What Is Mid-Century Modern?

Olivia Elsher

Feb 22, 2023


We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Of all the popular interior design styles, many people look at mid-century modern as a way to incorporate nostalgia and love of the past with their current favorite style. The style first emerged around the middle of the 20th century, and it continued to be one of the most popular styles through the 1980s. Today, you’ll typically see the style mixed with others like it to create a unique flair for many homeowners. It favors straightforward functionality over frills and complexity. Simplicity is key for this style, allowing it to blend seamlessly with other styles.

Highlights of the Mid-Century Modern Style

Some of the defining factors of the mid-century modern style are the ones that will help you identify it almost immediately. While no two homes look the same, you’ll be able to identify the staple pieces of this iconic design style — and the information might even help you create your own look.

1. Functionality

The main idea of this style is to do away with the opulence that the Victorian era brought in. No longer are furniture pieces purely ornamental. They must be functional in order to have a space in a home of this kind. Still, that doesn’t make this style inherently minimalistic. As long as your furniture and decor are functional, you’ll be adhering to this style.

2. Sharper Lines With Bold Colors

With this style, you’ll want to emphasize crisp lines, not furniture that blends into the background. The colors you’ll want to lean into are earthy but bold. Burnt orange and mustard yellow are excellent colors to add a pop of vibrancy to your otherwise neutral, functional decor pieces. Aim to have your furniture tell a story about the past in some way.

3. Variety of Materials

Using a variety of materials is a great way to lean into this interior design style. Teak wood was one of the most popular woods to use back in the day, though it might be more expensive than something like regular plywood. While wood elements are nice, don’t be afraid to lean into other, non-natural materials. Metal, glass and vinyl are also excellent options, and the skillful combination of all of them will make you a mid-century modern expert.

5 Mid-Century Modern Decor Pieces You Should Have

When you choose to convert your home to this style, you may have to opt for new pieces to pull it all together. It would be too expensive and difficult to replace everything you own, so just look at these items as a guideline of what you could prioritize in the future.

1. Retro Furniture

The best thing about this style is that it is unapologetically retro. Lean into the retro statement pieces you love, the pop of bright colors or earthy tones paired with neutral hues. While it relies on neutral colors to pull everything together, this interior design style is more angular rather than sleek, as more modern styles are. The color you’re surrounded by can affect your mood, so you should find a hue that makes you feel relaxed in your home rather than anxious.

2. Tapered Legs

One of the staples of this decor style is the tapered legs many pieces of furniture have. Think of barstools as a good example: You want their legs to get thinner the closer they are to the floor. Thin legs don’t necessarily mean that the piece of furniture is more unstable, but you should always test out furniture before you buy it.

3. Neutral Colored Bases

When you’re not leaning into a pop of color with something, try to adhere to neutral tones. Neutral and warm is the easiest way to help your home feel cozy while sticking to what makes the style so popular. Still, you must ensure you have plenty of interesting textures to pair with your neutral bases, so your home will still look interesting. Neutral tones go well with just about everything, so you won’t have to worry about throwing out current decor.

4. Eye-Catching Artwork

While much of your decor should be neutral in this style, you can rely on eye-catching art to add pops of color while drawing the eye upward on the wall. You may also consider light fixtures or wall clocks to be artwork in a way — the sunburst lighting is a staple of this interior design style, as its funky geometric lines give an air of sophistication while stealing the spotlight.

5. Interesting Textures and Patterns

While you don’t want to overwhelm your eye with too many bold accents, consider adding something interesting to your decor. You might have a geometric wallpaper on an accent wall to keep someone’s eyes busy. You might also want to mix and match different types of rugs — which are both practical and cozy, two staples of the mid-century modern style you’ll want to adhere to. However, though you can choose whatever type of material you want, you’ll want to opt for simpler rug designs and patterns, so they don’t steal the show from your furniture.

Living With a Mid-Century Modern Style

While this style may not be everyone’s favorite, you can’t deny how beautiful it looks when mixed with other styles. Try to balance some mid-century modern pieces with the decor you already have. Too much of this popular style will have your home looking like it belongs in a museum. If that’s your style, then go ahead — but those who want a stylish home to modern standards should figure out how to mix and match this style so it flows seamlessly with the rest of their decor. It’s a great way to transform your home into something new and delightful.

Did you enjoy this post? Join the Renovated community!

A house is more than just where you live. It's where you build a community. We'll give you all the latest trends you need to make your home your haven. Subscribe and never miss out!
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

About The Author