Mid century interior design - How and why? | byBESPOEK (2023)

Mid century modern interior design and MCM furniture

Mid century modern design – this phrase is something you must have encountered countless of times if you have any interest in décor. From laymen to professionals and experts in the field of interior design and from magazine covers to internet webpages, MCM style has been praised time and time again for being one of the most influential design styles in modern history that features an aesthetic that looks just as elegant, innovative and sleek as it did back in the 1950s when it first started taking shape.

  • One of the most influential design movements of the 20th century
  • Global impact
  • Timeless appeal
  • Simple elegance
  • Functionality and style without clutter

But, what exactly is mid century modern design? What are its features and what makes it so widely appreciated by the global audiences? In this article, we hope to answer some of these questions and provide you with a deeper understanding of this revolutionary movement in history of décor and interior design.

Mid century interior design - How and why? | byBESPOEK (1)

What is mid century interior design?

As the name implies, mid century style is a specific movement in interior design that relies on the postulates developed and furniture pieces designed in the 1950s. However, there are several things that we have to tackle before we can be completely satisfied with this definition.

For starters, we can say that mid century style isn’t always as mid century as we are led to believe. In fact, many of the core interior design elements featured in this approach have been designed at various different points in time. To name just a few examples, we can mention Poul Henningsen’s lamps and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair and daybed – both collections have been praised as quintessential examples of MCM furniture, despite the fact that both have been designed decades prior to the 1950s.

  • A continuation of early 20th century Modernism
  • Rooted in 20th century changes and sensibilities
  • A reaction against the décor of previous eras
  • Innovative yet rooted in history and inspired by nature

Of course, these collections are exceptions rather than the rule, but they still showcase an important note, namely the fact that MCM style didn’t appear out of nowhere, but is a continuation of design philosophy that was taking shape in the preceding decades and in other design movements.

What makes up the mid century style?

When talking about MCM style elements, we most commonly think of mid century modern furniture (MCM furniture), but also other décor accessories such as mid century modern art, light fixtures, throws and other decorative elements. But even more importantly, MCM style can be understood by the way that these different elements are combined and brought together in an interior. Most of spaces decorated in mid century modern style combine the minimalist, yet elegant and highly functional furniture designed during the 1950s, natural and subtle tones that gained popularity in the 1960s and the uniquely subtle, yet inviting aesthetic of the Scandinavian design.

(Video) The story behind the Wishbone chair, a Danish design classic by Hans J Wegner

So-called golden age of Scandinavian design spanned the 1950s decade, thus significantly overlapping with the development of the characteristic style in the rest of the world. The two significantly influenced each other which is why it is not uncommon to come across references to Scandinavian mid century interior design which includes both of these deeply interconnected décor movements.

What shaped mid century modern design ideas?

The best way to grasp the elusive essence of MCM style is to start thinking about the lifestyle changes of the 1950s that served as a catalyst for the emergence of this unique design movement. So, on one hand we have Modernism with its affection for new material and industrial processes, on the other we have Bauhaus with its form-follows-function approach and the simultaneously emerging International style with its reluctance towards tradition and affection for experimentation and innovation.

  • Influenced by German Bauhaus
  • Continuation of early Modernist design
  • Intertwined with Scandinavian design
  • Form follows function

Combine these stylistic influences with the increased prosperity of an individual and the migration from rural into urban environments and you can already sense the spirit of new opportunities and newfound post-war optimism that profoundly shaped the mid century interior design.

(Video) Ch24 Wishbone Chair - The Facts About Wishbone Chair you Need to Know.

Mid century interior design - How and why? | byBESPOEK (3)

Mid century modern color scheme

The interior design style we refer to as mid century modern did borrow some of the fondness for earthy and green tones, but what profoundly shaped its preferred color scheme is undoubtedly Scandinavian style. With subtle color palette revolving around neutral natural colors and pastels with more vivid accents, mid century modern interior design perfectly exemplifies the idea of elegant simplicity.

  • Natural colors
  • Earthy tones
  • Pastels
  • Subtle expression
  • Vivid and saturated accents
  • Textures and patterns

In more ways than one, mid century modern interior design was a kind of reaction against the aesthetics of the previous eras. In MCM, you will find no gilt-glamour and decadence with excessive ornaments and details creating an aura of clutter. On the contrary, mid century style is all about simplicity, openness of space with its streamlined expression and embracing of form-follows-function mantra.

