Mid-Century Modern Design & Decorating Guide (2024)

In this guide, we’ll cover the fundamentals of how to design amid-century modern style home. Created in the 1950s and 1960s, mid-century modern is a design movement that revolutionized the way furniture were developed and homes were furnished. The iconic furniture and decorative pieces from this period were minimalist, sophisticated, and innovative in terms of engineering. Despite the passage of time, mid-century modern aesthetics have remained a staple in today’s interior architecture.

Editor’s note: this article has been freshly updated on March 28, 2023 to reflect new techniques and perspectives on how to design a mid-century modern interior.

To make designing your dream home easier, we madea collection of must-have mid-century modern furniture.Most of the products you see in this post arefrom our collection.

1. Study Examples of Mid-Century Interiors

Before you start anything, it’s good to study some examples of your ideal mid-century modern interior to learn from them. Below are some great examples to give you some inspiration and ideas – try to find some on your own on. For example, investigate the individual furniture that they picked out, identify the color schemes, or the spacing between pieces.

Also, keep in mind that great interior design draws bits and pieces of influence from different interior design styles, so someof these examples have elements that are outside of the mid-century boundaries. We’ll cover more of this in detail later in the article.

2. Pick the Right Colors

Selecting colors is always the first step toplanning your decor, since it influences your furniture and decor selection. Colors in mid-century modern decor tend to combine neutral tones with accent colors. The accent colors are often more muted (i.e. low saturation).

Remember to follow the usual interior design color picking tip, also called the 60-30-10 rule. Your room colors should be 60% dominant base color, 30% secondary color, and 10% accent color.Avoid picking more than 3 to 4 colors.

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3. Choose Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Mid-century modern furniture is easily recognizable by their smooth,clean lines with gently rounded angles. They rarely feature any elaborate ornamentation orupholstery. Additionally, if the furniture piece has wooden or metallic components, they often appear heat-molded to form their elegant yet unnatural shape. Finally, they usually only feature one or two colors with no complicated patterns.

If you’re looking for classic examples of mid-century modern furniture, look up the work of industrial designers such as Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi, Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, and Finn Juhl. After studying several of their famous designs, you will notice some distinct patterns.

4. Be Creative with Rug & Decor Patterns

When choosing the rug or decor for your mid-century modern home, you can opt for a pure approach or a more hybrid method.Generally, a stereotypical mid-century modern decor would feature patterns that are asymmetrical and abstract in nature. Alternatively, if these patterns don’t appeal to you, feelfree to choose a rug or throw pillow with just a solid color or even patterns from a completely different design style. For example, a persian rug can blend very well with mid-century modern furniture. Rugs and decor is one area where mid-century modern interiors offer a lot of flexibility.

5. Lighting Tips & Ideas

Mid-century modern floor lamps typically feature geometric lines combined with round, curved contour. The contrasting angles offer the lamps both elegance and boldness. Material-wise, mid-century modern lamps are constructed from brushed steel in silver, copper or gold tones. For example, the common starburst lamp featuresexposed bulbs on straight rods radiating out of a center.

6. Leave Plenty of Space Between Furniture

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that mid-century modern interiors require plenty of spacing between furniture pieces. As a modern and minimalist school of design, the style necessitates visual cleanliness. Though this might mean that your MCM-inspired rooms may look more bare or lifeless (after all, no one wants their home to look like a corporate office), you can mitigate this with creative decorating. For example, hand oversized artwork that bring more vibrance into your room, throw large books and ethnic set pieces on your tables, place succulents and other plants around, and more.

7. Stores To BuyMid-Century Modern Pieces

Given the versatility of mid-century modern furniture and decor, it’s no wonder that there are abundant shopping options. As mentioned before, our store Froy has a dedicated collection for mid-century modern furniture. Many of the pieces you find there are inspired by famous designers, so you can gather some inspiration even if you don’t plan on making any purchases. Design Within Reach is the classic high-end store if you’re looking for original Eames and Noguchi items. West Elm also has a lot of modern furniture designs inspired by the 50s and 60s.

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If you’re interested in any products included in this post, leave a comment and I’ll provide details! Remember that mid-century modern is largely a minimalist movement, so try to give ample space between your furniture pieces.

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That’s all for today! Hopefully, this guide was helpful in realizingyour idealmid-century modern home. I wrote this guide because of a noticeable shortage in practical guides out on the internet. Subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on upcoming how-to guides on nautical, bohemian, industrial, and more!

Mid-Century Modern Design & Decorating Guide (2024)


What is the mid-century modern design style? ›

The MCM design aesthetic is modern in style and construction, aligned with the Modernist movement of the period. It is typically characterized by clean, simple lines and honest use of materials, and generally does not include decorative embellishments.

How do you style a mid-century modern house? ›

Midcentury modern decor ideas include the natural look of wood, especially teak. Hardwood floors and a wood-panel ceiling with prominent beams bring warmth and texture to this living room. The wood tones are repeated throughout the room on seating and accent furniture to tie the space together.

