Mid-Century Modern Design : Everything You Need to Know

If you like Mad Men or browse decorating sites a lot, you might be able to spot mid-century modern masterpieces from a mile away. Mid-century modern furniture feels timeless today, but caused quite a stir when it first launched. Designers like to push the envelope when it comes to design, while also keeping the cut affordable for the average family.

Architects take a lot of risks. Mid-century modern homes are designed to be both aesthetic and functional. Some of the structures appear to almost float off the ground, while others reflect the nature around them on stunning glass walls.

And decades later, mid-century modern style continues to influence artists, designers, and architects.

Image Credit: Peter Schweitzer

The Origins of Mid-Century Modern Style

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The Mid-Century Modern Style came to life sometime in the 1940s to 1960s. And while a number of highly acclaimed designers and architects live in the US, many have their roots (and iconic projects) in other countries.

The end of World War II caused a shift in the economies of countries, especially the US. During war, many materials can only be used for certain endeavors. After that, designers took hold of it again, giving them the freedom to experiment with designs. The creation of new materials also generates new design ideas; polypropylene, for example, didn’t exist until 1954. British designer Robin Day used it to make his stackable chairs; they debuted in 1963 but you can probably see them in areas like meeting rooms and schools today.

This design makes an impact within homes and institutions that are larger. In 1941, for example, the Museum of Modern Art opened an exhibition entitled Organic Design in Home Furnishings. It featured competitions that included the work of influential names such as Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen.

Mid Century Modern Designers and Architects

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Mid-century modern furniture takes a risk. It’s “becoming increasingly sculptural in quality,” according to Dominic Bradbury, author of Mid-Century Modern Complete. A chair doesn’t just look like an ordinary chair anymore. Think of designs we might take for granted today, like the Egg Hanging Chair. Designed in 1959 by husband and wife couple Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel, this chair is meant to be an alternative to all the furniture legs we often see in outer space. And of course, you may be able to recognize chairs designed by Ray and Charles Eames, such as the RAR (Rocking Armchair Rod) chair, which dates back to 1948-50.

Many of the most influential names in furniture design have also contributed to other creative fields such as art and architecture. Isamu Noguchi, for example, is a famous sculptor. Furniture pieces follow a biomorphic design style; fluid pieces exemplified his artistic sensibility.

When it comes to architecture, important names like Luis Barragán, John Lautner, Eileen Gray, Greta Magnusson Grossman, and Eero Saarinen designed everything from private homes to civil buildings. These structures defied the norms of the time, choosing to incorporate the stunning natural scenery around them or swapping traditional walls for large glass walls.

The Case Study House program, pioneered by Art & Architecture magazine editor and owner John Entenzo in 1945, commissioned some of the most famous names of the time. Many of these still stand as some of the most important structures. Today you can visit some of them, such as Stahl House in West Hollywood, California.

Image Credit: Peter Schweitzer

Mid-Century Modern Design Tips

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If you’re inspired by the style, there are several ways to incorporate it into your home. You can even start small: consider adding accents like wall hangings and table lamps to give your room a classic feel. Or try changing some of your lampshades or dining room furniture. Geometric shapes, gold accents and sharp corners are some of the mid-century modern decor features to look for. Think modern and clean, yet friendly and comfortable.

When it comes to your living room, try playing with natural textures, glamorous lights, and subtle colors. Some of these elements can also be added to your kitchen; go a step further by incorporating bold patterned tiles (or flooring), hardware accents, and vintage dishware.

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Give your bedroom a mid-century modern touch by combining geometric rugs, wooden furniture and wall hangings. For your bathroom, consider patterned tiles, marble accents, and chandeliers. Make industrial materials the focus and pair them with clean lines.

Pay attention to other elements of your home that you can try. If you have a fireplace, consider giving it a mid-century modern makeover by pairing it with neutral colors, sunlit wall decor, and asymmetrical furniture layouts. And for DIY project lovers, this stand planter is a great addition. Don’t worry — some of our favorite spaces mix modern and vintage, so you can definitely work with the decor you already have.

Mid-Century Modern Cut Shop

Image Credit: Stephen Paul for Hunker

When you find yourself shopping for something new for your space, consider browsing modern antiques. This is a great way to infuse your space with a classic look. Plan a weekend outing to explore thrift stores, real estate sales, and garage sales — you never know what gems you might find. Or stay in the comfort of your home and browse sites like Etsy and 1stdibs for hidden treasures.

You can also shop for furniture and decor from many of your favorite major retailers. Or if you want to splurge, companies like Herman Miller and Knoll carry original designs.

Whatever your approach, keep the ethos of style as your guide: seek sophistication but also practicality and comfort.

By : Hunker
Interior Design


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