Mid Century Modern Interior Design Characteristics for Stylish Homes

If you’re a fan of sleek, minimalist style, you might find mid-century modern interior design appealing. This design movement emerged in the 1950s and 60s and has seen a resurgence in recent years. The characteristics include clean lines, simple shapes, and natural materials. Furniture is often low-slung and streamlined, while color palettes tend to be muted, with pops of bright hues. Mid-century modern design is all about creating a space that’s both functional and visually pleasing, and it’s easy to achieve this look in your own home – whether you’re starting from scratch or just looking to update your décor.

The Origins of Mid Century Modern Interior Design

Mid century modern interior design is a style that emerged after World War II and remained popular from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, hence the name. It is characterized by clean, simple lines, sleek furniture, and a focus on functionality. But what are the origins of this iconic design movement? Let’s take a closer look.

The Historical Context

Mid century modern design was born out of a unique historical context. The end of World War II marked a time of tremendous change, both in the United States and around the world. The war had brought an end to the Great Depression and spurred a new era of prosperity and optimism. This newfound optimism, combined with advances in technology and a push towards modernism, set the stage for a new design movement.

The Design Movement

  • Bauhaus: The Bauhaus school in Germany, which operated from 1919 to 1933, played a major role in shaping mid century modern design. The school’s philosophy was based on functionalism, which emphasized the use of simple forms, industrial materials, and mass production techniques. Many of the school’s ideas would later be adopted by mid century modern designers.
  • Scandinavian Design: Scandinavian design, which originated in the 1930s, also had a major influence on mid century modern design. Like the Bauhaus school, Scandinavian design emphasized functionality and simplicity. It also focused on natural materials and clean lines, which would become signature elements of mid century modern style.
  • Futurism: The futurist movement, which emerged in Italy in the early 20th century, also had a significant impact on mid century modern design. Futurist designers were interested in technology and how it could be used to create new and innovative designs. This interest in technology would later manifest itself in the form of new materials and manufacturing techniques.

Key Features of Mid Century Modern Interior Design

Mid century modern interior design is a popular trend in home decor that boasts a distinct look characterized by clean lines, natural materials, and an emphasis on functionality. This design style emerged in the mid-20th century – roughly from the 1930s through the mid-1960s – and has stood the test of time to remain a style of choice for many interior designers and homeowners today. In this article, we’ll explore the key features of mid century modern design and how they can be incorporated into your home.

Clean Lines

One of the most prominent aspects of mid century modern interior design is its focus on clean lines. This style favors simple shapes and forms, featuring flat planes, curved lines, and a lack of ornamentation and embellishment. Furniture pieces, for example, tend to be angular and streamlined, with an emphasis on functionality rather than decorative elements. This creates a sleek and uncluttered look that lends itself well to modern spaces.

Natural Materials

Mid century modern interior design also pays homage to the natural world. This style incorporates warm, organic materials such as wood, leather, and stone in furniture pieces and decor. Wood paneling and exposed beams are particularly popular, often juxtaposed with sleek metal accents to create a harmonious balance. Pops of color come primarily from natural shades such as ochre, olive green, and burnt orange, which complement the wood tones and earthy materials.


Mid century modern interior design places a heavy emphasis on functionality and usability. Furniture pieces often serve more than one purpose, such as a coffee table with built-in storage or a sofa that converts to a bed. The focus is on making the most of the available space without sacrificing style or comfort. This style values simplicity and efficiency, so each piece in a mid century modern home should serve a purpose without being overly complicated.

Iconic Pieces

No discussion of mid century modern interior design would be complete without mentioning the iconic pieces that define the style. From the Eames Lounge Chair to the Noguchi table, these pieces have become synonymous with mid century modern design and are often seen as a symbol of sophistication and taste. Incorporating one or two of these pieces into your home can instantly elevate the look and feel of the space, adding a touch of timeless class.


Mid century modern interior design is a classic style that continues to be popular today thanks to its timeless qualities. By incorporating clean lines, natural materials, and a focus on functionality, you can create a space that is both stylish and livable. Consider investing in an iconic piece or two to add a touch of sophistication and elevate the overall look of your home.

Mid Century Modern Color Palettes

Mid century modern interior design is characterized by a clean, minimalistic look that is accented by unique color schemes. The color palettes in this decor style range from warm, earthy hues to bold, bright pops of color. Here are some of the most defining color schemes of mid century modern design:

1. Earthy Tones

Earthy tones are a staple of mid century modern decor. Shades like olive green, burnt orange, and mustard yellow can be found throughout furniture, textiles, and accessories from the period. These warm hues create a cozy and inviting atmosphere in any space. Pair earthy tones with neutral colors like gray or beige to create a chic, sophisticated look.

2. Bold Pop of Color

Mid century modern design also incorporates bright pops of color, often in unexpected ways. Think a bright blue sofa or a red accent wall. These vibrant colors can add energy and personality to a room, while still maintaining the clean lines and minimalistic feel of the mid century modern style. When using bright colors, it’s important to balance them out with neutral elements, like a white wall or a wooden floor.

