The Complete Guide to Mid-Century Modern Style

The Complete Guide to Mid-Century Modern Style

The Complete Guide to Mid-Century Modern Style

Posted 24 November, 2015 by Benjamin Gardiner in Get that look...

This mid-century modern style bedroom was styled using furniture from our Orbit Walnut Bedroom collection.

If you haven’t already been swept up by the growing mid-century modern trend, you probably don’t spend as much time on Pinterest as we do. Though once written off as kitsch, this style has been given a sleek new look for 21st century. So, if you’re thinking about modernizing your home Mad Men style, read on. We’ll show you how to recreate a contemporary mid-century modern look in your home.

Midcentury Living Room by Atlanta Main Contractors Cablik Enterprises

What is Mid-Century Modern Style?

The phrase ‘mid-century modern’ describes designs from the mid-20th century. Its simplistic and contemporary aesthetic was created by a rebellious desire to modernise furniture and interiors, making them more practical, fashionable and futuristic.

Mid-century modern designers where heavily influenced by the organic Danish style of the time, and the Bauhaus design school in Germany which taught the importance of practicality and functionality.

The resulting mid-century modern style is one that is bold, curvy and clean. Add to that all the glamour, excitement and allure of the 60s, and you can see why this style of interior remains so popular.

This curvy bookcase made from walnut and chrome tubes is a-typical of mid-century-modern style.

History of Mid-Century Modern Style

Mid-century modern was a ground breaking design movement in the 1930s’ inspired by the Industrial Revolution at the end of the 19th century. The movement was about propelling post-war America into the future through innovative and new-fashioned design. Designers of the time used new materials and manufacturing techniques developed during the war to create products that were unlike anything else seen before, and made them available to the masses.

This paired with the rise of youth culture created a demand for modern, fashionable goods that rebelled against social convention. No more did people have to ‘make do and mend’, furniture and fashion became novel, desirable and disposable as new trends came about.

Baroque Wallpaper from Design Public

Mid-Century Modern Interior Design

Mid-century modern interior design is all about simplifying and modernizing your home by de-cluttering rooms and creating more space. Homes are open-plan and rooms are multifunctional.

Colours found in nature inform the colour palate for the most part: mustard, avocado and paprika are all popular colours used in mid-century modern interiors (pretty radical choices for the time!).

Patterns, artwork and lighting are all bold, graphic and sensuous. The furniture of the time is unmistakable too. Sleek, cool, curvy and always unbelievably modern.

Remember, it’s always cocktail hour in Don Draper’s world. Hidden drinks cabinet from our walnut Jual Curve range.

Mid-Century Modern Style Furniture

Mid-century modern furniture is iconic furniture. The design style uses a mix of clean lines, organic curves and geometric shapes to create classy furniture that is not only simple, but also beautiful and functional too. Subtle and thoughtful craftsmanship makes mid-century style furniture enduring and timeless. There are three main characteristics that always apply to this kind of furniture:

This contemporary sofa easily converts into a double bed.


Mid-century modern furniture is designed to meet the needs of modern living. Meaning furniture is made to have multiple uses or interchangeable options (like the sleek sofa bed pictured above). Tables are built to nest, storage is stackable, and your dining table can fold out for entertaining.

Sleek Scandi-inspired sideboard from our Oslo Walnut Collection

Danish Inspiration

Not just in design style, but also in the materials and techniques used to make furniture. Oak, rosewood, walnut and teak wood offer warmth and create durable furniture. Wood pieces are simply finished to show off the natural beauty of the grain.

This unique glass top table from our Curve range is perfect for adding a touch of mid-century modern style to your dining room.

New Materials

New construction techniques played a huge role in the creation of the style of mid-century modern furniture. Plastic, glass, stainless steel and plexiglass could now be easily incorporated into designs in new and interesting ways.

Original Eichler Paint colours from 40s-70s  Retro Renovation

10 Style Secrets Mid-Century Modern

1.Unexpected use of colours

Earthy neutrals such as olive green and wood brown are central to the mid-century modern palette. Mix these with a few punchy and rich brights to add character to your home. Turquoise, yellow and burnt orange were some of the most popular colours of the time. Using unexpected colour combinations in your home suits this style.

2.Warm woods

Walnut, rosewood, oak and an other warm woods were all popular during the 50s and 60s. Pick these for your furniture, floor and even on the walls!

