Mid-Century Modern Interior Design Explained | Foyr (2024)

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Mid-Century Modern Interior Design

Home » Interior Design Styles » Mid Century Modern Interior Design Explained : How to Implement In Your Home

Mid-Century Modern Interior Design is the design movement which took the world in its grip between 1945-1975. The term, which first wafted in the air in the mid-1950.s was given adequate recognition By Cara Greenberg in her book ‘Mid-century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s (Random House), penned in 1983.

There is a distinct timelessness associated with the clean lines, gentle corners and a love for variety of materials which make this popular design in architecture an enduring topic for the contemporary designers. In the world of design and décor, style patterns are cyclical. So, it is not surprising that in the first half of 21st century, the mid-century Modern style is being majorly revived.

As the name suggests, mid-century modern interior design refers to the design style of the mid-1900s – from the 40s to the 60s. Be it fashion or interiors, ‘design’ has a way of reflecting upon the people, their way of life, culture, and beliefs. Design in the mid-1900s was characterized by a little bit of a minimalist approach, clean lines, functional use, ornamentation, and organic shapes. The mid-century modern interior design has a fresh vibe with a retro feel. Aesthetic design coupled with comfort and functionality makes it timeless and still in style. In mid-century modern interior design, there is a seamless flow from the inside to the outside with sliding doors, patios, skylights, etc. After the end of the Second World War, cities expanded and a demand for modern furnishings for the newly-built modern homes emerged. Subsequent technological advancements led to the production of new materials allowing designers to explore new shapes, textures, and colors. Some famous mid-century modern interior designers are Ray and Charles Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, etc. If you are looking at design ideas and are not sure what a mid-century modern home looks like, then you can look at the homes featured in the television series Mad Men.

The term mid-century modern design was coined by Cara Greenberg in her 1984 collection. It refers to the design style between the 40s and the 60s which stretched the boundaries of engineering at that time.


The style which originated in America had its base in the Bahaus style popularised in Germany and the International Style which was inspired by that. Landmark events in history which led to destruction of catastrophic proportions and exodus of popular designers from the Continent, contributed in abundance to this movement. Interior designers, for lack of better option in Germany, post-World War-II, found themselves drifting towards America, the land of dreams and it was here that the demand for new house and new set-ups led to the development of modern, contemporary, minimalistic furniture for the huge number of urban homes which were cropping up, in answer to the housing needs of the emigrated population.

By this time, industrial revolution had reached its zenith and new developments and researches in this field had led to the production and utilisation of a variety of materials, colours, textures and designs which could now be gainfully employed to create furniture of aesthetic value, but contemporary appeal in mass numbers. It is of note here that the mid-century Modern style does not only refer to furniture or architecture but accessories and materials that were brought in use during that era.

Signature features of a mid-century modern home

The distinguishing feature of this particular style is simplicity, which renders itself in the usage of clean lines and neat finish coupled with a classic, subtle look, bordering on minimalism.

  • The highlighting feature of a mid-century modern style is an expressive and expensive piece of canvas as the focus of the room.
  • A mid-century modern home is clutter-free and is more focused on large pieces of furniture as opposed to small ornamental pieces. Vintage pieces like an antique coffee table, etc. are used to add character to rooms and plants and organic forms are used to create the desired ambiance.
  • Clean lines and minimal fuss with spare surfaces and simplicity are the distinguishing features of a mid-century modern style
  • Marble is used extensively in this mid-century modern design style and is commonly found on countertops and backsplashes.
  • Keeping in sync with the merging of indoors and outdoors as a core element of the mid-century design, window treatments, blinds, and sheer drapes are used in mid-century modern homes too
  • Graphic shapes in colors that remind one of the 50s and 60s, sculptures that speak about those times, decorations in saturated colors, etc. are used to offer bursts of color to the living room
    To summarize, here are a few guiding principles to design your mid-century modern home :
  • Simple and Minimal décor.
  • Use of conventional and non-conventional materials.
  • Neat and precise lines and usage of geometric and modern forms.
  • Functionality is the key.
  • Use of contrasting materials to lend impact.
  • Novelty in the usage of Colours and Materials

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What sets the Mid-Century Modern Style distinctly apart from its predecessors, is the usage of hitherto unconventional material which were mass produced and hence much more economical. Though wood was still brought into use, yet experimentation was made with the introduction of plastic, metal, glass, vinyl, plywood, Flexiglass and lucite. Most of these materials and their popularity could be gauged from the fact that their usage rolled over to the first two decades of the next century, too.

