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Home Décor for the Midcentury Modern Enthusiast

Midcentury Modern home renovation by Ashley & Sarah Kendrick

What is Midcentury Modern?

Midcentury Modern is a design movement with an iconic hold. The art, furniture and architecture of the Midcentury Modern style originated in America in the 50’s and 60’s – an aesthetic that was greatly influenced by the German Bauhaus design of the 20’s and 30’s, as well as the Danish Modernist style through the 40-60’s.

Eames dining chair: black leather, wood

Midcentury Modern architecture seeks to integrate the home with nature; with an affinity for large windows, earth-inspired materials like wood and stone, and open floor plans that fill the house with natural light. Sharp, clean exterior lines and gentle slopes allow Midcentury Modern buildings to show off futuristic and geometric shapes.

Then, indoors, this design aesthetic continues to timelessly blend natural light, earthy materials, and bold art pieces. Furniture is often an effortless pairing of woods and glassware; the pieces themselves feature straight lines and geometric shapes. Décor is simple but tastefully bold: a large vase, a space-age chandelier, and bright, abstract art pieces. The art tends to combine neutral tones with bright hues, clean lines with playful shapes, and pastel colors with neons.  (Click to learn more about Midcentury Modern architecture or Midcentury Modern Art pieces.)

Are you looking to bring this aesthetic into your home? Following is a sampling of a variety of iconic Midcentury furnishings and décor that just might have a place in your own home or office space.

White leather Barcelona chair.

Midcentury Modern Meets Minimalism

Midcentury Modern embraces a minimalist style: simple, clean, practical, natural and inspirational. Decluttering your space can be freeing and can change focal points in a room – or an entire home. And, less clutter tends to free up time to do the things you love, and helps you better appreciate the meaningful items you keep. Organize your space according to purpose and optimize their usefulness. Midcentury Modern design highlights clean lines – so bookshelves, countertops, and end tables should be as free from clutter as possible. Once you’ve rid your home of any unneeded clutter, then it’s time to decorate with meaningful, inspirational pieces that bring simple and artistic beauty to your home.

Midcentury Modern Furniture

White leather Nelson “Marshmallow” sofa.

Furniture pieces from this iconic era are truly timeless. They pair well with multiple styles of décor and enhance most any space. Midcentury furniture features clean lines, varnished wood, rich leather and often glass, mixed with bold and abstract design elements.

Try classy and comfortable like stuffed le Corbusier leather and metal arm chairs – or the simple elegance of iconic Barcelona chairs. The Eames lounge and ottoman chair set is another well-recognized Midcentury furniture staple, as are a variety of Eames side and dining chairs.

Marilyn Lips sofa and Pierre Paulin Tongue chairs paired with white revolving & nesting Grant coffee table.

Searching for something a little more playful? Opt for a head-in-the-clouds – yet impossibly irresistible – Nelson “Marshmallow” sofa, made in classic white and a wide variety of other bold colors.  Searching for an even more striking conversation piece? Aim for something a bit flashier like Pierre Paulin inspired “Tongue” chairs  – or a striking Franco Audrito “Marilyn” lips couch (spotted scene-stealing recently in Lady Gaga’s period film, “House of Gucci”).

Coffee tables are another major category for Midcentury Modern-inspired décor. A perennial favorite is the Noguchi kidney-shaped coffee table with its glass top and three polished,  interwoven wooden legs.

George Nakashima Table

George Nakashima redwood & walnut coffee table.

Other notable mentions include George Nakashima coffee tables – literally crafted from a horizontal slice of a tree trunk, with all of the rough edges left intact and varnished to a clear sheen. Midcentury coffee tables and side tables come in a wide variety are easy to incorporate with most any existing furniture in your home. Additional uncomplicated assimilation of Midcentury Modern style is the addition of tiered wooden corner shelving in a living room or bedroom.

Midcentury Lighting and Bedroom Décor

Wooden Headboards make great Midcentury Modern statement pieces.

Adding midcentury armchairs or couches to your living room can dramatically affect your home’s overall aesthetic. However, if you don’t have the budget for large scale or original Midcentury Modern pieces, there are a wide variety of reproductions available – and a host of other mid-century inspired pieces that share the same aesthetic at a more approachable price point.

One simple way to lean into midcentury on a budget is to add natural wood items to your home – like stands for houseplants or even a wooden headboard. Can’t afford a built-in Midcentury bar, or perhaps you don’t have the space? Not to worry. Just add a glass Midcentury Modern-styled bar cart – there are dozens available online.

Seth Smith piece in the Kendricks’ own home

Get creative with mirrors, prints and paintings! Pick one or two jazzy abstract pieces that add color without overwhelming the space. While creative and decorative, the overall feel should remain clean, organized, and natural with room to breathe.

Several artists (including local artists Seth Smith) feature Midcentury Modern-inspired references in art you can purchase for your home – featuring architectural icons such as homes with kidney-shaped swimming pools and roadside hotels from the 50’s and 60’s and almost anything highlighting architecture from Midcentury mecca, Palm Springs. The Kendricks even feature one of  Seth Smith’s works in their own home.

Lighting is essential to Midcentury Modern style

Midcentury clocks often posses playful and often space-age characteristics. From funky star shapes to sundial-reminiscent structures, a bold yet useful analog clock is both practical and artistic, lending well to the Midcentury Modern mantra.

For lighting, consider your light fixtures to be your own personal art gallery. So, implement sculptural chandeliers and dramatic geometric lamp shapes. One popular, futuristic space-age piece is the “Sputnik” chandelier – with reproductions widely available online.

Space-age influenced “Sputnik” chandelier.

Midcentury Modern Paint

They say a new coat of paint is like a breath of fresh air, and midcentury modern takes this truth to another level. Add new life and a sense of calm to your space with a midcentury modern paint makeover. Choose neutral, earthy tones to highlight furniture and art pieces. Then add a pop of color – try accentuating a smaller area like a behind-the-bar wall or your laundry room wall with a fun paint hue or even an abstract wallpaper. Just make sure your bold graphic design still matches your house’s aesthetic as well and furniture placement.

But, if you’re a bit timid about bold colors and attention-grabbing graphics, don’t worry! Midcentury modern pieces match almost every style, every period. Truly timeless pieces of midcentury modern furniture will look clean and classy when paired with neutral colors, organic materials and shapes, and muted accessories.

For a true Midcentury Modern mood, don’t let accessories clutter the space. Instead, implement natural tones, and emphasize a few iconic furniture pieces.

Midcentury Modern floating staircase.

Bringing Midcentury Modern Home

Are you interested in adding more midcentury pieces to your home? Perhaps you need a more open floor plan. Or, maybe you’d prefer some professional input on bringing Midcentury Modern into your home. If you’d like to integrate some elements of Midcentury Modern design into your home – or, if you’d like to purchase a true Midcentury Modern home (complete with floating staircase!), then the Kendricks have your back!

The Ashley Kendrick Real Estate team specializes in helping homeowners achieve their real estate – and interior design – dreams. It goes without saying, the Kendricks have a special fondness for the Midcentury Modern aesthetic. Contact them online to discuss your ideas for Midcentury living today or view some of their project galleries here!