3.Let the outdoors in

The idea of bringing the outdoors into your home was pretty revolutionary in the 50s. Wide windows, patios, sky lights and sliding doors were all very desirable when picking a home. Plenty of indoor plants, keeping windows bare and choosing soft furnishings or wallpapers with natural designs are other good ways of achieving the same look.

4.Statement furniture

Designer furniture was widely available and affordable for the first time, making iconic furniture an essential part of the mid-century modern look. Keep it contemporary by mixing one or two statement pieces with complimentary Scandinavian or contemporary furniture.

5.Graphic prints

Bold geometric prints for your soft furnishings (or even your wall paper) will instantly add a touch of Mad Men glamour to your home.


Classic mid-century lighting will create a sense of drama in any room. Choose bubble lights or a futuristic helix chandelier, these double up as art in a mid-century modern home.

7.White walls

White walls create a sense of space and lets everything else take centre stage.

8.Go Open plan

Multifunctional was the ‘it’ word of the time and it doesn’t just apply to furniture, but rooms too. So if you can, keep an open plan layout in your home.

9.A Futuristic kitchen

Having a futuristic looking kitchen in the 50s was the ultimate statement of modern living. Keep your kitchen simple, clean and uncluttered. Plain flat wooden kitchen cabinets, sleek stainless steel or marble countertops and laminate flooring.

10.Open bar

Dinner parties and home entertaining was hugely popular after WWII. So step back in time with a drinks cabinet or bar cart in your living room, dining room or home office. Our favourite is the Walnut hidden drinks cabinet from our Jual Curve range (pictured above).

Mid-century Modern Style in the Dining Room

Abbie Way, Costa Mesa

The contrast between the warm wood and cool plastic chairs gives this mid-century modern style dining room a contemporary twist.

Paddington Butterfly House

Laminate flooring gives this dining/living room an unexpected sense of glamour.

Modern Dining Room by Minneapolis Interior Designers & Decorators Letitia Little Interior Design

We love the mix of contemporary and mid-century modern furniture in this practical family dining room, here’s how we’d recreate the look:

one. Green edged terracotta vase

two. Leather covered chairs with tapered legs

three. Walnut extended dining table

four. Walnut sideboard

Mid-Century Modern Style in the Living Room

Midcentury Living Room by Seattle Architects & Building Designers SHED Architecture & Design

This living room is light and open without feeling cold. De-cluttering really makes this compact space feel a lot bigger!

This contemporary living/dining room with a mid-century modern twist has been styled using furniture from our Oslo Walnut range by Bentley Designs. Large patio doors let the outdoors in and the dark wood adds glamour to the room.

Traditional Living Room by Cincinnati Events, Media & Bloggers VisuaLingual

We love how authentic this living room feels. Olive green with paprika red and brown are unexpected colour choices, but they really work in this room. Make the style your own by adding a personal picture wall.

Midcentury Living Room by Seattle Photographers Kimberley Bryan

A simple colour palette allows you to really play with different textures in a room. Though paired right back, this space still feels warm and inviting.

Midcentury Living Room by Stamford Furniture & Accessories Design Within Reach

Less is more when it comes to creating a contemporary mid-century modern living room. Here’s how you can recreate this effortless look in your home:

one. Faux leather Supra Sofa bed in Oyester

two. Contemporary Mandarin chair

three. Jacquard weave cushions from H&M 

four. Faux Zebra Print rug from Zara Home

five. Walnut Scandi-style coffee table from our Olso range by Bentley Designs 

Mid-Century Modern Style in the Bedroom

Industrial Bedroom by Seattle Main Contractors Dyna Contracting

We love how calm this bedroom feels and how carefully the designer has thought about the use of colour from the pictures to the cushions and the chairs!

Modern Bedroom

White walls and flooring allows statement furniture to shine in this mid-century style bedroom, here’s how we’d recreate the look:

one. Walnut loft bed

two. Vintage sun mirror

three. Walnut nightstand

four. Wide oak sideboard

five. Scoop back chair in charcoal

six. Jacquard cushion

Mid-century Modern Style in Your Home Office

Contemporary Home Office by South East Kitchen Designers & Fitters Teddy Edwards

Thanks again to Don Draper and Sterling Cooper, mid-century modern style is now synonymous with glamourus offices. Here’s how to get this look:

one. Walnut sideboard

two. Large glass vase

three. Walnut mirror

four. Walnut curve chair

five. Walnut curve desk

Remember mid-century modern style is all about decluttering so there is room for iconic furniture and art to take centre stage in your home. For more inspiration for decorating your home in this style take a look at our mid-century modern style page. 

Now, time for a martini!

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