3. High Contrast

High contrast color schemes are also a characteristic of mid century modern interior design. Think black and white checkerboard floors or a bright white wall with black accents. These contrasting colors create a graphic and bold look that is synonymous with mid century modern decor. To pull off a high contrast color scheme, it’s important to use these colors strategically so they don’t overwhelm the space.

Notable Mid Century Modern Designers and Architects

Mid century modern design is a style that has stood the test of time. From the 1940s to the 1960s, this style was at the forefront of interior design, and it still influences design today. Many designers and architects contributed to the development of mid century modern design, but some have left an indelible mark on the style. Here are some of the key figures who shaped mid century modern design:

Charles and Ray Eames

Charles and Ray Eames were a husband and wife team that made significant contributions to mid century modern design. They were known for their work in furniture design, including the iconic Eames Lounge Chair. They also designed a range of other products, from toys to films.

The Eames’ style was characterized by simplicity, functionality, and beauty. They aimed to create designs that were accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy. Their work was characterized by clean lines, bold colors, and an emphasis on function.

Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen was a Finnish-American architect and designer. He was known for his work in modern architecture, including the TWA Flight Center at JFK airport and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

In addition to his architectural work, Saarinen also designed furniture that is still popular today. His furniture was characterized by its simple, elegant lines and its use of modern materials. He collaborated with the Eameses on several projects, including the Organic Chair and the Womb Chair.

Arne Jacobsen

Arne Jacobsen was a Danish architect and designer. He is best known for his work in modern architecture, including the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. He also designed furniture that is still popular today, including the Egg Chair and the Swan Chair.

Jacobsen’s style was characterized by its simplicity and functionality. His furniture designs were often sleek and sculptural, with an emphasis on modern materials and forms.

George Nelson

George Nelson was an American industrial designer and writer. He is best known for his work as the design director at Herman Miller, where he oversaw the development of some of the most iconic mid century modern furniture designs.

Nelson’s style was characterized by its playful, whimsical nature. He was known for his use of bright colors and unconventional shapes. Some of his most famous designs include the Ball Clock, the Coconut Chair, and the Marshmallow Sofa.

Harry Bertoia

Harry Bertoia was an Italian-American artist and designer. He is best known for his work in furniture design, particularly his wire chairs. Bertoia’s style was characterized by its use of unconventional materials, such as wire and metal, and its focus on form over function.

Bertoia’s wire chairs are still popular today and can be found in homes and businesses around the world. His designs are notable for their airy, almost weightless appearance, which belies their strength and durability.

FAQs About Mid Century Modern Interior Design Characteristics

Mid century modern interior design has been increasing in popularity in recent years, and it’s not hard to see why. From clean lines to bold colors and organic shapes, this style is timeless and effortlessly chic. However, many people still have questions about mid century modern interior design. In this article, we’ll answer some of the most common questions about this style.

How can I mix mid century modern with other styles?

One key to successfully mixing mid century modern with other styles is to focus on one or two key elements. For example, adding a mid century modern accent chair to a traditional living room can create a focal point without overwhelming the space. Another way to mix styles is to use mid century modern colors, such as mustard yellow or burnt orange, in a more neutral room.

What are some key characteristics of mid century modern interior design?

  • Clean lines: Mid century modern furniture often has clean lines and a minimalist aesthetic.
  • Bold color: This style is known for its use of bold, bright colors like avocado green and tangerine orange.
  • Organic shapes: Furniture and decor in this style often feature organic, natural shapes, such as the iconic Eames lounge chair.
  • Mix of materials: Mid century modern designers merged materials such as wood, metal, and glass into furniture and decor.

Where can I find authentic mid century modern furniture?

If you’re looking for authentic mid century modern furniture, you might want to start your search at specialty vintage stores or online marketplaces like Chairish or 1stdibs. You can also look for local estate sales or auctions. Just be sure to carefully inspect any pieces you’re interested in to make sure they’re in good condition.

How can I incorporate mid century modern design on a budget?

One way to incorporate mid century modern design on a budget is by shopping at modern furniture retailers like West Elm or CB2, which feature mid century modern-inspired pieces at more affordable prices. You can also search for vintage pieces on sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when decorating with mid century modern?

  • Overdoing it: While mid century modern is a popular style, it doesn’t have to be the only style in a room. Avoid overwhelming a space with too much mid century modern furniture or decor.
  • Ignoring functionality: While mid century modern style is all about form and aesthetics, it’s important to choose furniture and decor that is also functional and comfortable.
  • Not paying attention to scale: When mixing mid century modern furniture with other styles, pay attention to scale. Make sure the different pieces you choose work well together in terms of size and proportion.

What are some ways to add a pop of mid century modern to a space?

If you’re not ready to commit to a full mid century modern makeover, there are plenty of ways to add a pop of this style to your space. Consider adding a vintage mid century modern lamp to your nightstand or swapping out your throw pillows for ones in bold, mid century modern-inspired colors.

Thanks for Checking out Mid-Century Modern Interior Design Characteristics!

It’s been a pleasure sharing with you the essence of mid-century modern interior design characteristics. From warm woods to simple lines, this era of design has made a lasting impact on the world of interior design. Whether you are updating your home or considering a new design project, keep in mind these timeless characteristics for inspiration.

We invite you to visit our site again soon for more exciting design inspiration.

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