Mid Century

The Ultimate Guide To A
Mid Century Modern Home

Known for combining sleek lines with organic shapes, using new materials, and methods to reimagine traditional pieces, the emergence of mid-century modern changed how we did interiors.
The Ultimate Guide To A </br>Mid Century Modern Home

What is Mid Century Modern?

Mid century modern designs are known for combining sleek lines with organic shapes, using new materials, and methods to reimagine traditional pieces. Rooted in the Industrial Revolution and Post-War Era, the emergence of mid-century modern design began in the middle of the 20th century, taking shape in the 1930s and lasting well through to the 1960s.

The aesthetics of mid century modern brought the geometric forms and clean lines of the Bauhaus teachings into the Modernist movement, pioneered by iconic designers including Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames, Charlotte Perriand, and Arne Jacobsen – to name a few – were at the helm of the modernist movement.

What is a Mid Century Modern house?

Mid century modern stretched beyond home decor and played a huge role throughout our culture. Surprisingly as a style, it was often considered that architecture came first followed by decor and design trends. A mid century modern house would generally be one-story with an open-plan layout embellished with sleek, practical furniture, a lowered roof or ceiling, big windows on the sides and back of the house, and an emphasis on the outdoor space.

Mid century modern decor is synonymous with elegant chairs, statement lamps, and TV stands; featuring tapered legs, bold pops of colour, materials such as sleek chrome, and geometric patterns. Mid century modern furniture was designed to be multifunctional, based on the design principle that furniture was to conserve space in small homes and apartments rather than overwhelm it. You’ll generally find that original pieces can be stacked, folded, or nested.

Mid century modern designs have stood the test of time and continue to be as stylish, if not more so, in our homes, institutions, and offices today. The essence of mid century modern and the reason for its popularity – still to this day – is rooted in the simplicity and functionality of the iconic pieces. The use of mix-and-match materials makes them a perfect addition to any home. It could also be said that those buying homes and furniture today would have grown up around mid century design, meaning that their association with the style brings back a dose of nostalgia.

Now, why wouldn’t you want a piece of that in your home?

this is a project by Jessica Klein featuring a mid century modern chair this is a project by Jessica Klein featuring a mid century modern chair and table

What is the difference between Mid Century and Modern?

A question commonly asked is if there is a difference between mid-century modern and modern. They’re two of the same and are used together to define 1) an era 2) a style. Mid century refers to the era of 1930s – 1960s, whereas Modern is used to describe the present day and the future. Mid century modern defined the longevity of the style through the materials and technology that were used to continue the manufacturing of iconic pieces, through brands including Herman Miller and Florence Knoll.

Today, Herman Miller owns the rights to produce much of Charles and Ray Eames’, and George Nelson’s furniture in North America and Europe, and Knoll own the rights to manufacture iconic collection from designers including Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer.

What is Mid Century Modern interior?

In the words of Sotheby’s Joshua Holdeman, mid century modern pieces are “simply well-designed objects, with a timeless look.” Defined by organic shapes, minimal decor, and a love for materials, mid century modern can be relatively simple to emulate at home.

One of the key principles that define the mid century modern design is the idea that ‘form follows function’. That’s to say that furniture, objects, and buildings influenced by the modernism movement are designed to reflect its intended purpose – if they prove to not to be practical, then they’re not needed.

Characteristics of Mid Century Modern

  • Contrasting Materials & Fabrics
    The juxtaposition of natural materials, such as wood, concrete, steel combined with manmade materials define mid-century modern interiors. The discovery of new materials such as fibreglass, plywood, foam, aluminium, and plastic laminates were applied to furniture designs and were considered revolutionary amongst designers. New materials were generally used to be moulded and bent to fit the curve of the body.
  • Minimal Ornamentation
    It was common to have bold, statement pieces like large sculptures or plants within mid century modern homes – small trinkets or collections are generally not to be seen. By focusing on the simple basics, and with a few accessories to complete the look, avoided clutter or items that weren’t used or admired.
  • Neutral & Bold Colours
    The mid century colour palette ranged from bright hues in the 1950s to earthy tones in the 1960s. Bold colours brought a visual focus to minimal, uncomplicated rooms, and were used in contrast with black, white, or grey. We’ve created a guide on how to find your mid century colour palette here, think olive green and fluorescent red.
  • Geometric Shapes
    The simplicity of mid century modern furniture welcomed the use of geometric patterns that added character to a room. Prints, artwork, mirrors, clocks, and rugs were commonly used with patterns resembling starbursts, atomic, and boomerang features.
  • Blurred Lines Between The Outdoors and Indoors
    Mid century modern style emphasised taking full advantage of natural elements in a room, from exposed beams to wood panels to untouched brick walls to bring the outdoors in. The way to bring natural elements inside the home, when the above might not be possible, would be through the use of indoor plants.

