Guide to Mid-Century Modern Design

While design trends come and go, some styles endure, becoming classics in their own right. When the mid-century modern design movement came into style a few decades ago, people expected it to be a trend. However, this movement has persisted, and now it feels like more like a timeless look. What makes the mid-century modern design movement so lasting? Clean lines, simplicity, and functionality definitely play a big part.

Whether you’re interested in adding a few mid-century pieces to your decor or you love all things Mad Men and want to fully embrace the look of the era, Everything But The House makes it easy to find classic pieces to pull the style together. Here are seven ways to incorporate mid-century modern design into your home.

Embrace Minimalism

The heart of mid-century modern design is minimalism and functionality. Each piece that’s placed in a mid-century modern room has a purpose. Starting with a clean slate and purging the room of unnecessary items and knick-knacks is the first step to achieving this style. Purposefully adding pieces back into the room only when they serve a specific function helps ensure you achieve a minimalist look.

Mid-century modern design’s beauty lies in its simplicity. Real wood furniture constructed with clean lines and little to no ornamentation offers a classic look that’s indicative of this popular style. Sofas and armchairs that are low to the ground look relaxed and even a little bit humble — but that’s a good thing! These well-designed pieces still feel fresh and modern today, withstanding the test of time.

Try Bold Lighting

Mid-century modern design’s artists and designers embraced the idea that art and functionality could coexist together. For example, a cosmic pendant light is not only functional, but it also serves as a piece of sculptural art with lines and movement to appreciate. When you’re selecting lighting, contrasts make a dramatic statement. Combining lighting that boasts straight, geometric lines and lighting with curved contours brings the look together. A standing lamp with tapered legs and a white drum shade paired with a circular bubble lamp pendant nearby makes your design statement clear.

Pair Neutral Tones with Vibrant Colors

Neutral walls, exposed wood elements, and pops of vibrant color bring out mid-century modern design’s charm. Daring color pairings like aqua and tangerine inject a cheerful feel in the room on an overall understated neutral backdrop. Pairing citrus tones with gray furniture offers sophistication and a bit of warmth. Selecting bold accessories — think pillows, sculptures, bowls, and other interchangeable decor — and neutral-toned furniture allows you to easily swap things out when you’re in the mood for a change. To fully embrace this look, consider painting your walls white; this allows natural wood furniture and bold colors to make a statement without stealing the show.

Combine Simple Lines with Bold Patterns

Clean lines and simple furnishings combined with one or two bold prints help create a focal point for the room, while maintaining a minimalistic look. Imagine a bold, multicolored geometric canvas hung in an otherwise simple room — it brightens the space while drawing your eye to this key piece. Pairing a sleek grey sofa with blue-and-yellow geometric-patterned pillows adds visual interest while keeping with the theme. A tan mid-century modern chair paired with a brightly patterned ottoman is stylish and an ideal place for snuggling up with a good book. Geometric shapes, abstract art, and starburst patterns are all embraced within mid-century modern design.

Bring the Outside In

Mid-century modern artists and architects were pioneers in merging design with nature. While these characteristics seem like ordinary design features now, we can thank these creative revolutionaries for floor-to-ceiling windows, indoor-outdoor patios, and architectural features that invited nature indoors.

Letting in natural light and adding plants are easy ways to implement mid-century modern design. If your living room leads to a patio, consider making the most of this look by creating a sleek and minimalistic outdoor living space that transitions into your indoor space. Weatherproof furniture constructed with the same clean lines and pops of colors promise to make this a stylish retreat, whether the doors are open or closed.

Play Up Wood and Metal

Wood and metal are two primary materials used in mid-century modern design. Wood is meant to be exposed to offer both aesthetics and functionality. A sleek metal bar for cocktail hour or a metal starburst mirror gives your room that retro-futuristic feel. Brass is another staple that’s easy to find, whether you incorporate it with furniture or hanging wall sculptures. Feel free to mix different types of metal and wood; it will feel lived-in and approachable.

One classic sleek-but-organic example you might’ve seen before is Isamu Noguchi’s coffee table. This famous coffee table’s base was sculpted from wood, and the curved top was made from glass. It’s functional art with a flow that seamlessly unifies natural elements, and that’s definitely a goal in mid-century modern design.

Play with Other Looks

Because of its classic lines and simplicity, mid-century modern design blends well with other styles. Want to update the look? Feel free to revitalize mid-century pieces by upholstering them with more contemporary fabric. Or, consider sprinkling in other styles with your mid-century look. Blending your retro furnishings with rustic accessories like a weathered lantern light and a cowhide rug is a sophisticated way to make a room completely your own.

Are you ready to start searching for mid-century pieces that’ll work perfectly in your home? Check out our vintage furniture auctions and start creating spaces that fit your style. From used dining room furniture to vintage sofas to retro bedroom furnishings, EBTH offers unique treasures from across history and around the world.

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