Monochrome, contrasting shades and a whole variety of hues ranging from the most under-stated to the most vibrant were brought to infuse effects ranging from the chic and elegant to the bohemian and boho.

Mid- Century Modern Style Designers of Repute

There are notable Mid-Century Modern Style Designers who continue to inspire and ignite the coming generation of designers with their furniture designs which are lauded and replicated ever so often.

Herman Miller, in America is at the forefront of this movement, who has been associated with other stalwarts in the genre like George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames. Another company which is synonymous with modern furniture is ‘Knoll’. Apart from that there are a range of designers who have epitomised the true essence of this style and made its popularity so enduring.

Tips to build a mid century modern styled home


A bid to emulate the entire Mid-Century Modern Style en-bloc can be a tad overwhelming and intimidating, given the fact that it can be quite expensive and difficult to procure the authentic stuff in today’s age, though there are many designers who still produce or revive that style, the cost involved will blow the entire thing out of proportion.

Focal Piece:

The key is then to understand the nuances and the feel of that period and incorporate its essence in the décor which resonate with its vibe. So while classic pieces of that era are constantly being revived and copied, there is scope to get hold of a few that would blend seamlessly with our preference and fit within our budget.

If you can lay hold of one signature vintage piece, you can build the theme of the room around it without investing in the complete set. However, care must be taken to avoid too many colour or pattern clashes and stick to the seminal theme.

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Lighting ideas

When you look at a mid-century modern home, you will rarely find wall-mounted lights or the contemporary down-lighters. Instead, hanging lights adorn the living area. Further, most designers prefer using several lamps like table lamps and floor lamps that are artistically made to suit the theme of the home. During the day, the designer allows natural light to flow into the house allowing a mesmerizing blend of the indoors and outdoors.

Keeping in sync with the core theme of this style – creative and bold, designers tend to often use creative mirror frames or pendant light shades. These add an element of creativity and timelessness to your home.

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Play of Colours:

With so much talk of simplicity and minimalism, one needs to balance the aesthetics with a pop of colour. Whether be it monochrome shades or bold usage of neon shades which bring cheer and vibrancy to the room, one needs to be brave enough to experiment with choices but keep it limited to the focal piece and not splatter it about the room.

In mid-century modern interior design, the materials used are wood, metal, vinyl, glass, and plywood. Mid-century style is all about large shapes, patterns, and strong textures. The colors used can be neutral to gold or graphic, like black and white.

A mid-century modern living room can be imagined in moody colors like orange or rust. Other rooms allow for more playful hues like sunny yellow, turquoise, and other primary colors. Designers ensure that they do not oversaturate any room and ground the vibrant hues with some neutrals.

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Furniture ideas for your mid century modern home

The Mid-Century Modern designers quite often made use of whimsical combinations to lend an exotic element to their décor. Think out of the box and bring in some eccentric shaped furniture, abstract pattern upholstery to exude that esoteric feel. The signature theme of this style is space and minimalism. Hence instead of cluttering up space with heavy, ornate stuff, the trick is to keep open spaces bordering on one central focal point which shall lay down the theme of that room. A statement corner table or a signature seating arrangement is promising.

For an interior design style that talks about simple, practical, clean, and sumptuous designs, wood is the material of choice. Interestingly, mid-century modern design does not require you to have furniture that matches with each other. While clean lines, bold fabrics, and graphic patterns are a must, if sofas or lounge chairs are included, then patterned cushions are used to ensure adherence to the design style. Among other furniture pieces, the dining table based on mid-century modern decor can bring the essence of the 1990s into the 20th Century dining room. The best part is that the material used for mid-century modern furniture is not confined to merely wood. Designers use new-age materials like plastic, acrylic, etc. too. Talking about upholstery, designers prefer retro designs with some fun geometric shapes, stripes, and fabrics like neutral wools.

In a mid-century modern living room, you will find furniture with hairpin legs that add character to your home decor. Low seating, lounges that allow you to cocoon, shell chairs made from plastic, and consoles that have plain surfaces with punctuations that add character, are hallmarks of the mid-century modern design furniture. Many midcentury furniture design companies like Knoll, Herman Miller (think George Nelson), Vitra, etc. offer mid-century modern furniture to suit different themes.

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Connect with Nature:

The windows are meant to be kept large and open to let the fresh air waft inside without being encumbered by heavy drapery. If possible, a touch of green elements can be introduced indoors to accentuate he deign and opt for light wood and cotton textile to keep it floaty and airy.

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Mid-Century Modern Interior Design Explained | Foyr (2024)
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