Classic Mid Century Modern Pieces

Saarinen Table

A table designed to address the ‘ugly, confusing, and unrestful world’ that Saarinen observed underneath chairs and tables. Introduced in 1956 by Eero Saarinen, the elegance of the Saarinen Table is hard to come by and make a stunning piece to any dining room.

this is a mid century inspired dining table with wishbone chairs

109 Chair

An effortlessly, elegant chair with comfortable qualities makes the 109 Chair is a perfect fit for placing around your dining table. It’s been over 50 years since Finn Juhl launched its first production, this chair stands the test of time and continues to embody the sophistication of mid-century modern.

this is a 109 chair by finn juhl

Nelson Saucer Bubble Pendant

As part of Nelson’s Bubble collection, designed in 1947 by George Nelson, the lamps and pendants revolutionised the modernist style, taking a bold step away from the highly decorative interiors of the previous years. Their shapes create a unique and minimalistic style while producing a soft diffused light.

this is the Nelson Saucer Bubble Pendant by George Nelson, part of Nelson_s Bubble collection and minimalistic style

900 Tea Trolley

Simple, minimalist, sustainable and inspired by traditional Northern European style. The iconic 900 Tea Trolley was designed in 1936 by Alvar Aalto and made its history for being one of the first sustainable products ever to be made.

this is a 900 tea trolley designer by mid century modern designer

Relax 3-Seater Sofa

First designed and manufactured in the early 1950s by Florence Knoll, the Relax 3-Seater Sofa continues to be a timeless, classic piece of furniture that complements modern decor. A sofa to fall in love with.

this is a knoll sofa by mid century modern designer florence knoll

Noguchi Table

Designed in 1944 by Isamu Noguchi, the Noguchi coffee table was described as a ‘sculpture for use’ and ‘design for production’. A beautiful sculptural piece in both art and design, making the perfect centrepiece for any living area.

this is a Noguchi coffee table designed in 1944 by Isamu Noguchi

Barcelona Chair

Originally designed in 1929 by Mies Van Der Rohe, The Barcelona Chair is an absolute design classic. Made up of a chrome-plated steel frame, seat and back elements manufactured of upholstered foam material and covered with fine leather.

this is a Barcelona chair designed in 1929 by Mies Van Der Rohe

Eames Lounge Chair

Notably one of the most iconic pieces in mid century design. Charlies and Ray Eames are the original design power couple, whose creativity knew no bounds. The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman was designed in 1956, to challenge the idea that modern design wasn’t comfortable; resulting in one of the most sought after lounge chairs.

this is a Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman was designed in 1956 by Charles and Ray Eames

Dot Pattern Wool Blanket

An indispensable mid century decorative item, designed by Charles & Ray Eames. The Dot Pattern Wool blanket is made to snuggle up into and makes a perfect addition inside a thoughtfully designed and inviting modern home.

this is a Dot Pattern Wool blanket designed by Charles and Ray Eames

Gräshoppa Floor Lamp

Inspired by designers such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius, Grossman was a pioneer in shaping the aesthetic of mid-century modernism. Designed in 1947 by Gretta Grossman, the Gräshoppa Floor Lamp can be positioned in your tucked away reading corner or wherever you need it.

this is the Gräshoppa Floor Lamp designed by Greta Grossman

Cherner Counter Stool

A gorgeous addition to your breakfast bar. This moulded plywood stool, designed in 1958 by Norman Cherner, is an icon of mid-century furniture design; it was showcased in exhibitions worldwide, including the Vitra Design Museum in Germany.

this is a collection of mid century modern cherner bar stool

Nelson Twin Edge Bed

The elegant detailing and woodcraft of the Nelson Thin Edge bed had has stood the test of time. First introduced in 1954, the Nelson Twin Edge Bed is a true representative of George Nelson’s timeless, human-centred approach to design.

