so keep checking back. Better yet, hit subscribe above to get email notifications when a new post comes out. Let me know what you think of these finds in the comments below!

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If you would like to see more Interior Design Inspiration head over to my Portfolio for a little eye candy.

If you need more assistance pulling a look together for you space, you can read more about what I offer on my Services page.


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