What are the hallmarks of mid-century design? ›

Key Traits of Mid-Century Modern Interior Design

Clean Lines: This design style prioritized clean and straight lines, often with gentle curves to create a sleek look. Geometric Patterns & Shapes: Furniture pieces often include geometric shapes, such as the use of ovals, triangles, and other non-traditional forms.

How to know mid-century modern furniture? ›

Mid-Century Modern furniture is characterized by its clean lines, gentle curves, and organic shapes. This style originated mid-20th century, hence its name but thanks to its elegant simplicity and timeless aesthetic, Mid-Century Modern MCM furniture is still highly popular in contemporary interior design.

What does mid-century modern interior design look like? ›

Mid-century design is an uncluttered style that combines clean lines, gentle and organic curves, and a poppy and fun color palette. It has a “form follows function” approach—aka, functionality is key when it comes to furniture and layout.

Can you mix mid-century modern with farmhouse? ›

Farmhouse style can blend effortlessly with Mid Century Modern (MCM) design. Both embrace simplicity, as the farmhouse style celebrates the humble joys of life on the farm, while MCM designs reflect clean lines and simple geometric shapes.

What style mixes with mid-century modern? ›

Two of those unexpected styles that look amazing together are rustic and midcentury modern. It turns out that a room covered in reclaimed wood looks just right when it also has Sputnik chandeliers and a Jonathan Adler couch. Bringing these two styles together makes it unique and unlike other rooms out there.

What is mid-century decor? ›

Midcentury modern style (also referred to as midmod and MCM) flourished during the mid-20th century when newly affluent post-War families began expanding into America's suburbs. “Midcentury homes are characterized by minimal fuss and ornamentation, along with sleek lines juxtaposed by organic shapes.

Can I mix mid-century modern with traditional furniture? ›

Yes, you absolutely can. By definition, the interior design style called Transitional is a mix of Traditional and Modern. The key to creating a successful transitional space is to strike a balance between the two styles.

What colors are associated with mid-century modern? ›

If you're decorating with a mid-century modern theme, choose warm tones of beige, orange, ochre yellow, mustard and brown. Combine these with a mix of punchy, playful colours like teal, burgundy red, mustard yellow and moss green.

What Colours were used in mid-century modern? ›

White, gray, dark, and olive greens, browns, deep browns, and muted, mustard yellows and oranges are often featured in midcentury modern designs as well as natural wood tones. When it comes to patterns, go for geometrics, block style, curves, and marble.

What are the elements of mid-century interior design? ›

Mid-century furniture can be easily identified by clean, straight lines accented with curved, smooth angles. Designers were focused on removing the fancy upholstery and over-the-top ornamentation of their predecessors. The result of these efforts is a style defined by clean lines, bright colors, and modern materials.

What color is most mid-century modern furniture? ›

Neutral and Earthy Hues

Mid-century modern furniture consistently employs an array of neutral and earthy colors. An exploration of a typical mid-century modern space will reveal furniture pieces in various shades of olive green, mustard yellow, burnt orange, and a plethora of brown hues.

What color wood is mid-century furniture? ›

Oak. Oak is widely used in mid-century modern furniture and is still hugely popular today. One thing you can be certain of when you buy oak furniture is that it'll be in your family for generations so long as you give it the right care. There are two varieties of oak, namely red and white.

What's the difference between mid-century and mid-century modern? ›

Mid-century and Mid-century modern are often used interchangeably in the interior design world, however, there is a slight difference. Mid-century modern refers to the movement that became popular post World War Two in 1945, while Mid-century is a style that developed earlier in the 1930s.

What is the difference between modern and mid-century modern design? ›

Midcentury Modern: Embraces simplicity, functionality, and a connection with nature. Characterized by clean lines and organic shapes. Modern: Focuses on sleek aesthetics, technological integration, and a commitment to uncluttered spaces with clean lines and geometric shapes.

What is mid-century design? ›

At its most basic level, midcentury modern designs are known for juxtaposing sleek lines (think: skinny, peg legs on dressers and tables) with organic shapes, using new materials and methods to reimagine traditional pieces. The looks were futuristic, but they weren't a total departure from the past.

What is mid-century modern art called? ›

Actual art created during the mid-century modern era tends to vary greatly. Jackson Pollack and Andy Warhol both fit within this category, yet the pieces they created are rather different. Pop art is a popular art style labeled as “mid-century modern” with the most famous being the Campbell's Soup cans from Warhol.

What are the types of mid-century modern art? ›

Mid Century Modern Art

Sculptural silhouettes and a clean aesthetic define Mid-Century Modern art. While all art and design made in the mid-twentieth century are considered mid-century, it's the addition of influences such as minimalist, modernist, abstract, and atomic that add the modern aspect.

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