Share your love!

What is Mid-Century Modern Design?

Design a Mid-Century Modern Bedroom

Shop this look at Havenly

What is Mid-Century Modern Design?

Meet the Author and Your Future Designer: Julio Arco is a passionate architect with years of experience in architecture, interior design, urban design, and housing. He studied at prestigious universities across North America and Europe. 


If you’re looking to decorate your home in a Mid-century Modern style, hire me or my colleagues to help you. Our collaboration will be a seamless online process, from idea boards to detailed layouts, renderings, and a curated shopping listClick here to learn more and work with me with 25% off! Learn more About Me, or visit my Portfolio

What is Mid-Century Modern Design?

Mid-century Interior Design – Introduction Video

Like what you see? Check out my Portfolio & work with me or any Havenly designer, & spruce up your home with Havenly, the platform that has revolutionized online interior design since 2013! Offering online interior design services & home decor from the best online interior designers at an affordable price! Take 25% off your first design TODAY!

Mid-century modern refers to the decades after World War II, starting in the 1940s and continuing into the late 1960s. Hence it is a style of the 20th century. It was a moment of unprecedented population growth and prosperity in the real estate market throughout North America.

After World War II ended, many young families purchased their first houses. They furnished them with modern furnishings and architectural characteristics that represented the optimism of the time. This led to the rapid expansion of the suburbs.

The resultant style, now often known as the midcentury modern style, is hard to ignore. The style first came into vogue in the aftermath of World War II, when a new generation of architects and designers sought to break away from the traditional styles that had dominated the field for centuries.

The resulting buildings were characterized by clean lines, spacious interiors, and a heavy emphasis on functionality. In many ways, they were a radical departure from the ornate, Precisionist-style houses that had been popular in the early 20th century.

However, their simplicity and lack of fussiness quickly won them a loyal following among families who were looking for more efficient and comfortable homes. The style eventually spread beyond North America and can now be found in countries all over the world.

Thanks to its timeless appeal, midcentury modern architecture shows no signs of going out of fashion any time soon.

Identifying Mid-Century Style Furniture by These Traits

The style is characterized by clean lines, minimalism, and a focus on functionality. Midcentury modern designs are often considered to be ahead of their time, and they continue to be popular today.

Many mid-century modern items are considered to be classics, and they are often used in public spaces like restaurants and hotels. Suppose you’re interested in learning more about this style of design. In that case, the best way to do so is to look at images of it or to experience it firsthand.

Today, builders and architects are using new forms and materials to create mid-century modern designs that meet the needs and desires of contemporary purchasers. Designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen, George Nelson, and Harry Bertoia created some of the most iconic midcentury modern furniture and lighting.

Today, builders and architects are using new forms and materials to create mid-century modern designs that meet the needs and desires of contemporary purchasers.

What is Mid-Century Modern Design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

The aesthetic of the mid-century is subtle.

The mid-century aesthetic is often thought of as being minimalist and modern. However, there is also a subtlety to be found in many mid-century designs. This can be seen in the way that furniture was often designed with clean lines and simple silhouettes.

There was a focus on functionality, with an emphasis on form following function. This resulted in pieces that were both elegant and easy to use. Even the colors used during this period tended to be muted and subdued, creating a calming atmosphere.

In short, the mid-century aesthetic is one of understated elegance. It is a style that is both timeless and modern, making it perfect for today’s home.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

Designs are both organic and geometric in nature.

Organic forms can be seen in nature-inspired designs, like those found in mid-century modern architecture. This style made use of organic forms that mimicked the natural world outside the home’s many windows.

Wood, copper, and leather were all in high demand since they are made entirely of natural materials. Rooms with minimal furnishings and simple layouts were given visual interest with the use of bold patterns.

Geometric forms are often used to create a sense of order and structure. They can be found in both traditional and contemporary designs. In traditional design, symmetry is often used to create a sense of balance and harmony.

Geometric patterns are also commonly used in traditional design, as they add visual interest without being too overwhelming. In contemporary design, geometric forms are often used to create a sense of movement and energy. Abstract shapes and irregular patterns are common in contemporary design. They can add a sense of fun and playfulness to a space.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

The importance of functionality cannot be overstated according to mid-century modern style designers.

The mid-century modern style is one that heavily emphasizes functionality. This can be seen in the way that mid-century modern homes were designed. They were typically very compact, with minimalistic layouts and few extra rooms or spaces.

This was done in order to maximize efficiency and make use of every square foot of space. Additionally, midcentury modern furniture was often multifunctional. Pieces such as nesting tables or foldable chairs could be tucked away when not in use, saving space and making the most of the available storage.

Even today, the emphasis on functionality remains strong in mid-century modern design. Homes are still designed with simplicity and efficiency in mind, and midcentury modern furniture is still highly sought after for its space-saving features.

The importance of functionality cannot be overstated – it is a key element of mid-century modern design that continues to influence contemporary styles.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

Unusual material applications for your mid-century modern home

The mid-century modern era was a time of creativity and experimentation in design. During this time, unusual materials were often used in new and innovative ways. For example, plexiglass and fiberglass began to replace traditional wood and metal frames in household furniture.

