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Today we’re going dive deep into everything Mid Century Modern (MCM), learn all about its characteristics & how to decorate MCM style!
The mid-century modern movement was a time of great change. The style emerged in the middle of the 20th century after World War Two. Focusing on clean lines, geometric shapes and bright colors, it was the perfect antidote to the fussy and drab home décor seen before the war.
It’s very chic, very streamlined, very elegant.
Even though the mid-century modern style is now over seventy years old, it is still very much loved. Many of the pieces designed then are still being manufactured today!
So pull up an Eames chair, pour yourself a vodka martini and let’s take a look at the mid-century modern style together.
Or watch the video instead!!
What are the features of mid-century modern, where can you buy pieces, and how can you incorporate this iconic style into your home?
Key features of the mid-century modern design
Have you ever watched an episode of Mad Men and swooned over the sideboards and sofas?
If the answer is yes, you may be a fan of mid-century modern… you just don’t know it yet!
Here are some of the defining features of the mid-century modern design style.
Warm-toned woods like walnut, mahogany and cherry are a staple feature of mid-century modern. Wooden floors, furniture and even walls are commonly seen in this design style.
Simple shapes and clean lines are the order of the day with this specific design style. Sofa and chair legs are tapered, and geometric shapes are common. You won’t find frills, bows and ribbons here!
Although there are a lot of clean lines in play, the furniture of the mid-century modern era is still strikingly beautiful to look at… it’s the perfect combination of function and form!
Are you a fan of abstract, geometric and asymmetrical designs? If you’re nodding through the screen, mid-century modern is the perfect choice for your home!
With this in mind, there are a wide range of wallpapers, rugs and paintings that you can introduce to the rooms of your home to bring a little mid-century modern flavour.
Mid-century modern is all about big windows that let the sunlight in and let you see the world around you. If you don’t have big windows in your home, fake them: hang big mirrors!!
Curtains and blinds need not apply!
Combinations of materials
Mid-century modern furniture commonly blends materials like glass, wood, metal and plastic, to beautiful effect.
After World War Two, building materials were scarce. This led to furniture designers combining materials, as well as looking into new ones like fibreglass and plywood. This resulted in a lot of exciting new combinations that have stood the test of time!
Bold pops of colour are also commonly seen. Let’s take a look at this in a little more detail…
The use of colour in mid-century modern décor
If you love colour, mid-century modern is the perfect choice for you! This design style is all about warm, rich pops of colour that complement your home.
I like to think that people wanted to make their homes feel livelier after the austerity of the war. Goodbye greys and beige, hello reds and yellows!
Here are some of the most popular mid-century modern colours:
- Warm yellows and oranges: Gold, pumpkin and mustard
- Earthy greens: Apple, olive and avocado
- Reds and pinks
Interestingly pastel colours are also a popular choice! Think dusty pinks and baby blues.
It can sometimes be hard to introduce colour into our homes, especially if we’re used to more neutral shades.
An excellent place to start is through accessories. A bright rug, cushion or canvas can go a long way to adding brightness to your room. If you’re feeling daring, try introducing a mid-century style sofa in your colourway of choice.
Alternatively, an accent wall painted in a rich tone can help bring the mid-century modern vibe into your home in a very subtle way.
Are Scandinavian and mid-century modern the same?
Both interior design styles are very similar, and there is a lot of overlap – both styles favour simple clean lines and natural materials. This makes a lot of sense as the two styles developed at the same time in history.
However, there are subtle differences. I’ve found that mid-century modern is more about bright and warm colours while Scandinavian design focuses more on neutral and cool greys and whites. Scandinavian interiors generally also feel a little brighter than mid-century modern interiors.
For example, a clean crisp white cotton bedspread on an ash-wood bedframe is very Scandinavian, but not very mid-century modern!
In summary: think of the two as close cousins that hang out a lot!
Iconic mid-century modern pieces
One of the things I love about the mid-century modern movement is that many of the pieces were first designed 60 or 70 years ago but still look incredible today. They would not look out of place in most modern homes.
Here are some of the iconic designs of the time – I am sure you will recognize at least a few of them!
The Wishbone Chair was designed by Danish furniture designer Hans J Wegner in 1949. It’s so popular that it’s been in continuous production since then!
Well-loved for its clean lines and simple design, the chair comes in over 50 colours and finishes.
You can buy some pretty nice replica Wishbone chairs on Amazon if you can’t splurge for the original quite yet.
Eames Lounge and Ottoman
This iconic chair and footrest combo was designed by husband-and-wife design team Charles and Ray Eames in 1964. It’s as comfortable as it is stylish!
If you’re looking for a replica (I don’t blame you, these babies are EXPENSIVE …) then this is a very good, in depth guide that explores a few different options.
Designed in 1947 by Isamu Noguchi, this table is the perfect blend of form and function – a piece of art that you can use in your home.
Noguchi believed that art should have a use, saying “Art should become as one with its surroundings.” He actually said a lot of interesting things – check out more of Isamu Noguchi’s quotes here!
Harry Bertoia originally was a teacher but signed up to help the war effort by becoming a welder during World War II. He discovered a love of art and sculpture during this time, and the rest is history!
This stunning chair was created in 1959 and became so popular that it is still being made to this day.
