In the wake of World War II, a new design style emerged that is still relevant to this day: midcentury modern. At the time, it was a direct response to what was going on in the world. Homeowners were hungry for aesthetics that communicated a sleek and sophisticated future, full of possibility, color, and idealism. Midcentury modern design was the polar opposite of victory gardens and food rations people became accustomed to.
Since its beginnings in the 1940s, the look has become fairly standardized and recognizable. It's a style well-known for its space-age lighting, streamlined walnut and teak furniture, bright color palettes, geometric tile, and avant-garde artwork. Vintage pieces tend to be sought after by collectors, which usually results in a steep price tag, but luckily, there are plenty of brands offering fresh, new options with vintage flair and realistic price points.
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If you'd love to give your house a floor-to-ceiling makeover, but don't know where to start, we've got your back. Here's our how-to guide to achieving a midcentury modern refresh in every room of the house.
1. Midcentury Modern Style in the Living Room
Through your flea market, thrift store, and Craigslist quests, you've likely picked up a few midcentury furniture pieces here and there. Display your treasured decor in your living room, where a vintage coffee table and side tables will look cool and collected.
Don't be afraid to mix materials, embrace quirky architectural details, and stick to a cohesive color palette so you complement instead of overshadow your space. Track down statement midcentury lighting and complete the look with a piece of abstract artwork, as witnessed in this space perfected by Jessica Helgerson.
2. Midcentury Modern Style in the Bedroom
In the bedroom, show off futuristic light fixtures alongside your bed, stick to clean lines, and think of it as an opportunity to get big and bold with your midcentury wall art. It's also a chance to play with an accent wall that offers additional retro style.
In this sanctuary designed by Sarah Sherman Samuel, geometric accent pillows and brass articulating table lamps provide a subtle pop and help tie the other midcentury elements together.
3. Midcentury Modern Style in the Bathroom
A midcentury modern bathroom is particularly fun to design, since you'll get to hunt for the coolest tile around. Featuring geometric shapes, patterns, and oftentimes kaleidoscopic colors, choose a floor or wall tile for your bath that instantly imparts a storied feel.
In this washroom dreamed up by the team at Nyla Free Designs, a tile-clad accent wall makes a splash amid other midcentury modern accents, like globe-style wall sconces and slick vessel sinks.
4. Midcentury Modern Style in the Kitchen
The kitchen is another place where midcentury modern design really stands out. Bring together your retro-inspired look with ultramodern pendant lights, clean-lined cabinetry, swanky bar stools, and bursts of vintage wall art.
Emily Henderson styled her cook space to be the epitome of midcentury cool. With circular globe-shaped pendants and throwback counter stools, this kitchen looks as if it was transported from the 1950s, with elements of 21st century style thrown in for good measure.
5. Midcentury Modern Style in the Dining Room
Midcentury modern design is a chic choice for any room but tends to shine brightest in dining rooms. It's where the best-of-the-best aspects of the style come together in one space, marked by strong lines, atomic-inspired accents, vintage dining chairs, and accompanying innovative artwork.
To carry out the look in your own dining room, start with a table in walnut or teak, like the custom piece in this dining room designed by Natalie of Veneer Designs. It pairs perfectly with the black Eames chairs and mod lighting overhead.
6. Midcentury Modern Decorative Objects
Collecting midcentury decorative objects can truly be a delight, especially when you peruse flea markets and antique stores for authentic pieces to add to your home. When you're on the hunt, look for organic silhouettes.
You should also be on the lookout for artistic teak animals (like birds and horses), Brutalist art (metal sculptural pieces you've likely seen on Mad Men), fiber wall hangings, and ceramic table lamps.
Where to Shop for Midcentury Modern Decor:
Now that you're inspired to build your midcentury modern decor collection, it's time to get shopping! You can choose to purchase new pieces, commit to solely vintage items, or display a mix of both in your home. Here are our favorite destinations for midcentury furniture, lighting, and decor.
1. Article: Simple. Classy. Fair pricing. What's not to love?
2. Joybird: Warning: Upon visiting this online retailer, you might think that you've gone back in time. Every midcentury-inspired piece is handcrafted with beautiful attention to detail.
3. CB2: If you'd rather see your decor before you purchase it, swing by your local CB2 for a quick inspection. The wide range of home goods you'll find are a perfect blend of modern meets midcentury.
4. 1stDibs: And if antique treasures and vintage gems are more your jam, this is the place to be.
5. Craigslist: Last, but not least, if you're looking for a real vintage steal you just can't beat Craigslist.