The fiberglass and plywood used to make the suit were shaped and bent to conform to the wearer’s anatomy. Relax in style on these cantilevered chairs, crafted from tubular steel and upholstered in leather strapping.

Coffee tables, end tables, and floor lamps are just some of the translucent organic designs that were sculpted from Plexiglas. This use of unusual materials helped to create a unique mid-century modern style that is still revered by many today.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

External Factors

External factors can significantly impact our lives without us even realizing it. For example, take the mid-century modern aesthetic that has been having a moment in recent years. Many people think of it as a purely American style, but the truth is that it was actually heavily influenced by Scandinavian design.

In the 1950s, there was a boom in popularity for mid-century modernism in the United States and Scandinavian design, and the two styles have influenced each other ever since. Today, you can see the impact of Scandinavian design on mid-century modernism in the warm tones, modular designs, and “futuristic” materials used in many mid-century modern homes.

Similarly, mid-century modernism has had an impact on Scandinavian design, with many Scandinavian designers embracing the darker palette favored by American mid-century modernists. External factors can therefore have a big impact on even something as seemingly innocuous as our taste in mid-century modern home decor.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

Reflected Even in the Buildings

Midcentury modern design has significantly impacted American residential architecture, reflected in the homes’ styles. This is evident in the trend toward lower roofs, greater windows, and open floor plans in newly built houses, which have been influenced by sleek, utilitarian furniture designs.

One of the most well-known mid-century examples is the Bradys’ low-roofed, split-level, stone-speckled home. However, there are also less-known examples of mid-century architecture in cinema, such as The Big Lebowski, North by Northwest, and The Graduate. Watch these videos for inspiration if you’re interested in mid-century modern design.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

A Case of the Ranch Bug

It is often believed that the popularity of multifunctional, open floor plans and low rooflines coincided with the rise of the midcentury modern aesthetic. Even still, the style’s development wasn’t that straightforward.

If you want to know where the mid-century look came from, you have to go farther back in time, namely to the 1930s, when ranch homes were popular in the western United States.

Ranch houses were popular in California because they were well-suited to the state’s farmland, deserts, and other sparsely populated regions, thanks to their low roofs and multifunctional, open floor designs (sound familiar?).

The ranch house, which was heavily inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style architecture of the early 20th century, became ingrained in the fabric of Californian culture. As more and more people moved to urban areas in the postwar years, there was a growing nostalgia for the simple tranquility of life on a ranch.

This nostalgia gave rise to the mid-century modern aesthetic that we now associate with California. Thanks to its clean lines and indoor-outdoor flow, mid-century modernism soon spread across the country and around the world, becoming one of the most enduring and popular architectural styles of all time.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

Decorating your Home in Mid-Century Modern Style

Midcentury modern style furniture is very popular because it’s comfortable, stylish, and easy to find. You can find midcentury modern style furniture at just about any furniture store, home improvement store, or even some antique store. Click here for some cool mid-century modern DIYs.

However, midcentury modern furniture can be expensive, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you start shopping. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your mid-century modern furniture shopping experience.

First, take a look at the overall style of your home. If you have a lot of midcentury modern furniture, chances are your home has a mid-century modern vibe. If you don’t want your home to feel like a museum, consider adding some other styles into the mix.

Second, think about the colors you want to use in your mid-century modern space. Midcentury modern design is often quite colorful, so if you’re not careful, you can end up with a space that feels a bit too busy.

Stick to a few key colors and use them sparingly throughout the room. Finally, remember that midcentury modern furniture is all about simplicity and functionality. Don’t overcrowd your space with too much furniture or too many accessories.

A few well-chosen pieces will create a mid-century modern look that’s both stylish and inviting. Click here to read a full article about how to design a mid-century modern room.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

What Makes Midcentury Modern So Appealing Even Now

Relocating frequently and living in smaller urban dwellings has become increasingly popular over time. As a result, sleek forms, natural curves, flexible materials, and versatile layouts that were once popular in mid-century modern design are now ideal for this way of living.

These classic designs can be seen in many modern homes and apartments today. Even though the mid-century modern trend originated over 50 years ago, these designs’ appeal remains strong.

The simple, clean lines and functionality of midcentury modern style furniture make it easy to incorporate into any home design. In addition, the variety of materials used in making these pieces makes them durable and stylish.

Whether you are looking for a new sofa or dining table, mid-century design furniture is a great option that will remain timeless for years to come.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly


There are many ways to get a mid-century design look for your home without spending a fortune. One option is to find genuine vintage pieces, but these can be hard to come by and can be quite expensive.

Another option is to look for midcentury furniture and design components that have been updated by current manufacturers with modern upholstery and materials. These pieces often have the same look as genuine vintage pieces but are more affordable.

Additionally, many midcentury modern pieces have been reproduced by mass manufacturers. These pieces are usually very affordable, but they lack the uniqueness of genuine vintage or updated pieces.