The original Diamond chair can be purchased at Design Within Reach, Knoll.com and Rove Concepts. You can find great, affordable replicas of the Bertoia Diamond chair over at Wayfair.
Created in 1957 by Finnish Architect Eero Saarinen, this beautiful table comes in a range of different sizes, from a coffee table to a dining table that can comfortably seat 12!
Replicas can be found online, I like the one on Wayfair, it has excellent reviews as well!
Nelson Saucer Bubble Lamp
Probably the most iconic design on this list, this lampshade was first designed by George Nelson in 1952.
It’s so clean and simple, but incredibly retro at the same time!
Check out this absolutely gorgeous replica of the Nelson Saucer Bubble Pendant on Wayfair.
Eames Moulded Plastic Chairs
Charles and Ray Eames made so many contributions to mid-century modern design, including these gorgeous chairs that come in a wide range of different colors. The legs also come in a few different options as well.
These chairs were first designed in 1950 and were initially made of fibreglass. The chairs were reintroduced in the early twentieth century, and are now made of polypropylene.
The name checks out… this chair is incredibly comfy!
Designed in 1948 by Eero Saarinen, this chair is as stylish as it is cosy. It comes in a wide range of colours to suit every home, and you can even buy a matching ottoman for an extra relaxing experience.
There are a few replica womb chairs on Wayfair, for example check this one out.
Where to shop mid-century modern
The great news is that there are a lot of different places you can get gorgeous mid-century modern pieces, no matter where you live or what your budget is.
It may surprise you, but Amazon has a really good selection of pieces, from mirrors and rugs through to storage and sofas! I’ve put together a list of some of my favorites if you want to check them out!
BUDGET MID-CENTURY MODERN SHOPPING:
MID-RANGE BUDGET MCM SHOPPING:
TOP TIP: Keep your eyes peeled for sales where you may be able to get an item you love with a little extra discount! Don’t forget to use tools like Honey and Rakuten so they can keep track of when things go on sale – let the tech do the work for you! If you use my links you will get some free money to spend as well! Woo!!! 🤑🤑
HIGHER BUDGET MCM SHOPPING:
Design Within Reach carries some of the original designer pieces if you’re looking for the real thing, although these do command a hefty price tag.
I don’t know about you, but I’d absolutely adore an authentic Tulip table in my home. I don’t think I’d let anyone use it, but I’d look at it all the time!
Another top tip is thrift stores and flea markets. If you’re looking for vintage pieces to go with your mid-century modern décor, you’d be amazed at what you can find. When I lived in London, I’d find a ton of stuff in the thrift stores, charity shops and markets.
A little bit of renovation work, and voila! I had a lovely piece for my home!
How to bring mid-century modern into your home
Hopefully after reading this article, you’re ready and raring to incorporate the mid-century modern aesthetic into the room of your choice.
If you want to get started but aren’t quite ready to go all the way, I hear you! Here are six of my favourite ideas to get you started without having to go crazy.
1. Find a bold accent piece and work your room around it
There are so many strong statement pieces when it comes to mid-century modern that sometimes the best thing to do is just to buy one key piece of furniture and make it a focal point of the room.
For example, you could buy a vintage chair or table and decorate your room around it.
2. Update your lighting
When you walk into the room, the lighting is generally the first thing you are made aware of. Turn this to your advantage by updating your lighting fixtures in line with the mid-century modern style.
There are some gorgeous pendant lights and floor lamps that you can buy. Even a little table lamp or wall light will make your room pop!
The famous Sputnik ceiling light is very mid-century modern and would make an awesome talking point for any room in your home!
3. Create a wood accent wall
Warm wood was a huge design aspect in mid-century homes, and a wood panel will give your room a lot of retro appeal.
Not only is this a great DIY project that you can take on yourself, but a wood accent wall is also perfect for bringing warmth and texture to any room in your home.
4. Add a piece of art
Hanging art on your walls is one of the easiest and cheapest ways you can transform a room.
Mid-century modern art is all about vivid colours, clean lines and geometric shapes. Think Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko!
Feeling a little bit creative? Why not try making your own art? All you need is a canvas and some paints, and you’re ready to unleash your inner artist!
5. Introduce geometric elements
From circles, lines and squares, mid-century modern design is all about shapes and repeating patterns.
Try introducing shapes and lines into your décor, from rugs on the floor to cushions on your sofa.
You don’t have to use the same shapes throughout your room – feel free to mix and match!
6. Try removing your window treatments
Mid-century modern homes are all about space and light. In the 1950s and 1960s, big picture windows were often built into homes so sunlight could flood into the rooms. Window treatments like curtains were seen as too fussy and old-fashioned.
If you have big windows, you can bring the mid-century modern look into your home by removing any curtains, drapes or blinds you have.
Of course, if privacy is an issue, you will probably want to give this one a miss. It’s not ideal for your bedroom unless you live in the middle of nowhere! If you want to keep your privacy, another option is to use very minimalistic blinds that are hardly noticeable when they are open.
Mid-Century Modern Reading Recommendations:
There is a huge selection of wonderful books on the topic of mid-century modern design! A few of my recommedations to start with would be:
I hope you have found this guide to decorating mid-century modern style useful! Even though this style is over seventy years old, it’s still popular and well-loved by people all across the world.
Mid-century modern not quite your thing? Don’t worry! Check out my guide to some other popular decorating styles you can use in your home.