Putting a Contemporary Twist on Mid-Century Modern

Do you find yourself watching movies or shows set in the 1950s and 1960’s, only to swoon over the furniture and decor? Golden Globe winning show Mad Men is particularly known for it’s incredible set design boasting Mid-Century design flair. If this is your favorite design style, you’re not alone. Mid-Century Modern style has captivated the design market for decades. Once one is aware of this popular aesthetic, it’s abundance is sure to be noticed. The focus on natural material elements like beautiful Brazilian, teak, and rose woods along with quality construction, low profile seating, and rectilinear lines drive its staying power and continued relevance in modern times.

What Inspired This Design Style?

At the time of Mid-century modern (MCM) aesthetic’s peak, there was tremendous design movement fueled by post war economic growth that reflected a fascination with interiors and architecture. Mid-Century design makes heavy use of starburst shapes, “Sputnik” style light fixtures, and abstract patterns. This era was a time of tremendous cultural and social upheaval. The Civil Rights movement was in full swing and anti war movements were happening as millions of people fled cities for the suburbs. Homeowners suddenly had a lot more space and the money at their fingertips and soon became interested in outfitting larger homes. Art and design often reflect social and political times and the use of geometric and abstract textile patterns juxtaposed with the simple, clean lines of the furniture created a perfect metaphor for our changing society. Complex patterns and shapes met simply designed yet incredibly well crafted furniture and Mid-Century Modern was born.

The classic Mid-century Modern design color palette took much of its cues from nature and the materials used to construct the pieces. It traditionally consists of lots of brown, yellows, oranges, greens and blues with warmer hues to soften the furniture’s harder edges and play off warm wood tones.

(Photo of Christina Henck’s design work in collaboration with Casaza.com)

While the traditional Mid-century palette is still incredibly common and is being used to create beautiful modern interiors like this modern interior Christina Henck outfitted via Henck Design, the color options have also expanded to make room for contemporary updates on MCM inspired designs in every shade under the rainbow. Now, a mid-century modern inspired look can be achieved both commercially and in residential design without sacrificing color or fun.

(Photo from Dwell.com)

Tips on incorporating Mid Century Modern style:

  • Mid-century modern inspired pieces can be blended with almost any aesthetic. A patterned rug, iconic Eames style chairs, an arched lamp, or a simple sofa with tapered wooden legs can fit into almost any space! Warm wood tones are always in style and because MCM furniture incorporates lots of walnut and teak, they blend with many other styles easily.
  • Geometric patterned wallpaper is a very “on trend” way to bring some Mid-century modern style to your home. Adding patterned wallpaper in a small space like a powder room can add a just the right amount of retro chic!
  • Try updating your light fixtures to Mid-century modern inspired fixtures or starbursts shapes. You can find them at just about every price point. Not all lighting has to be hardwired. If you are from place to place or not in a long term home, incorporate modular lighting like floor and table lamps. Many light fixtures can be easily switched out and replaced without the need for a professional electrician. Simply keep the original fixture and switch it back when it’s time to move out and collect your security deposit.

Mid-Century Modern has become so popular that in many ways it’s now just shorthand for “modern”. The warm woods and expansion to include any color palette you can imagine means MCM inspired pieces blend seamlessly into almost any decor with beautiful results. Putting a contemporary twist on Mid-Century Modern means spaces feel timeless and sophisticated yet current which appeals to many different aesthetic preferences.

Can’t get enough mid-century modern design? Check out the Henck Design Pinterest Board “A Fresh look at Classic Mid-Century Modern” inspired by our recent MCM projects!

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