How to copy the mid-century modern design | homify

How to copy the mid-century modern design

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Birdham West Sussex niche pr Eclectic style corridor, hallway & stairs Copper/Bronze/Brass Orange
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Question: What style known for its clean, uncomplicated and elegant look is just as fresh and trendy today as it was half a century ago? Answer: The mid-century design, of course! And with its organic shapes, tapered legs and natural materials expertly styling up any space (from a living room and hallway straight to a bedroom), we are not surprised at all.

The mid-century modern design emerged as a trendy style after WWII. Flaunting that ‘golden era’ look that was so popular mid-1930s and mid-1960s, this is so much more than just a sought-after interior design style for furniture and décor – the term also refers to architecture, art, and literature. 

Nowadays, the rules for a mid-century look are somewhat relaxed, as anything from a Danish sideboard (in wood, obviously) to a retro-styled potter for your plants can pass. However, one must still take note of a few guidelines to expertly copy this style in one’s home. After all, not only has it been filtering through the works of 21st-century designers, but it has also achieved cult-like status with design lovers everywhere.

Fortunately, homify is here to point you in the right (stylish) direction…  

1. Mid-century modern design: What’s its inspirations and characteristics?

mid century inspired entrance hall niche pr Eclectic style corridor, hallway & stairs Copper/Bronze/Brass Orange
niche pr

mid century inspired entrance hall

niche pr

The mid-century modern style grew out of early 20th-century Modernism, including the International and Bauhaus movements. But it was the new technologies, materials and a pristine prosperity after World War II that allowed this new style to really take off. 

And let’s not forget that during that time there was a big migration to urban areas, with people moving to smaller living spaces, which also helped shape this style. 

If there are a few choice characteristics we can use to describe mid-century modern design, it’s:

• Organic

• Simple form

• Emphasis on function

• Democratic (as in designed for everybody). 

2. How do you know a piece is mid-century?

Finsbury Sofa Assemblyroom Living roomSofas & armchairs

Finsbury Sofa


Although mid-century furniture pieces are known for being simplistic and showing off fine craftsmanship, identifying a chair or table isn’t always that easy. However, there are certain clues which always jump out, such as peg legs or hardware.

The country of manufacture can also help, as America, Denmark, Italy, Japan and Yugoslavia often produce authentic mid-century designs. 

Always do your research and window-shop around before you make any huge investments. 

3. How do we use mid-century modern furniture?

sitting room niche pr Scandinavian style living room Wood Black
niche pr

sitting room

niche pr

Looking to incorporate some mid-century pieces into your home for the first time? Instead of just blindly shopping around until something pops out, start with the piece which is lacking in the room, like a cocktail table or armchair. 

Look for a mid-century modern piece which works with your existing space, as you don’t want that one new chair or table to become too prominent. Then build your space piece by piece. Interestingly, the most important mid-century modern elements which can make or break a room include a credenza, arm chair, or a good lamp.

Part of what makes the mid-century modern design so functional is that it can blend really well with other styles, like minimalism or modern. 

4. Mid-century modern design: Is wood good?

Mid Century Sideboards Cambrewood

Mid Century Sideboards


Don’t think that just because you’re eyeing a gorgeous credenza that’s not solid wood that it’s out of the question. In fact, so many pieces are actually made of wood veneer and not solid wood, yet it doesn’t do anything to distract from the overall look and feel of a space. Veneer is also the reason why so many pieces have lasted as long as they have, as they’re made for function.

homify hint: As mid-century modern designs are about simplicity, it makes sense that this style harbours a strong link with nature. Thus, in terms of materials, try and focus on items made from natural materials like wood, metal and leather or cotton textiles. And always include a touch of Mother Nature via greenery. 

5. Mid-century modern design: What furniture colours to choose

Albers Cushion Niki Jones Living roomAccessories & decoration
Niki Jones

Albers Cushion

Niki Jones

As the mid-century modern style had a traditional colour palette of bright hues in the 1950s and earthy tones in the 1960s, many different shades can work for a modern-day design. But if you’re not gutsy enough to go for pops of cherry red or olive upholstery, muted colours and pastels can be equally amazing. 

Just remember: neutral colours are timeless and will never be considered out of fashion! 

homify hint: By all means get creative with shades like blueberry or apple red, just don’t mix multiple loud colours like they did in that time period. This can result in a space that looks more outdated than retro-inspired. Rather focus on one colourful statement piece (a dashing armchair, for instance) that stands out from the more neutral tones surrounding it. 

6. How to complete a mid-century modern space

Mid Century Eclectic Pfeiffer Design Ltd Eclectic style dining room
Pfeiffer Design Ltd

Mid Century Eclectic

Pfeiffer Design Ltd

Accessories, accessories, accessories! Just remember that the end look of your mid-century modern space must be completely devoid of clutter – leave out only what you truly need in terms of décor.

Some good things to include (yet not overkill on) are potted plants, floor pillows, and candlestick holders. And a clever way to keep your space from looking too rigid is by incorporating furniture of different heights. Never let anything be too high or too low; get creative by combining it! How about a low sofa with a low coffee table that contrast from a high-rise arc lamp? 

From one timeless design to another, let’s discover The homify guide to Scandinavian style interiors.  

What are your thoughts on the mid-century modern design?

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