The preferred color palettes of mid century modern art and décor perfectly exemplify this by relying on subtle color expression that don’t tire the eye, while using bright and vivid accents to emphasize what really matters. As opposed to previous eras, mid century modern is all about balance, subtlety and simple elegance.

Mid century modern furniture

Arguably the most recognizable, most famous and most central element of mid century modern style is the characteristic furniture developed during this era. With organic shapes and forms whose unique and elegant aesthetic stems from simplicity, but also exquisite fine craftsmanship without which much of those designs would be impossible. With contributors from all over the world, mid century modern furniture design remains tightly connected to European traditions of Scandinavian design, German Bauhaus, but also worldwide trends of Modernism and International style.

  • Functional and stylish
  • Streamlined
  • Organic shapes and forms
  • Masterful craftsmanship
  • Flowing lines

Some of the most influential furniture designers of the period are big names of furniture design such as Arne Jacobsen, Poul Henningsen, Eero Aarnio, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia – mid century furniture designers who used their flair for innovation and their exceptional talent to create modern and functional furniture that is nevertheless rich in aesthetical expression and stylistic value.

Mid century interior design - How and why? | byBESPOEK (4)

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Mid century modern art

What better way to make your home a truly unique expression of your personality than with some cleverly chosen art pieces that reflect your taste and sensibility. Despite its somewhat stripped down and streamlined aesthetic, mid century style is no stranger to art. However, it does have somewhat different attitude to it than in the previous eras.

Mid century modern decorating ideas often include certain art pieces of various kinds. The diversity of their forms is an especially important point here so you are encouraged to think out of the box.

  • Pop art paintings
  • Wall art crafted out of wood, glass or metal
  • Wall patterns and prints
  • Modernist sculptures
  • Throws, blankets, sheepskins and other accessories

When it comes to paintings (and pretty much anything you can put in a frame and hang on a wall), mid century style isn’t big on hyperrealism (although it can definitely work) or dark detail-heavy traditional paintings that were quintessential element of the preceding baroque-inspired interior design style. On the contrary, MCM style focuses on contemporary pop art. Just think of Andy Warhol or Jackson Pollock.

But, you can just as easily go for other art forms. Wall art crafted out of wood, glass or metal was exceptionally popular during the 1950s, so these works can definitely find their place in contemporary spaces decorated in mid century modern style. Many of these come with a certain DIY aesthetic and elements borrowed from the iconography of the space age and brutalism, while others play with kitschy vibe and modernist representations of ordinary objects or very often animals and plants. This same approach can be found in different sculptures such as those designed by Harry Bertoia and these are definitely very popular and can be great additions to your stylish home.

(Video) Hans Wegner Wishbone Chair | Mid Century Modern Furniture

Mid century modern decorating ideas

But, how can you tie all these different mid century modern interior design elements in a coherent whole? This is the main consideration of this style and even if your furniture and color choices are flawless and you got your hands on the most iconic mid century modern art pieces, this is no guarantee that your home will be transformed into a mid century modern house interior in no time.

Most of the expert interior designers specializing in mid century modern style agree that with this approach to décor you can use any place and any element as a starting point. So, you can begin with any piece of furniture that you need and then continue working around it. If it is a chair, sofa or a table, getting your hands on something with wooden legs is always a good option, as natural vibe that stems from the use of wood is something that is a must in any mid century modern home interior. These can be matched with the wooden floors and window frames to round up the flow.

  • Use of wood and natural materials
  • Open spaces without clutter
  • Brightness
  • No unnecessary ornaments, focus on functionality and simple elegance
  • Creative use of lighting

Streamlined, simple, yet elegant furniture is a must and this is a topic for itself that we have tackled in depth at various places on our website. Another furnishing detail you should keep in mind is lighting. Mid century period played a crucial role in shaping what is thought of as contemporary lighting, so choosing your mid century modern style lamps is also something that should be high on your list of priorities.

