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What Is Mid-Century Modern Furniture?


The key to a beautifully furnished room is choosing the right interior design style and the perfect furniture to match. Some of the wiser choices in interior design styles work incredibly well with other styles, including furniture. One example of beautiful furniture that you can include in many interior design styles is mid-century modern furniture. This style looks graceful and stunning in many different settings, and some of these furniture pieces are incredibly comfortable. So before you go shopping for new furniture, take a look at exactly what is mid-century modern furniture and how it can enhance the look of your home.

What Is Mid-Century Modern Style?

a neutral living room with mid-century modern patterns

Almost every period in history has had its interior design style. For example, the Victorian interior design featured intricatley carved furniture and overly ornate pieces. Moreover, rooms were full of decorative pieces, ornate vases, figurines, and many other knick-knacks. The colours of Victorian interior design were rich, deep and warm. Moving on to Edwardian interior design, you may still have a room full of curiosities, but the colours were a lot lighter and brighter. 

Today’s interior design styles have abandoned the wall-to-wall assortment of porcelain ornaments and have adopted a more simplistic approach. One of the early examples of this minimalistic design entered the scene with the mid-century modern style. 

The History of Mid-Century Interior Design

As the title suggests, mid-century interior design[i] had its origins around the middle of the 20th century. This interior design style became prominent in the mid-1940s right after WWII and lasted until the mid-to-late 1960s. During this period, young families emerged with a desire to purchase their first homes and fill them with new furniture. As a result, the architecture was simpler than in previous eras, with clean lines which expanded to residential homes. But, adding ornately carved furnishings to these mid-century modern homes didn’t seem fitting, so designers made furniture to complement these homes.

Characteristics of Mid Century Modern Interior Design and Furniture

One of the most common elements of mid-century designed homes was that they were considerably smaller than earlier homes. This resulted in interior designs that were more efficient at utilising and saving space. In turn, this resulted in furniture pieces that were simpler, smaller and more functional. Some of the more noticeable characteristics of mid-century modern design include:

  • A simple, minimalist approach
  • Combining different materials 
  • Bringing the indoors and outdoors together
  • Natural tones with accents of colour
  • Mixing textures

To better understand this design concept, let’s take a look at the various areas mid-century modern design covered and how they work together.

Architecture – Mid-century modern architecture featuring larger windows to let in natural light with open floor plans combining living spaces instead of separating them. The lines were cleaner, and many featured geometric elements, especially in commercial buildings. 

Decorative Elements – It was time to put away the assorted bric-a-brac of porcelain figurines, ornate vases and paintings with dark-hued backgrounds. 

These were replaced by simple, geometric shapes, smooth curves and even pictures that featured abstract images or landscapes. 

Furniture – To compensate for smaller living spaces, mid-century modern furniture was designed to be considerably smaller than the elaborate and larger pieces of previous eras. It also featured clean lines with basic shapes, and some pieces even had soft curves. This style of furniture was not just beautiful, comfortable and practical. People could incorporate the design into any modern decor. This made it a popular choice for several decades and accounts for it making a frequent comeback as a furniture style.

The beauty of Mid-Century Modern design is that it works well in all areas. So you can have the perfect modern home designed, add mid-century modern furniture and simply add a few strategically placed poplins, lamps and pictures for a stunning look. 

How To Use The Mid-Century Modern Style In Your Home?

modern living room with mid-century modern furniture

As with all modern style designs, there are always some things you need to consider before adding these elements to your home. [ii] It’s easy to get carried away, and there is always the risk of overdoing things. But, you know what they say, “You can have too much of a good thing!” 

You may be swayed by mass-produced pieces that look good when new, but they age very badly. Many of these pieces tend to be made to a lesser quality using inferior materials, and you may need to replace them sooner than you planned. Avoid rushing into buying furniture and decor items just to fill in the spaces. After all, many people spend years or even decades in their homes, so it’s worth finding pieces you love rather than pieces you think you may learn to love.

Bring Back Real Wood

Real wood furniture is positively timeless, and even as it ages, it seems to look better. Even a few nicks and scratches won’t deter from the natural beauty of wood. Most mid-century modern furniture pieces were made of rosewood, walnut, teak or oak. Later, some of these pieces were constructed using cedar or pine. If you’re lucky enough to have a few of these old pieces, they are incredibly easy to have restored and reupholstered, as long as the wood is still in good shape.