this is the Nelson Twin Edge Bed designed by George Nelson

62 Series 3-Drawer Dresser

A simple light and dark colour scheme mixed with clean lines create the ultimate furniture statement. This vintage-inspired dresser designed by Greta Grossman adds warmth to any home and offers simplicity, versatility and a timeless appeal.

this is the 62 Series 3-Drawer Dresser designed by Greta Grossman

Barcelona Daybed

Designed in 1929 by Mies Van Der Rohe, the Barcelona Daybed is a stunning piece of design history. It’s tubular steel legs, hardwood frame and leather upholstery, the Barcelona Daybed is stylish must-have for your living room and has a very distinctive design.

this is a Barcelona daybed designed in 1929 by Mies Van Der Rohe

Randaccio Wall Mirror

An elegant and sophisticated addition to your bedroom. Designed in 1925, the Randaccio Mirror is one of Gio Ponti’s signature designs as it brings together elegance and modernity. Characterised by a crown-like detailing on the top; a detail used by Ponti in several of his works within design and art.

this is a Randaccio Wall Mirror

‘Hang It All’ Coat Rack

The Hang-It-All rack by Charles and Ray Eames elevated the everyday coat rack into something inventive and fun. Initially designed with multicoloured hooks and white wireframe, the material and colourway have since expanded in line with the sophistication, and sense of play, of the original.

this is the Hang It All rack designed by Charles and Ray Eames

Aluminium Chair

Originally designed in 1958 for the private residence of an art collector in Columbus, Charles and Ray Eames made a point to abandon the seat shell typically seen in office chairs created the Aluminium Chair to adapt to the body of the sitter, making it unbelievably comfortable.

this is the Aluminium Chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames

Desk and Tray Unit

Defined by a colourful tray unit, this desk creates a stunning, sophisticated working area for any home. Finn Juhl was one of the most important interior designers of modern times, and inspired many by the belief that “gaps are also space.”

this is a desk and tray unit designed by Finn Juhl

Polygon Clock

The Nelson clocks were firstborn from a spontaneous gathering, with renowned designers Isamu Noguchi and Bucky Fuller. George Nelson recalls: ‘And there was one night when the ball clock got developed… Noguchi came by, and Bucky Fuller came by… we started making doodles.’ The Polygon clock is the perfect representation of an evening spent of spontaneous doodling.

this is a polygon clock designed by George Nelson

Risom Outdoor Lounge Chair

With its streamlined curves and angles, the Risom lounge chair is a testament to the simplicity and ingenuity that is so often found in timeless modern furniture. Designed in 1943 by Jens Risom and was the first piece to be commission by Knoll.

this is a Risom lounge chair designed in 1943 by Jens Risom

Where to buy mid century modern interiors

Start growing your mid-century modern collection and indulge in the classics:

Grab a vintage steal and get your hands on antique mid-century modern furniture and objects:

Be inspired by the mid-century modern style and make it your own:

Coffee table books on mid century modern

It goes without saying that mid-century modern is renowned for its incredible history. It laid the foundation for experimental materials and the school of thought, ‘form follows function’, that is ever more prevalent today. Its history defines so much more than just an era; it gives us a glimpse into the creative minds behind what we currently see today in our homes: consider the design inspiration of IKEA furniture. We’ve listed some of our favourite books to learn more for the curious among you.

From A to Eames

Featuring 80 design stories, From A to Eames covers every topic, idea, and iconic features to come out of the mid century modern era — from midcentury modern homes and interior design to graphic design and renowned influencers. Trust us, you’ll have a newfound respect for your IKEA knockoffs.

Case Study Houses

Case Study Houses is a must-read for fans of mid-century modern. The Case Study House program (1945 – 66) was an experimental project that offered America new, affordable, and easy-to-build modern home models. This book displays each of the 36 prototype homes through sketches, floor plans, photographs, and more — and makes for an interesting read or stunning coffee table decor. We’ve selected our Top 10 Case Study homes from the list and why we love them.

Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: East Coast USA

A compact travel guide that showcases more than 250 East Coast destinations, including impressive midcentury modern architecture by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. If you’re anything like us, we’ll be using this when plotting a trip to the USA. We’re looked far and wide for the Cities and Neighbours famous for their mid-century influence and put together a small guide for yours truly.

Herman Miller: A Way of Living

If you’re curious to learn more about the design style through the lens of one of its true godfathers, this book chronicles the life and evolution of Herman Miller, the company that played a critical role in the evolution of midcentury modern design.

 

Photo credits: 1-2. Oh, I Design

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