Mid century modern furniture for sale

Due to its timeless elegance and unwavering popularity, you can easily buy mid century modern furniture in various shops, online stores and auctions. Many of the original manufacturers are still in business, decades after their brand names became famous, and auctioneers just love offering some of the truly vintage, well-aged designs to their customers. But, on the other hand, both of these options can end up with a significant hit on your valet. So if you want to avoid that, you might be interested in looking for mid century reproduction furniture which is often available at a significantly lower price.

However, when going down this road, you have to be careful and do all you can to avoid low-quality replicas and cheap knock-offs. You should always make sure you are getting your mid century replica furniture from a trusted expert in the field. Here at byBESPOEK, we strive to offer our customer premium reproductions of the most iconic mid century modern designer furniture. Not only do we pay special attention that our reproductions match the originals in every detail, but we also utilize the cutting-edge industrial processes and most up-to-date advancements in the industry to ensure quality that will last for decades to come.


Why was mid-century design so good? ›

Midcentury pieces are simply well-designed objects, with a timeless look, says Sotheby's Holdeman. "[Midcentury modern designs] sit very well in contemporary homes and interiors—they still feel fresh today, they still feel modern. A lot of those pieces haven't been bettered. They still stand the test of time."

What is mid-century interior design? ›

Elements of mid-century modern interior design include clean lines, muted tones, a combination of natural and manmade materials, graphic shapes, vibrant colors, and integrating indoor and outdoor motifs.

What was an important interior design focus of mid-century modernism? ›

Mid-century modern style focuses on clean lines with a mix of both organic and geometric shapes. Simplicity rules, and some of the most basic mid-century modern furntiure pieces like coffee tables and chairs are often the most beautiful.

What makes mid-century modern unique? ›

"Midcentury modern design is rooted in functionality, clean lines, and simplicity, which reflected the world at that time," designer Amanda Thompson explains. "Homes were more linear, focused on maintaining a nuclear family unit and as such, the furniture design echoed this environment."

What makes a house mid-century? ›

Mid-century modern architecture was a twentieth-century architectural style characterized by clean lines, muted curves, a lack of ornamentation, large windows, interior design based in functionality, and open floor plans intent on making indoor and outdoor living spaces complement each other.

What is the appeal of mid-century modern? ›


The simple shapes, clean lines, lack of ornamentation, creative use of materials, bold colours and functional design of this era are all reasons to love this furniture. The now classic shapes seem to work in almost any setting, making them highly versatile – another great feature.

How do you know if something is mid-century modern? ›

"Mid-Century Modern is marked by clean, simple and sleek lines, functionality, and a minimalist aesthetic," says Blazona. Moiseoff adds, "Its enduring popularity has a lot to do with its simplicity. It's clean and simple without being boring. It's eye-catching without being frenetic or fussy."

What style is mid-century? ›

What is midcentury design? The movement spanned from about 1933 to 1965 and included architecture as well as industrial, interior, and graphic design. Designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, Arne Jacobsen, and George Nelson created iconic furniture and lighting that are still highly coveted.

What are mid-century modern colors? ›

Ochre, orange, brown and mustard yellow are all classic midcentury modern paint colors. Whether paired with other colors or used for a clean, monochromatic look, these earthy hues reflect the handcrafted, organic nature of midcentury modern design.

What's the difference between mid century and mid-century modern? ›

Mid-century and Mid-century modern are often used interchangeably in the interior design world, however, there is a slight difference. Mid-century modern refers to the movement that became popular post World War Two in 1945, while Mid-century is a style that developed earlier in the 1930s.

What is the difference between modern and mid-century modern? ›

Mid-century modern is considered modern design because it still values function over form, but it adds its own unique twist. Mid-century modern uses dynamic decorative accents, unlike more traditional modern design, which favors keeping decorative items to a minimum.

What shapes are mid-century modern? ›

Geometric patterns are prevalent in mid-century modern design, and curved, clean lines are the star of the show when it comes to furniture shapes - angular chairs with some curves, tulip tables, long and low couches. Mid-century furniture legs are often tapered and splayed. Hairpin legs are common, too.

What materials are used in mid-century modern? ›

In mid-century modern interior design, the materials used are wood, metal, vinyl, glass, and plywood. Mid-century style is all about large shapes, patterns, and strong textures. The colors used can be neutral to gold or graphic, like black and white.

