Mid-century modern style isn’t just a style we love — it’s a style America loves. In fact, it’s a style the world loves. You can see its global influence in Scandinavian interior design, which is actually an off-shoot of mid-century modern design.
While we don’t want to sound like a cliché pageant contestant extolling the virtues of world peace, we have to admit: It’s nice when the world can agree on something. And as furniture designers, we love that furniture can bring people together — both literally (as in let’s gather ‘round the dining table) and figuratively (as in let’s discuss how cute this tulip-shaped dining table is).
One of the reasons everyone seems to agree on mid-century modern decor is that it was made for everyone. The post-World War II era, when mid-century modern design came into existence, was the first time in history that furniture could be mass-produced. Indeed, America’s most important designers started making furniture for the masses.
They designed furniture with a form-follows-function philosophy. They embraced clean lines, minimalist style, and functionality that served people’s everyday lives. That usefulness and simplicity are the reason this style has stood the test of time.
So if you want to make your home simultaneously more functional and more beautiful, add more mid-century modern decor. Here’s a look at 9 decor ideas inspired by this iconic style.
9 mid-century modern decor ideas
When you’re creating a mid-century modern interior, look for understated pieces. This style embraces geometric shapes and clean lines — think circles and rectangles — with minimal ornamentation. (You won’t find the turned table legs and elaborate scrollwork of more traditional design styles.)
Because of its simplicity, mid-century style plays nicely with other design styles. That means you can start mixing in mid-century modern pieces with the pieces you already own — you don’t need to create a completely mid-century modern home overnight. Start by looking for additions that feature the signature elements of this style, like those listed below.
1. A tulip-shaped dining table
The tulip shape is an iconic silhouette in mid-century modern design. First introduced by designer Eero Saarinen and his tulip armchair, this silhouette features an organically sloping base that mirrors the shape of a tulip stem.
You can see this shape in the Arkell 40-Inch Round Pedestal Dining Table, a compact piece that will add retro charm to a small dining room or breakfast nook.
2. A wood dining table with hairpin legs
Hairpin legs — or legs that taper from thick to thin — are a classic element of mid-century modern furniture. And a dining table is the ideal piece of furniture to show off those legs. The height of a dining table makes the tapering effect more dramatic.
In the Alfredo Rectangular Dining Table, you can see those hairpin legs paired with other signature elements of mid-century style, including a rectangular tabletop with gently rounded corners, and a dark wood grain.
3. Molded plastic dining chairs
During the mid-20th century, industrialization made materials like metal, plastic, and fiberglass more widely available. As such, mid-century designers started using them alongside natural materials like wood and leather to create more durable furniture.
These Caballo Upholstered Side Chairs combine molded plastic seats with leatherette cushions and a wood base to capture that mid-century aesthetic. The result is a chair that’s both comfortable and easy to clean.
4. A track-arm sofa
For a sofa that embodies the clean lines of mid-century design, look for a track-arm silhouette. Track arms give your couch a boxy, rectangular shape that makes your mid-century modern living room look sleek and tailored.
The Blake Upholstered Sofa pairs track arms with hairpin legs. It offers big style in a small footprint, a common feature of mid-century decor. During the 50s and 60s, people were moving into smaller homes and city apartments, so this design style (and this sofa) is ideal for small spaces.
5. A sloped-arm sofa
A sloped-arm sofa offers as much mid-century style as a track-arm sofa but in an organic, curved silhouette instead of a square one.
The Gano Sloped-Arm Upholstered Sofa has a shape that mimics a wave with its subtle curves. The dark blue color of the upholstery and the dark wood grain of the hairpin legs are ideal for a mid-century color palette, which typically combines rich, dark colors with warm earth tones and cool metallic hues.
6. A starburst coffee table
A starburst tabletop adds subtle style to a round coffee table. In this design, the round tabletop is made up of pie-shaped slices of wood that come together in the center. This pattern elevates the natural wood grain and transforms it into art.
You can see the subtle starburst pattern in the Brinnon Round Coffee Table. This piece pairs the wood tabletop with hairpin metal legs for a combination of industrial and natural materials that we see again and again in mid-century furniture.
7. A curved wood chair
The middle of the 20th century was by far the best time to be an accent chair in America. This period saw the emergence of so many iconic accent chairs from Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair.
But there is perhaps no chair as iconic as the Eames Chair by Charles and Ray Eames. This lounge chair featured a curved wood frame — something that was only possible because of manufacturing advances that happened in the 1940s and 50s. While a genuine Eames Chair will cost you between $4,000 and $10,000, you can add the signature element of this mid-century design to your home by looking for curved wood.
The Addington Adjustable-Height Office Chair includes this classic feature and can transform your mid-century home office.
8. An armless accent chair
Let’s turn our attention to another classic: the Barcelona Chair. Even if the Barcelona chair hasn’t become a household name like the Eames chair, it has recognizable style. Composed of two square cushions (one for the base of the chair and one for the back), metal legs, and no arms, this chair exemplifies the importance of geometric shapes in mid-century modern design.
But again, an original Barcelona Chair costs over $8,000. If that’s not in your living room furniture budget, you can get the look for a lot less by choosing another armless accent chair.
The Lux Armless Upholstered Accent Chair offers double the geometric design with its square silhouette and its grid-shaped tufting. It comes in orange or dark blue to match your richly hued mid-mod color palette.
9. An arched floor lamp
The arched floor lamp emerged in the 1960s — the later half of the mid-century modern period — as both a stylish and practical design idea. After all, an arched shape allows the light to reach over you for easier reading in your living room or bedroom. (Again, we see that mid-century genius of form contributing to function.)
An arched lamp is an ideal addition to your mid-century home decor and the Krester Arched Floor Lamp is a winner with its striking geometric design.
Create your mod pod
The mid-century modern period was one of interior design’s best moments — full of new materials, iconic designs, and functional furniture that has stood the test of time.
Although this style initially developed from the 1940s through the 60s, it regained popularity in the 1990s and has been a steadfast favorite of home decor magazines and homeowners ever since. Its practicality and simplicity are key to its enduring style.
Mid-century modern decor fits into everyday life. And because it features clean lines and unadorned style, you can incorporate mid-century modern pieces alongside furniture from other design styles — which means you can start adding mid-century modern decor to your home at any time.
Head to your local Coaster Furniture store to start your mid-century makeover.
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