When I speak about Mid-century Modern design style and interiors, I feel a great sense of nostalgia. Growing up my mom had a wonderful sense of style, and like many other homes in the fifties, she had Mid-century Modern decor. My earliest memories of this interior styling are from my childhood home during that time. I remember the aqua and yellow kitchen, the peacock color carpet, along with the blonde wood stereo cabinet and the bouclé fabrics. Oh yeah, and you can’t forget the linoleum!
There’s much debate on the exact time frame that the Mid-century Modern interior style had its beginnings. Still, I think that we can safely say it began around the mid-1930s and stayed current in popular design until the late 1960s. Today, there is increased demand for these iconic furniture pieces and they are still being produced from the original designs. A 1950s original production is valuable and rare.
The Bauhaus movement heavily influenced this style and took off in popularity in America after the second world war. Economic changes in post-war Germany prompted the Bauhaus architects and designers of the day to migrate to America. You could say that the Bauhaus movement instigated the minimalism trend and emphasized simplicity and functionality. It was pushback on the soullessness of modern manufacturing as it intended to reimagine the production of goods to include artistry, functionality, and simplicity. Post-war glee and the desire for a bolder color palette, clean lines, and functionality of materials ushered in the Mid-century Modern movement.
You can’t speak about Mid-century Modern interior styling without talking about the architects and designers of the day. Think architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, and the iconic Eichler (designs better known as California contemporary). These talented icons of architecture made their mark on home designs with asymmetrical profiles, flat roofs, expansive walls of glass, and open floor plans. Sound familiar?
Industrial designers like Charles and Ray Eames were extraordinarily influential in the modern movement and prolific furniture designers. This husband and wife team is responsible for so many important modern furniture designs which are still in production today, they are synonymous with mid-century interior styling. Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese-American artisan and landscape designer, is another famous contributor to Mid-century Modern and is known for his sculptural forms. Eero Saarinen, a Finish/American designer, and architect grew up in Bloomfield, Michigan, and contributed to various fields of design throughout his lifetime and taught at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Florence Knoll another well-known designer of the day, grew up in Michigan as well and was good friends with Saarinen, and studied under him at Cranbrook Academy of Art where she attended art school. Florence, along with her husband, Hans Knoll, started Knoll- the acclaimed modern furniture company. They were committed to the belief that modern furnishings should complement, not compete with the architecture.
Wikipedia describes Florence like this;
When creating Mid-century Modern style in your home, take inspiration from the 1950s’ through the mid-1960s’ furniture style.
With the open floor plans in vogue today, it can be easy to incorporate this style into your decor. Think functional and minimal, with nubby fabrics and warm, simple woods, where deep rich color is the name of the game and geometric shapes in fabrics and furnishings are front and center. Due to the renewed interest over the last few years, these iconic designs are still being produced today, and there is a flood of these Mid-century-inspired re-creations on the market for a more affordable option. See below for a shopping list of places for both originals and replicas based on the original designs.
The truth is that Mid-century Modern can be infused into a space in a small way. Try adding in the iconic sculptural chair, globe lighting, mid-century styled sideboard, or sofa. A couple of pieces can do the trick without feeling yesteryear or tired. The furniture designers of the time emphasized form and function yet, the fabrication of the chairs and sofas kept comfort in mind while minimizing bulk. Comfortable furnishings are as much about pitch and support as it is about foam and filling. This is why mid-century furnishings are still sought after in today’s home furnishings, minimal and comfortable with an abundance of style!
Since the resurgence of Mid-century Modern interior style popularity, it is easy to find iconic designer-inspired replicas on the market today. As many designers have taken inspiration from these Icons and produced an interpretation of the original design at a fraction of the cost. However, if your budget permits, I encourage you to look for an original. This could be a vintage piece or one produced by the designer’s manufacturer. By doing this, you keep the original integrity and intent of the design! Plus you have an investment piece to boot! I call that a Win-Win!
Below are some retailers where you can find Mid-century Modern originals or furniture that is inspired by these designs:
To wrap all of this up, I think it is safe to say that Mid-century Modern interior style lives on. It just goes to show that a flawlessly executed design is timeless. A Mid-century Modern piece can add a splash of character to just about any interior styling. However, this style pairs best with Scandinavian interior styling, Bohemian interior styling, Wabi-Sabi interior styling, and Modern Farmhouse Interior style.
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