A quick lesson on mid-century modern style, including its advent, evolution, and defining traits.
At first glance, a mid-century modern home or building may seem fairly straightforward with its simple lines and low profile. Look closer, though, and you’ll quickly see that this style has a way of seamlessly connecting to nature and infusing playful touches throughout. There’s also great appeal in its timelessness, versatility, and strong functionality.
“Mid-century modern’s minimal look and clean lines allow for the design to transcend time,” says interior designer Adriana Hoyos. “It also allows for the design, whether it’s a building, an interior design concept or a furniture piece, to blend well in different places and with different personalities.”
Below, we’re offering a quick history lesson on mid-century modern design and architecture, how it’s changed over the years, and what characteristics set it apart from other types of design.
Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about mid-century modern architecture and design is that it didn’t truly originate in the “mid-century.” The style actually dates back to Germany’s Bauhaus era, which was founded by architect Walter Gropius in the late 1910s.
This newfangled “modern style” emerging from Germany slowly began catching on. Scandinavian designers helped catapult it to greater fame in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and by the time the true mid-century hit it was wildly popular across the world.
“Both mid-century modern architecture and interior design became popular during the mid-20th century,” says Hoyos. “They share similar aesthetic goals and traits, characterized by minimalistic designs, and a focus on functionality. They both also emphasize the use of natural materials like wood and an integration with the surrounding environment.”
If there’s one style that’s an absolutely constant in interior design trends it’s Mid-century Modern. Sure, it might take on a slightly different look from season to season, sometimes it’s more true to its 1940s roots and has a reel retro feel, sometimes it’s more in line with the minimalist Scandi aesthetic. But our love of tapered legs, low-slung silhouettes and the sleek, less-is-more approach is going nowhere.
The staying power of this style says a lot about how adaptable it is. It’s been on trend for over 80 years, with resurges coming every decade or so, and we see it used over and over again by designers the world over. So to pay homage to this ever-in-favor style, we’ve asked designers to talk us through their favorite mid-century modern spaces, and how you can bring the look into your home, whether you want to commit to the whole look or just add a touch of mid-century.
What is mid-century modern style?
‘Mid Century modern references the type of furniture and design that was being produced in, you guessed it, the middle of the last century,’ explains designer Bethany Adams. ‘There was an air of utilitarianism, simple forms and new ways of using materials. We automatically think of the 1950s, but actually, the mid-century period stretches from the 1930s to the 1970s.’
In terms of shapes and styles, it was all about form and function. Bold color was about, and key to the style, but there was just as much of a focus on the structures and sculptural shapes of mid-century spaces. There isn’t much in terms of fuss with this style, think clean lines, almost utilitarian. And the focus was very much on materials, lots of solid wooden pieces – particularly teak. Metal, glass,
Bring this updated rustic style to each room of your home.
While modern design is all about streamlined, functional elements with clean lines, combining it with rustic style brings a neutral color palette, natural textures, and warm, earthy tones. Think lots of natural wood, exposed beams, stonework, and leather furniture with accents of bright, modern colors, white walls, and open floor plans. Bringing these two styles together can create the ultimate relaxed, cozy room. Modern rustic design is easy to adapt into most rooms, including living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and even bathrooms, because it often highlights features your home already has, like a vaulted ceiling or natural wood flooring. The blend of modern and rustic can also fit with other design styles, so if you want to incorporate modern rustic decor into your home, you don’t have to change every room to fit it in. Let these modern rustic rooms provide inspiration for bringing a touch of the style into your space.
Modern Rustic Interior Design
Blend two styles together to create a transition from a living area into a kitchen. Natural wood walls in neutral colors give the space a distinctively rustic feel. And while the sliding barn door also seems rustic at first, the gray chevron paneling updates it for modern style.
Modern Rustic Kitchen Design
Give a farmhouse kitchen a modern update with sleek black pendant lights and matching barstools. White paneled walls have elements of both modern and rustic style, while the exposed wood beams in the ceiling enhance the farmhouse elements of the room. Lots of windows also give the room plenty of natural light.
Modern Rustic Living Room
At first glance, this living room definitely appears more modern than rustic. But in addition to the black walls and modern art decorating the room,
Backyard photographs from a bygone era have a certain panache that we covet today, whether it is a poolside paradise or a lush green space crawling with cocktail-carrying guests.
Creating your own backyard oasis filled with mid-century modern style pieces, like sectional sofas and outdoor rugs, is quickly earning a spot as one of summer’s hottest patio design trends.
We spoke to several design experts about how to create a mid-century modern oasis in your backyard and have it looking Frank Lloyd Wright-worthy in no time.
No backyard? No problem. Any of these ideas can be modified to fit your small outdoor space.
Outdoor patio furniture with clean lines and neutral colors
The modernist movement of late 19th century inspired more thoughtful furniture designs focused on ergonomic comfort and style. Natural materials and clean lines came into play, and design gravitated to simplicity instead of embellishment. But thankfully, this didn’t mean boring.
Los Angeles designer Mae Brunken says, “Simplicity is key, and repetition is a great way to emphasize the design,” when it comes to furniture for your patio or pool area. “Incorporating refurbished vintage pieces, such as the curvy 1960s and 1970s fiberglass loungers, adds a touch of both history and interest.”
Look for classic pieces like a vintage freestanding hammock, which can impart a certain mid-century laissez-faire with its wonderful yet functional shape, or Cesca-style outdoor chairs.
Although much of the mid-century’s palette is void of color, that also doesn’t have to translate to a neutral yard. According to Brunken, you can’t go wrong with accents of turquoise or any of the other traditional mid-century colors like green, pink, and yellow.