Creating a Contemporary, Mid-Century Modern Look at Home

It’s the style that everyone wants today. It’s everywhere. It’s fun and quirky, vintage yet modern, and shockingly very comfortable despite the small-scale of many mid-century modern pieces.

Mid-century. The middle of the century. 1900 to 1999. So, 1930s to ’60s-ish. Take yourself back in time. Let’s picture ourselves in some of these adorable settings for a moment.


Flickr: Creative Commons


Flickr: Creative Commons


Flickr: Creative Commons

Cute, right!?

Chill out on the davenport, kick back in your polyester threads, and watch the old boob tube. That’s what life looked like back then.

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Most important thing to remember about that last sentence: “back then.” It’s pretty obvious that those families’ take on “modern” is fairly relative. Back in 1952, that room wasn’t mid-century modern; it was just called modern.

Now that mid-century modern is making a comeback, it is important to remember to style it 2014 modern, not 1952 modern.

How do we avoid looking like you live in a museum display instead of a very stylish, contemporary home? How do we make sure people don’t mistake your living room for the set of “Mad Men“? How do we ensure your guests don’t think they stepped off a time machine and through your front door? You get the point. Simple. Just don’t reenact this exact setting. Mid-century modern is simply a nod to the classic mid-century style.

So in those pictures there are some elements of each that are carried out in today’s modern version.

Let’s take that first picture. OK, keep that rug. I love that rug. In fact keep the chair and the sofa too! And even the brick fireplace!

OK, now just change the floor under the rug to a light, handscraped hardwood. Remove the drapery and reveal an entire wall of tall windows, the kind that open from the bottom out with a crank, and black window panes. Paint your walls a fresh crisp white. Reupholster the sofa in a deep magenta wool blend fabric. Replace the coffee table with something stocky and metal, and get a few stumps as end tables instead of the ones there.

Add huge, Scandinavian-inspired art to the walls right and left of the fireplace — incorporating the red, magenta, and some gold and burnt orange as well. Pile on some bohemian pillows with the same bold mix of colors too. Toss that lamp and get a cool metallic throwback swag light instead, hanging in the corner. And maybe even an apothecary floor lamp. Now the room is definitely still an homage to mid-century times but brought into current-day design.

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Whichever aspect of mid-century that you love — the color palette, the classic lines of the furniture, the texture of the rugs and textiles, the retro patterns, the shape of the tapered legs or the comfort of the well-designed seat — just figure that out and don’t incorporate all of it together.

I’m a huge fan of this aesthetic, especially for contemporary apartments. The nature of this design is apartment-sized already, and with a mid-century thread throughout your home, the style can be redirected in so many different ways personal to you. You can choose whatever colors you like and incorporate any other style you like too.

Plus, stores all over the place are highlighting mid-century modern right now. West Elm, Crate and Barrel and IKEA to name a few!

So think of these tips while you’re searching for your next apartment. It’s always good to have a plan in design! Thank you Apartment Showcase!

Teri Clar

Teri Clar

Teri is a interior designer, entrepreneur, and a writer in Washington DC area.

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