Whatever route you choose, make sure to shop for sofas, sideboards, and other furniture with rounded geometric lines and many purposes. This will help you achieve the mid-century decor look you are going for. You can find some nice mid-century modern stores here.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

The Colors

Midcentury architecture and furnishings used strong, rich colors. You may still wear these colors by pairing a bright item with darker ones. For example, a yellow home office sofa would look great with black walnut floors and a green table lamp.

The contemporary house décor features oranges, reds, yellows, greens, and teals. These colors can be used in any room of the house to create a midcentury modern feel.

Chrome floor lamps, avocado-green dining room benches, mustard yellow home office sofas, tangerine headboards, and turquoise kitchen chair cushions are all great ways to incorporate these colors into your home.

Remember that wood is also an important element of midcentury modern design. Any naturally brown, rich, and warm wood would serve for a mid-century modern interior. Black walnut’s dark tone was a favored design feature.

So if you’re looking to create a midcentury modern home, don’t forget to incorporate wood into your design scheme. You can also find out more about mid-century color palettes here.

mid century modern design

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

Methods for Decorate Your House in Midcentury Style

To decorate your home in midcentury style, start by choosing furniture with basic shapes and neutral colors. Look for pieces made of natural materials like wood or leather. Incorporate accents in bold colors to add a pop of contrast.

And don’t forget to add some greenery! Plants are an essential element of midcentury design. Choose low-maintenance options like succulents or cacti that can be placed on shelves or windowsills. Homes decorated in midcentury style are both stylish and comfortable, making them perfect for any modern home. However, if you have pets, please keep in mind that some houseplants might be toxic to pets while other houseplants are quite pet-friendly.

midcentury modern living room

By West Elm – Shop this look at Havenly

Views from the Future

In the early 21st century, historians began to take a closer look at the mid-century modern movement and its links to the Space Race. Mid-century modern was an abrupt boom in science and technology that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.

In this case, the United States and the Soviet Union were competing head-to-head to be the first to accomplish a space-related goal, successfully launching a shuttle into orbit. The American preoccupation with the future, and the science and technology linked with it, had domestic repercussions.

Everything from furniture to clothing to architecture to television series (looking at you, Jetsons!) took on a new, more futuristic identity. In recent years, there has been a resurgence in popularity for all things mid-century modern.

With its clean lines and focus on function, it’s no wonder that this style is once again becoming popular. So whether you’re looking for a new sofa or just want to add a touch of retro style to your home, don’t be afraid to go mod!

midcentury modern living room

Shop this look at Havenly

Palm Springs-inspired

Just a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, Palm Springs became a popular vacation place for stars during the golden age of Hollywood in the middle of the 20th century. A once-forgotten desert community is now among the most opulent resorts in the United States, thanks to the construction of several celebrity vacation houses there.

Everywhere you look in Palm Springs, you will see examples of the city’s enduring “mid-century enchantment,” such as famous low-roof homes, brilliant orange and brown color palettes, and delightful, 1950s-inspired, Warholesque wall art.

In recent years, Palm Springs has also become known for its lively music and film festivals and outdoor activities, such as hiking, golfing, and swimming. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, Palm Springs is sure to inspire you with its unique blend of history and modern luxury.

Design a Mid-Century Modern Living Room

Shop this look at Havenly

What is Mid-Century Modern Design – FAQ

Which major stores sell mid-century modern furniture?

West Elm, Article, Rove Concepts, among other brands, sells mid-century modern furniture. Please click here to learn where to purchase mid-century modern furniture.

What are some key interior design features to look for in mid-century modern design furniture?

Some key features to look for are sleek lines, bold shapes, natural materials, natural light, clean lines, curved shapes, futuristic shapes, and natural elements.

Which piece is the most iconic furniture from the midcentury modern era?

The most iconic piece of midcentury modern furniture is the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, designed by husband and wife design duo Charles and Ray Eames. The Lounge Chair and Ottoman are considered to be one of the most significant designs of the 20th century and are still in production today.

What is Mid-Century Modern Design?

Hire an Online Interior Designer at Havenly

There are several online interior design websites, but Havenly is your best option to hire from a robust list of interior designers that will help you in decorating and creating the perfect dog-friendly home. 

When you sign up for Havenly, you will take a short quiz about your design style and what you are looking for in a designer. Havenly will then match you with a designer who will help you select paint colors, furniture, and accessories that are both stylish and safe for your furry friend.

In addition, your Havenly designer will be able to provide tips on how to create a space that is both comfortable for your dog and inviting for guests. With Havenly, creating a beautiful and functional home that your dog will love is easy and stress-free.

Click here if you want to learn more about Havenly or book an interior designer and get 25% off your design package if you click here!

Share your love!
M.Arch. Julio Arco
M.Arch. Julio Arco

Bachelor of Architecture - ITESM University
Master of Architecture - McGill University
Architecture in Urban Context Certificate - LDM University
Interior Designer - Havenly
Architecture Professor - ITESM University

Articles: 584
Available for Amazon Prime