Mid-Century Modern Interior Design Characteristics and Ideas

Even though it debuted more than 70 years ago, mid-century modern interior design never fell out of favor. Known for its clean lines and minimal decor, it’s a timeless style.

If you appreciate geometric shapes, natural materials, and a modern style, consider decorating with mid-century modern characteristics. Here are the origins of this beloved design and how to get the look.

The History of Mid-Century Modern Interior Design

What is mid-century modern decor

Mid-century modern design emerged in the 1930s through new architectural styles like Bauhaus and the Prairie home. Both designs were anti-Victorian and valued minimalism, clean lines, and a connection to the outdoors.

American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright influenced the mid-century modern aesthetic in the United States with his Prairie Style homes that mimicked their natural landscape. He opted for built-in furniture so that homeowners didn’t bring in pieces that competed with the home’s design.

After the rise in mid-century modern architecture came an increase in mid-century modern furniture. The furniture was long and low to the ground, featuring geometric shapes, straight lines, and teak wood.

Even though mid-century modern interior design began as early as the 1930s, the term wasn’t coined until 1984 when author Cara Greenberg titled her book Mid Century Modern Furniture: Furniture of the 1950s.

How to Decorate Mid-Century Modern

You don’t need to recreate the set of Mad Men to decorate with a mid-century modern twist. Instead, incorporate some of these ideas into your home.

Focus on Angular and Geometric Forms

Mid-century modern architecture features angular walls and geometric forms. If you have straight walls, imitate angles by painting a large triangle on a wall or creating a wall treatment out of wooden slats. Creating DIY angles is a temporary (and changeable) solution for getting that retro feel.

Stick with a Mid-Century Modern Color Palette

The mid-century modern color palette is neutral with pops of saturated hues. Choose white or light beige for the walls and neutral flooring. Save the bright pops of color for throw pillows, blankets, and artwork. Some accent colors for a mid-century modern look include gold, turquoise, burnt orange, dark green, and red.

Create an Indoor/Outdoor Connection

Because original homes of this style mimicked their landscape, one of the principle tenets of mid-century modern decor is creating a connection with the outdoors.

To create an outdoor connection, use sheer or minimal window coverings (depending on where you live.) Mid-century modern designs are full of natural light, large windows, and glass patio doors.

Decorate with Natural Materials

Because of its focus on nature, the best materials include hardwood or stone floors, wood cabinetry, and stone or concrete countertops. You can weave in some plastic through furniture, but keep your base pieces natural.

Opt for Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Mid-century modern furniture is one of the easiest types to recognize with its geometric shapes and retro look. Some examples include tulip chairs, hairpin legs, low-to-the-ground beds and sofas, and tapered legs.

Keep Decor Minimal

Mid-century modern is a minimal design. While it’s okay to have some decor hanging on the wall, flat surfaces should be uncluttered, and the pieces in your home should combine function and beauty. If you want to add wall decor, consider geometric art and sculptures.

Use Mid-Century Lighting

Mid-century modern lighting can be the statement piece in your room. The lighting from this period is geometric and sometimes extravagant. Consider a sputnik chandelier or pendant, metal pendants, sconces, and overhead lighting with shades and geometric accents.

Mid-Century Modern Interior Design Examples

Here are pictures of mid-century modern interior design.

Mid-Century Modern Kitchen

Mid-Century Modern Kitchen
Wiedemann Architects LLC

With a focus on natural materials and many windows, this kitchen is the epitome of modern mid-century design. Even though it has striking elements, like the oversized chandelier, the indoor/outdoor connection is a prominent feature.

Mid-Century Modern Living Room

Mid-Century Modern Living Room
Kimberley Bryan

The designers of this mid-century modern living room use natural materials like a wood ceiling, concrete floor, and stone fireplace. The outdoor connection is apparent through the large window, and all furniture in the room imitates pieces from the mid-century era.

Mid-Century Modern Bedroom

Mid-Century Modern Bedroom
AB design studio inc.

You don’t need to be extravagant to pull off a mid-century look. In fact, simplicity is better, as witnessed in this bedroom. The platform bed and floating nightstands give the room a retro look, while the bright red lamps add interest.

Mid-Century Modern Bathroom

Mid-Century Modern Bathroom
Studio M Kitchen & Bath

The clean lines in the vanity, backsplash, lighting, and flooring all work together for a modern look. The wood adds warmth to the room, while the flooring and backsplash provide a cooler contrast.