View On Design



Mix it up with Mid-Century Modern

story by Helen Houston

photos by Robert Dastoli


03Just as the name implies, Mid-Century Modern spanned a period of roughly two and a half decades in the middle of the twentieth century, from the mid-1940s to 1970. Its uncomplicated, fresh aesthetic arose from a desire to propel postwar America into the modern era and recast design through a bold new lens.

Mid-Century Modern’s emphasis is on pared-down forms, contemporary patterns, natural materials, and a seamless flow between indoors and out, creating a medley of functional comfort and chic style. Despite the passage of time, Mid-Century designs have remained a staple in interior architecture. In this article, I will cover a few of the fundamentals of how to realize Mid-Century Modern décor. And you will find practical examples to help draw ideas and inspiration.


Pick the Right Colors

13Selecting color is always the first step to planning your interior, since it leads your furniture and décor selection. Most Mid-Century homes had walls covered in white paint. Why? Because it allowed for the high-quality furnishings to take center stage. Mid-Century homeowners were proud of the craftsmanship of their homes and furnishings, and white paint let the rest of the room show off its lines. What an easy Mid-Century design solution!

White walls and warm earthy tones, mostly from the natural wood furnishings, are central to the Mid-Century palette. But it will not do for this look to come across as too muted. A few strokes of rich, saturated color gives it strength and presence. Skip the blushing pinks and pale lilacs. Bring in the rich teal, avocado, oxblood red, gold, tangerine, or all of the above—unexpected color combinations suit this style.

Graphic Pattern—If You Dare

There is nothing shy about Mid-Century Modern patterns. Bold, geometric, strong, sensuous curves, and whimsical motifs give rooms a strong graphic punch. Heavy, textural fabrics, such as burlap or nubby wool knits give patterns added weight.

While most walls benefit from clean white lines, a touch of glamour in a dining room can be added by simply papering one wall with bold, glitzy wallpaper. Homeowners in this time period loved their bold, abstract, asymmetrical graphic prints.

Statement Lighting

Sputnik chandeliers, Bubble lights, Arco Floor lamps—classic Mid-Century lighting pumps up a room’s drama. Lighting fixtures from this era were so striking, their form and sculpture are enough to double as art. These fixtures are so powerful that it is best to let them have the spotlight—do not force them to compete with each other in a single space. Three or four in one room is like adding too much vermouth to your martini.

10Mid-Century table lamps lend themselves well to any space featuring low-slung furniture, and they are easy to find in vintage stores. Look for curvy bases in bold hues, paired with tall, slim lampshades.

Period Art and Accents

The Mid-Century days were so rich with innovative and talented artists. Their work reflected bold, new territory in the art world that perfectly complements this ground-breaking style. If you are not sitting on a Warhol original, you can look for affordable reproduction prints that reflect the style of Mid-Century masters. For that modern look, do not clutter your walls with too much artwork. Keep it simple and clean with a few bold pieces of art such as artistic metal wall plaques, or large graphic oils on canvas

No matter what style of décor you choose, mirrors are the perfect design accessory. They add a light, airy feeling to any room in your home. If placed properly, a mirror can make a space look bigger by reflecting light into the room, or it can highlight a beautiful backyard landscape by placing it opposite a garden door or window. A sunburst mirror is an icon of the era. It is simply a must-have accessory that shines Mid-Century into your home. There are plenty of originals or replicas to be found online or in stores.

Try a Bar Cart

If you have ever watched an episode of Mad Men, you know cocktail culture was almost as important as Don Draper’s hair gel. Embrace it by picking up your own bar cart and stocking it with vintage glassware, cocktail shakers, and ornate decanters. A bar cart for mixing drinks is a nostalgic, easy way to bring back the 1950’s. A bar cart can be wheeled from room to room for parties and entertaining, and is the perfect accessory for every Mid-Century Modern home.


Iconic Furnishings

Mid-Century style is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Even if you are more contemporary than retro, a single Mid-Century piece can warm up your space. As the style continues to grow in popularity, many retailers are stocking new pieces that evoke the feel of Mid-Century greats, but offer a slightly more streamlined silhouette and on-trend colors. Knockoffs and reinterpretations will give you the look, if not the pedigree. Yes, you can buy Egg chairs and Marshmallow sofas to drive and define your look.

The history and nostalgia for the Mid-Century Modern movement is not showing signs of withering off into the old days. On the contrary, it seems the artistry and architectural genius of that time is only becoming more revered. Consider some of these style statements to give your home the vibe of days gone by.

Helen Houston is the owner of Staging Spaces, an accredited real estate staging firm located at 350 Falcon Ridge Parkway Bldg. 100. Contact Helen at (702) 346-0246 or


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