How to Design a Mid-Century Modern Home
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Thursday, May 19, 2016
By Debi Meyer, Allied ASID
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My husband and I went on a weekend road trip a few weeks ago to attend a wedding and celebrate my BIG birthday. This was our first "real" stay in the delightful town of Palm Springs. Since both of us are in the design industry we were in Heaven with all there is to see, do and of course eat. I've always been smitten with Mid-Century Modern so this little town did not disappoint.

This month I've chosen to focus our Blog on Mid-Century design. Here goes...

The city of Palm Springs is noted for it's many examples of Mid-Century Modern architecture. We cruised lots of incredible neighborhoods which had superb examples of Mid Century architecture. Each neighborhood was immaculate with so much pride of ownership. As we drove past this gem I yelled "Honey, stop the car. You must take a photo of me in front of this home". I think he was appalled that I'd stand in the front yard posing, but hey why not! Plus that day was my birthday - let's celebrate ;-)

Not only is the house original but the owners proudly displayed a Citroen and a Mercedes from the same era in the circular drive. It took everything in me not to knock on the front door and ask to tour the interior. Can't you just imagine how cool it must be?

What Makes up Mid-Century Modern Design

The enduring popularity of the Mid-Century Modern style is based on many factors. It gave us clean lines, gentle organic curves, a love for different materials and designers that are idolized even today.

While there is some disagreement about when the period started, it roughly lasted from the mid-1940s to mid-1960s. The timeless quality of the style, however, continues to appeal to today's homeowners.

Distinguishing Features

The distinguishing features of this style consist of a classic, understated look, and clean lines with minimal fuss.

  • Functionality is important, as form follows function
  • Uncluttered and sleek lines with both organic and geometric forms
  • Minimal ornamentation
  • An exploration of different traditional as well as non-traditional materials
  • Juxtaposition of different, and sometimes contrasting materials

Color and Materials

New methods of construction and new materials such as plastic, dramatically influenced later Mid-Century Modern designers. Plastic was used for its own qualities rather than to imitate wooden furniture.

There was a liberal use of traditional material, such as wood, and non-traditional materials such as metal, glass, vinyl, plywood, Plexiglass and Lucite

A vast range of color, including colors from neutral to bold, and a graphic use of black and white.

Mid-Century Modern Designers

There are several Mid-century Modern designers of note, and pieces designed by them have continued to inspire designers who came after them. Furniture pieces inspired by their designs, as well as copies are greatly sought after.

In America, Herman Miller became synonymous with “modern” furniture, and worked with the likes of George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames. Knoll is another company known for its classic furniture mid-century modern pieces.

Below are some of the best known designers of this period. This is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • George Nelson
  • Edward Wormley
  • Eero Saarinen
  • Harry Bertoia
  • Arne Jacobsen
  • Charles Eames and his wife Ray Eames
  • Eileen Gray
  • Isamu Noguchi
  • Verner Panton
  • Jens Risom
  • Alexander Girard

How to Furnish in Mid-Century Modern Style

As with any period, don't feel a compulsion to create a replica of those times. You can, if you feel compelled, but many of our clients feel intimidated when tackling a style they love. It can also prove to be very expensive to get authentic pieces, even though many are still being made or have been revived due to demand.

Understand the distinguishing features of the style, and find pieces that echo that. Iconic pieces from this era have been adapted and copied endlessly, and chances are that you might be able to find pieces that fit your lifestyle needs and budget, even if you don't want to spend a fortune on furniture.

Buying vintage furniture is one way to do it, and even if you decide to buy new, generally one large piece can set the tone nicely. Build around it. It does not have to be a set, but avoid too many patterns and stay within a color range, especially for wood.

Rugs & Decor

Identifying mid-century patterns is critical when picking the right rug and decor. As the harbinger of the modern design movement, mid-century modern loved asymmetrical, abstract patterns. Typically, pure mid-century design does not use rustic elements such as unfinished wood or aged metal, but don’t shy away from breaking the rule if you feel creative.

Feel free to use rugs and decor with just a solid color – or even patterns that are not from the 50s or 60s. Be creative and use your judgement to identify what fits with your mid-century pieces.

Lighting Tips & Ideas

Mid-century floor lamps and table lamps feature either very straight, geometric lines or round, curved contour. The very contrasting shapes offer a very bold position for lighting in your room. Mostly made of finished metal, but sometimes with wood legs. A popular mid-century ceiling lamp design sees exposed bulbs on straight rods radiating out of a center, though various options are available.

Selecting Paint Colors

Selecting colors is always an important step to planning your interior, since it leads your furniture and decor selection. Mid-century colors tend to combine darker neutral tones with saturated accent colors.

We're available to help you create the home you've always imagined

Interior Design lights us up! We love creating unique interiors. We've had so much fun sharing some of our favorite styles with you. Let's chat about your project. Be sure to check out our website to learn more about Design with Distinction. We invite you view our portfolio (lots of beautiful & inspiring photos of our work).

Reach us at: 602-376-5326

We can't wait to meet you!

Wishing you blessings and joy,








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modern home interior - modern home interior
Nice post.

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