How do you mix mid-century modern and traditional? ›

Layer with art and lighting

Modern lighting and art can help you incorporate more traditionally styled pieces into a modern interior. A contemporary light sitting on an antique desk for example, can make a dynamic combination. A vintage dresser with a modern painting hung above will help the two styles come together.

What influenced mid-century modern design? ›

While Frank Lloyd Wright was arguably the most notable figure of mid-century modern style in terms of crafting commercial and private structures, he was certainly influenced by others, including the Bauhaus movement and the works of Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.

What makes a mid century kitchen? ›

Flat-front cabinets and plenty of wood are solid indicators of midcentury modern style, but the addition of a jungle-like color palette and plants makes it feel super down to earth. It's a stunning example of how you can soften up the often harsher, sleeker lines of this particular trend with a few small changes.

What do Mid-Century homes look like? ›

Mid-century modern homes are characterized by very wide, low footprints with large, open spaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an emphasis on bringing the outdoors in. Although mid-century modern architecture boomed all across America from 1945 to 1969, it's seen a major resurgence in recent years.

Is mid-century modern out of style? ›

Mid-century modern design never really went out of style, but its resurgence in popularity can be explained by its timeless yet modern aesthetic.

Why are mid-century modern homes popular? ›

Midcentury-modern's appeal is simple: It fits the SoCal lifestyle. As World War II ended, advances in manufacturing, easing of wartime austerity and pent-up creativity among builders and architects led to a design explosion with its ground zero in Southern California: Midcentury Modern.

When was mid-century design popular? ›

Mid-century modern (MCM) is an American design movement in interior, product, graphic design, architecture, and urban development that was popular from roughly 1945 to 1969, during the United States's post–World War II period.

Is midcentury timeless? ›

MC: The mid-century modern design aesthetic is considered one of the classics. Popular from the 1930s through the 1960s, it has timeless appeal and is instantly recognizable with its contemporary – almost futuristic – characteristics.

When did mid-century modern became popular? ›

In 1998 The New York Times noted a resurgence in a design style they dubbed “Mid-Century Modern,” the industrial, futuristic design style of the 1950's and 60's that originally signified optimism and a shift away from more traditional decorating styles.

What styles go well with mid century modern? ›

Use Abstract and Graphic Patterns. "Midcentury designers used playful, graphic prints in textiles and wallpaper with bold shapes, bright colors, and endless geometric combinations," Myers says.

How can you tell if a dresser is a mid century? ›

Mid century furniture is characterised by clean lines, open sides and classic shapes. If a piece looks ornate or has what feels like extraneous details then treat it with caution. Mid century furniture is often crafted from solid woods, notably teak, elm, beech and rosewood.

What is mid century furniture made of? ›

For mid-century designers, materials were used for their own distinct, even deliberately artificial qualities and never to imitate the groove of wood or marble. They embraced relatively new materials like metal, glass, vinyl, and plywood, offsetting these with wood to create novel, exciting juxtapositions.

Is Danish furniture mid-century modern? ›

Danish modern is a style of minimalist houseware and furniture, related to the Danish design movement. It is often associated with the term "Mid Century Modern." Danish & Mid-Century pieces are still coveted today, more than a half century past the heyday.

Who invented mid-century modern? ›

The father of mid-century modern design, George Nelson created the iconic Bubble Lamp amongst many … A pioneer of American modernism, George Nelson was a renaissance man of his time.

What is the difference between mid century and mid-century modern? ›

Mid-century and Mid-century modern are often used interchangeably in the interior design world, however, there is a slight difference. Mid-century modern refers to the movement that became popular post World War Two in 1945, while Mid-century is a style that developed earlier in the 1930s.

What colors are mid-century modern? ›

The Craft of Midcentury Modern Design

Ochre, orange, brown and mustard yellow are all classic midcentury modern paint colors. Whether paired with other colors or used for a clean, monochromatic look, these earthy hues reflect the handcrafted, organic nature of midcentury modern design.

What wood is used in mid century furniture? ›

“The most popular types of wood in the midcentury were old growth teak and American black walnut,” says Ben. As a U.S.-based manufacturer, Copeland Furniture sources locally as part of their business model and relies on the American black walnut to recreate their midcentury designs.


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