Keys to Achieving Midcentury Modern Style

Inspired by Mad Men living? Here are the important points you need to remember to make your home look like it stepped out of a time machine from the mid-20th century.

Updated on June 21, 2017 8:06 am

Camille Besinga


Midcentury Modern style became popular in the middle of the 20th century (hence, the term "midcentury"), particularly from the '30s to the '60s. It was highly popular in America, and is enjoying a resurrection today courtesy of pop culture references, like the TV show Mad Men.

Considered an American reflection of the European-born International and Bauhaus movements (see our story on Bauhaus Style), Midcentury Modern style was also influenced by Brazilian and Scandinavian design, which propagated integration with nature and natural materials. It was also a period that saw a proliferation of artist-designed, mass-produced furniture, from the likes of Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, Hans J. Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, etc.

Here are some things you must include in your decorating scheme to make your space get that Midcentury Modern look down pat:

Sleek lines. As a reaction to the ornate and extravagant styles of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, Midcentury Modern stuck to clean, streamlined shapes and lines. As this was also the time when mass production of furniture became the norm, many furnishings were able to adopt a more ergonomically and anatomically sound form, like lounge chairs that followed the form of the human body in repose (i.e., Le Corbusier). "Modern" at that time was also almost synonymous to "futuristic," and this was a period that enjoyed "space-age" styles.

Mass-produced furniture made by design greats. Source.

Sleek, slim, but functional. Source.

Contemporary, graphic patterns. Midcentury modern style prefers graphic over flamboyant patterns. Unlike the elaborate geometry of art deco, pared-down geometric prints ruled the day. Still, some art deco items found new life in this era, such as the sunburst icon, conveyed in clocks and mirrors found in midcentury homes.

Geometric wallpaper. Source.

Sunburst mirror. Source.

Natural materials. Furniture from this era tend to be made of hardwood (as opposed to today’s light, fiberboard materials)—teak, oak, walnut. Stone and brick were also common in midcentury homes, either for exterior or interior walls.

Pin- or pencil-leg furniture. Source.

Wooden side table. Source.

Seamless flow between indoors and outdoors. This was also the era of the American suburbs, which allowed homeowners to expand their space by having lawns, backyards, and outdoor patios or decks so they could include the outdoors in their own space. Big windows and glass sliding doors gave them great views of the outside space, while extended eaves allowed the inclusion of nature in their property.

Big windows, indoor plants. Source.

Sliding doors opening to yard or garden. Source.

Is your home done in midcentury modern style? Tell us about it and share your photos with us at Like us on Facebook.

Cover photo courtesy of HGTV


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