Mid-century modern furniture is trending right now, mainly because it is so adaptable for modern homes as well as some older homes. Manufacturers, not wanting to miss out on this trend, are producing mid-century modern replicas and are now gracing homes worldwide. Of course, many of these are made using engineered wood which is essentially strands of wood or wood particles that have been bonded together to form a new piece of wood. Furniture made from engineered wood is a great place to start when buying mid-century modern furniture, but it lacks the durability and beauty of real wood. 

Real wood is timeless and long-lasting and prominently features in mid-century modern furniture. Look for it in the legs of a stylish accent chair, a sideboard or a credenza.

Add Unique Light Fixtures

One thing that features heavily in a mid-century modern design home is light fittings. While open-plan living and multiple windows definitely add light to a room, you simply can’t ignore the light fittings, especially at night, for obvious reasons. Lights in mid-century modern interior design are just as much about functionality as they are about adding another decorative element to the room. Think of dangling pendant light fittings, floor lamps and table lamps. You can find all sorts of stunning designs that look more like works of art than light fittings. Best of all, with mid-century modern decor, you don’t even need to match everything. It’s okay to have contrasting fittings.

Include A Vintage Bar

The home bar was practically a staple for the mid-century modern home and it definitely made entertaining more interesting. The vintage home bar was a place where the man of the house would proudly stand and mix drinks for his guests. It was not uncommon to have a collection of spirits and mixers, not forgetting the old-style soda dispenser. If you can’t have a full bar installed in your home, you can still entertain your guests in style with a stunning bar cart. This gives you the added bonus of being able to wheel the drinks around to where you are entertaining.

Go On A Treasure Hunt

One of the best places to go in search of your mid-century modern furniture pieces is in places where people are trying to get rid of theirs. Local flea markets and vintage shops are a great place to start, and you just never know what treasure you will unearth in some hidden corner. Even if the upholstery on some pieces looks a little shabby, as long as the structure is sound, reupholstering can give you a custom piece. 

It’s also worth looking at modern designers specialising in mid-century modern furniture. Not only will you get something you absolutely love, but you also get to choose the colours of the wood stain, fabric, etc. Not only are custom made designs a great way to get the furniture you want, if you have smaller rooms, you can also have pieces made for a custom fit.

Try Bold Wallpapers 

Feature walls were very prominent in mid-century modern interior designs with bright colours and geometric shapes. It was easy to find psychedelic combinations in vibrant colours or circular shapes in deep earthy tones. Even today, you can find mid-century modern patterns[iii] with enormous leaves and almost every shape you can think of. Back in the days of the original mid-century modern interior design, some homeowners went all out and wallpapered entire rooms. Still, these days people tend to stick to accentuating a single feature wall.

Choose The Right Colours

Wall paint these days is available in any colour or shade you could possibly imagine, but mid-century modern homes usually had white painted walls. The stark white of the walls was almost like a canvas to showcase the high-quality furniture in the room. 

Of course, not everyone liked the idea of white walls, so many homeowners opted for pastel colours such as blush pink or soft mint green. Other colours included teal, mustard yellow or burnt orange tones.

Add Some Small Details

While you may cringe at the thought of being surrounded by a myriad of ornate knick-knacks in your home, there is still plenty of room for small pieces and ornaments to complete your mid-century modern interior design package. Bare walls never look good, and they are a great way to display art pieces with bold colours and geometric patterns. You can even go for an Andy Warhol image in those vibrantly outrageous colours. 

Add smoothly curved vases, table lamps, stunning fruit bowls, or even a small sculpture for final touches. Add a lush green leafy pot plant in bare corners for a touch of the outdoors inside. Just keep the lines simple and clean so that it all ties together nicely without clashing. 

If you’re building a new home or redecorating your old one, the mid-century modern interior design gives you a world of options that will give your home a clean yet cosy feel. The best thing about this interior design trend is that it is not as fleeting as most others, so you won’t need to change much over the years, and if you stick to quality pieces, you can enjoy them for many, many years. 





Anna Sharples

Office and marketing manager for Sloane & Sons Stylish Chairs, who sell a range of high-quality tub chairs, accent chairs and more.


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