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Interior Design Hitting Rewind: What is Mid-Century Modern Design?

October 25, 2023
Mid-Century Modern

In the world of fashion and interior design, it seems like everything is hitting rewind. With pop culture obsessed with aesthetics reminiscent of decades past, for interior design, it's all about mid-century modern. If you’re not sure what mid-century modern is, you're not alone. In this blog post, we’re  taking a look at what defines mid-century modern, its history, and how to identify it so you can bring the style into your home.

Although simple and timeless, mid-century modern style can quickly overtake a room or make it appear dated if it isn't executed right. The way to prevent this aesthetic from looking less Brandy Bunch is to create an effortless mix. As the term suggests, mid-century modern  (MCM, for short) refers to home furniture and decor that rose in popularity during the middle of the 20th century. 

MCM Furniture

Reflective of the time, MCM was born out of a desire to combine modern design with functionality and simplicity.MCM design basically ditched the fancy and opulent designs of decades past, opting for more plain but visually engaging pieces.History of Mid-Century Modern DesignThe original MCM modern movement spanned from1933 to 1965 and included architecture and interior design. Designers such as Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, and George Nelson created iconic furniture and lighting that are highly coveted to this day. 


Characteristics of Mid-Century Design

  • Organic influences
  • Simple forms
  • Emphasis on function
  • Designed for everyone

How to Identify Authentic Mid-Century Furniture

Mid-century modern furniture can feel very similar to Scandinavian pieces, rooted in simplicity and functionality. Look for a few main elements: wood, storage, and those classic clean lines, as well as dark woods for tables with pin-style legs. You’ll also see a lot of organic curves combined with clean lines and a minimalist style that harkens an era gone by, as well as bold colors on accent chairs and  rugs. 

Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Mid-Century Furniture Color Palette 

The traditional palette in the 1950s included bright hues. In the next decade, the color scheme evolved into earthy browns and neutrals. So if you’re not a fan of red or olive upholstery, muted colors work really well because neutrals and pastels never go out of style. 

Related post: Current Attractions: Contemporary Interior Design for Modern Living

MCM Color

How To Complete a Mid-Century-Inspired Space 

To create a space that is MCM-inspired, it's all in the accessorizing. Adding stylish touches and keeping items you are passionate about and use every day, eliminating anything you don’t need.  Plants, floor pillows, and rocks are indicative accessories for the style, but it’s best to keep a room as clutter free as possible.  

Prevent your space from looking too formal  by incorporating furniture and decor items with different heights.It's best to not have everything be too low or too high; in other words, mix it up. Try pairing a low sofa and a low coffee table, but adding a high arc lamp as a contrast in height.

Mid-Century Modern Living Room

5 Characteristics of Mid-century Modern Design

1. Minimalist design

Less is certainly more when it comes to this style. At its core, mid-century modern design is uncomplicated. That means you won't find intricate wood carvings or claw feet. In some ways, mid-century modern furniture looks like the bare minimum, but that's a part of its appeal. 

2. Neutral with pops of color

Mid-century modern decor uses bright accent colors against primary neutral tones of white, black, and wood tones. Like pairing an all-black outfit with a neon green tote and shoes. The foundation is basic, but the pop of color  makes it seamlessly eye-catching.The same goes for  MCM furniture. A simple wooden dining chair doesn't sound too exciting but adds brightly colored  upholstery, and suddenly it's a work of art.

3. Mixing materials and textures

Wood is a typical feature of mid-century modern furniture. But man made materials and natural materials like wood are often paired together.

4. Geometric and organic shapes

Mid-century modern furniture is known for its clean and simple lines often curated from geometric shapes that tend to be rectangular and boxy. Symmetry is another  key feature, making this style look effortless.You'll see a lot of tapered legs and smooth surfaces on mid-century modern pieces. 

5. Function over form

A dead giveaway to tell if a piece is MCM is this: if it isn't functional, it's not mid-century modern. Every piece of furniture and decor has a purpose, if not multiple purposes.

Mid-Century Modern

How to Create a Mid-century Modern Space

  • Start Simply

A great place to start is to paint your walls white. This will act as a fresh canvas for and allow your furniture and pops of color to stand out. A considerable part of incorporating mid-century modern design into your home is starting slow. Instead of throwing a bunch of  pieces into a space, start with an updated, modern space and begin layering in a few Mid-Century Modern pieces.

Living Room
  • Create a Mix of Modern and Traditional 

Create a balance  mixing  modern and traditional pieces. Pair classic solid woods like teak and walnut with clean lines which will be the focal points of the room.Keeping in mind that less is more, start out by incorporating one piece at a time. This could be a piece of artwork, furniture, or a rug and live with it for a while. If you’re drawn to it, start incorporating more pieces. Mid-century modern is all about simplicity, so play around with furniture arrangements and layouts. 

Mid-Century Modern Chair

Examples of Mid-century Modern Furniture

The living room is one of the best places to start. Create the space around the clean lines and geometric shapes that give the entire room a cohesive look. Each piece should blend with the next while still mixing and matching materials. Bring in pops of color on cushions or whimsical accessories to make the room fun.   


Mid-century modern chairs can be a great way to incorporate eye-catching geometric shapes and shades into your living room. While these pieces will still have wooden legs, the cushions can be made with manmade materials.

MCM Chair


Mid-century modern sofas don't stray from basic rectangular shapes, though a mix of materials and accent colors will make them the center of attention in the room.  Mid-century modern sectionals are also popular as long as they have a simple design and clean lines.  

Mid-Century Coffee Table

Coffee Table

You'll find many mid-century coffee tables made entirely out of sleek wood with signature pin legs, and storage. This could be a few small drawers or a space beneath the tabletop.

I hope this guide will inspire you. If you’d like a little expert support, contact VTD for a free style consultation.

Related post: Room for Improvement: Interior Design with Affordability in Mind