Mid-century modern style celebrates clean lines, organic curves, and sleek functionality, and while this aesthetic has roots in the mid-50s, its enduring shapes and characteristics still feel fresh today. Here’s a look at mid-century modern’s origins and how it can fit into your space.
What is Mid-Century Modern Style?
The history of mid-century modern style in the U.S. begins in roughly the 1940s, though its heyday was the mid-1950s through the early 1960s. The movement has origins in Germany, Holland, and France. It’s heavily influenced by the school of thought popularized by the Bauhaus – an art school in Germany that began post WWI. Think radically simplified designs where form follows function, a celebration of materials, visible construction elements, minimalism, and a dedication to great design for all.
The expression of this modern approach in the U.S. was more organic and connected to nature. When suburban areas began to expand in post-WWII America, mid-century modern style grew as well.
The term “mid-century modern” was coined well after the movement ended, when author Cara Greenberg used the phrase for the title of her book about the era. The book was written in 1984, and the term has been widely used since.
Mid-Century Modern Revival
Though it’s been around for 75+ years, this style is anything but outdated. Mid-century modern design has seen a resurgence in popularity recently, and it’s easy to see why:
- The clean, simple shapes of the design have a timeless quality that still feels current
- Individuals today are aiming to cut clutter and pare down their spaces, and mid-century’s minimal approach (similar to that of Scandinavian design) fits right in
- As people increasingly look to make a connection with nature, the organic elements of mid-century modern bring popular appeal
- There’s a sense of nostalgia for the era, both from people who lived it and those who’ve seen it highlighted on shows like Mad Men
Adoption of the design today falls across a wide continuum, with some decorating whole homes in the style and others choosing a few distinctive pieces that fit their personal taste.
Elements of Mid-Century Modern Style
In mid-century modern style, less is more, but it’d definitely not boring. Materials are chosen carefully and used in interesting ways. Pops of color add interest. And forgoing fluff and ornamentation gives the breathtaking shapes of mid-century furniture a chance to take center stage.
Mid-century Modern Furniture
The smooth curves of mid-century modern design add chic style to any room. Here’s a look at the different ways you can use furniture to incorporate this style in your spaces.
Living Room Furniture
Mid-century modern sofas exhibit the classic clean lines of the style. Low profiles and visible, tapered legs are both common. Details such as linear or square tufting are prevalent, but even these elements steer clear of fussy and never feel overdone.
Mid-century Modern Chairs
The mid-century modern era spawned several wildly popular mid-century chair styles from prominent designers of the time. The originals have been emulated and re-imagined in hundreds of different ways, and they still hold popular appeal today.
Put mid-century modern style center stage in your living room with a mid-century coffee table that highlights the style’s design elements. Understated is the name of the game, and natural materials such as wood with visible grains and marble tops tend to be popular.
Go a little retro with your TV stand. Today’s mid-century-styled TV stand options come in a variety of sizes and finishes, so they can fit into any space.
Platform beds are the name of the game when it comes to mid-century modern style for the bedroom. These low-profile frames evoke the laid-back feel of the style perfectly. Headboard designs vary – from colorful, upholstered options to geometric wood patterns and beyond.
Pair a mid-century modern nightstand with your platform bed for the full effect. Clean and simple rules the day when it comes to these pieces, but geometric patterns and contrasting materials add interest, too.
Mid-century modern benches are perfect for the foot of the bed, or they can be added to an entryway or living room.
Long and low dressers were common in the ’50s and ’60s, and today’s mid-century modern dresser designs come in all shapes and sizes. Clean lines and minimalist details abound.
Dining Room Furniture
With a mid-century modern table at the center, your dining space will feel retro-fresh. Look for molded shapes and the trademark curved lines of the era.
Pull up a seat to mid-century modern style with a dining chair that celebrates the era. Look for bucket-shaped seats, curved backs, and angular lines.
Sidle up to mid-century modern style. From wishbone shapes to bucket seats, there are plenty of mid-century modern bar stool options from which to choose.
Mid-Century Modern Décor
Add a touch of mid-century to your space with lighting from pendants to lamps.
Starburst-shaped clocks evoke mid-century modern style, offering an easy way to add a throwback feel to any room. Dot details take the look all the way to space-age, while simpler silhouettes add just a touch of retro.
Bold mid-century modern mirrors reflect the style perfectly. Look for rich brass finishes, starburst shapes, and curved lines.
Mid-century modern rugs often feature circular or geometric shapes, and thick shags are common. You’ll find a wide range of colors from neutral off-white to mossy green.
Mid-Century Modern Outdoor Furniture & Decor
Make your space stand out with mid-century outdoor chairs including bucket chairs, Acapulco chairs, and teak finished chairs and sofas.
For mid-century outdoor lighting, think round pendant lights, shapely designs, and string lights perfect for entertaining guests.
Garden Stools & Planters
Use a colorful, geometric garden stool as seating or as an end table. Mid-century planters often have splayed, teak-finished legs or hairpin legs we love.
Mid-Century Modern Rooms
Looking for a little mid-century modern design inspiration? Browse the spaces below and get ideas for incorporating the style in every room in your home.
Adding mid-century modern design to your home can be as simple as choosing a couple distinctive chairs or as broad as adding a full dining set or bedroom set plus a rug and more décor. You can go all in, but also note that the style pairs well with a variety of others, including Scandinavian, rustic and industrial, so don’t be afraid to mix and match. No matter how you choose to incorporate it, you’ll love the clean simplicity it brings to your home.