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A Professional's Guide to Mid-Century Modern Interior Design

Castlery   |   Jul 24, 2023

Mid-century modern interior design has experienced a resurgence in recent years, captivating homeowners, designers, and furniture enthusiasts alike.

Known for its clean lines, minimalist aesthetic, and timeless appeal, this design style continues to inspire and transform spaces.

In this comprehensive guide, our in-house interior stylist, Adrika, dives deeper into the essence of mid-century modern interior design. She explores its key elements and shares her expert tips for creating a sophisticated and captivating living space.

For Adrika, no two homes are ever the same. With clients’ narratives always at the forefront, it’s her passion to help bring spaces to life! With a wealth of design knowledge built up over the last 8 years in the Interior Design industry, Adrika has styled thousands of homes - between Australia and Singapore!

What is mid-century modern interior design?

Mid-century modern is one of the most popular interior design styles and it has lasted the test of time. “This interior design style has shaped architecture and furniture in new and exciting ways that hadn’t been seen before,” shares Adrika.

Mid-century modernism emerged in the mid-20th century, amidst the economic boom, optimism for the future post-World War II, and modernist movements. This era brought about a wealth of new design ideas that stemmed from exploring the capabilities of materials such as steel, concrete, and newly available insulated glass.

“The introduction of mid-century modern design saw a move away from the ornate and intricate design styles that had dominated the interior design space.”

Key characteristics of mid-century modern design

Let’s take a look at some key characteristics that make this design undeniably mid-century modern:

  • Clean, simple designs: Mid-century modernism is all about curves, geometric shapes, and angles
  • Open floor plans: Accentuates the clean lines and minimalist aesthetic of the space
  • Organic forms: This design embraces organic, nature-inspired shapes and forms like curved contours and flowing lines
  • Contrasting textures and materials: Its common to see contrasting materials such as timber and metal used in mid-century modern designs
  • Innovative materials: Mid-century modern design incorporates lots of new and innovative materials like molded plastics and fiberglass
  • Floor-to-ceiling windows: This encourages a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces and allows ample light to stream in

Mid-century modern interior design styling tips

Practice minimalism

“Mid-century modern design is rooted in minimalism, so adopt a less-is-more approach,” says Adrika.

“Focus on incorporating furniture and architectural elements with clean, straight lines. Avoid ornate details and opt for simple, streamlined designs”. Think of sofas with sleek profiles, dining tables with straight edges, and dressers with minimalistic handles. The goal is to create a sense of visual clarity and simplicity.

A leather sofa with tufted seats. The Madison Leather Armchair is the perfect addition to a mid-century modern living space. Picture credits: @palmtreesandpellegrino

Embrace negative space, also known as empty or white space. Allow areas of your room to breathe by leaving them unadorned. This not only creates a sense of openness but also helps highlight the key furniture pieces and architectural features in the space.

Additionally, mid-century modern design values a clean and organized environment. “Maintain a clutter-free space by removing any unnecessary items and only keep things that are useful or meaningful,” Adrika notes. Use storage solutions like sideboards and cabinets to keep items out of sight and maintain a streamlined appearance.

Opt for multifunctional furniture

As mid-century modern interior design often embraces open floor plans and minimalism, this makes the use of available space essential. Multi-functional furniture serves multiple purposes and reduces the need for numerous individual pieces - which helps maintain an uncluttered and visually appealing space.

“Functional furniture takes precedence – choosing pieces that can be multi-functional is a great way to embrace this style,” mentions Adrika.

For example, extendable dining tables are great for providing ample space for everyday meals and expanding to accommodate larger gatherings. Nesting coffee tables also offer flexibility in use and easy storage when not in use.

A wooden dining table and matching cushioned bench. @keepingitklinger’s tableware complements the Seb Extendable Dining Table, Seb Bench, and black dining chairs.

Mix vintage and contemporary pieces

Strike a balance between vintage and contemporary pieces to create a unique mid-century modern interior.

Incorporating vintage pieces is a way to honor the history and heritage of mid-century modern design. Look for authentic, well-preserved vintage furniture and decor that captures the essence of the era.

“Balance vintage pieces with contemporary elements to keep your space from feeling outdated or museum-like,” says Adrika. “Incorporate modern furniture, accessories, and artwork that complement the vintage items while adding a fresh and current touch to the overall design.”

A vintage-looking mirror with a gold frame is hung above a leather sofa with tufted seats. @margaret.wright picks a good blend of vintage, traditional, and contemporary pieces. Pictured: The Madison Leather Sofa.

Bring in statement pieces

Adrika shares that to achieve a mid-century modern look in your home, it’s important to bring in a couple of key statement pieces - be it a dining table and chairs, an accent chair, or lighting. These statement pieces act as focal points, adding personality, and creating a sense of drama and interest within the space.

“This is where the statement furniture should be very distinctively ‘mid-century modern’”, she shares.

Choose pieces that feature a mix of materials, like wood and metal, or glass and leather to add texture and depth to the space. The combination of different textures, colors, and finishes creates a dynamic and layered look that captures attention and makes the furniture stand out as a focal point in the room.

“Fluted timber is also an extremely popular design element in mid-century modern homes.” The grooves add an interesting texture to the furniture and architectural element. This textural quality aligns with the mid-century modern design's focus on organic forms and tactile appeal.

A close up shot of a dresser with fluted timber. The Emery 6-Drawer Dresser boasts fluted elements that add to the mid-century modern charm.

Statement lighting fixtures can also serve as statement pieces and functional art in your home. Look for sculptural pendant lights, chandeliers, or floor lamps that exhibit mid-century modern design elements.

Choose furniture that sits off the ground

“Mid-century modern furniture generally sits up off the ground, making pieces feel lighter and airier in the space.”

Adrika mentions that the space between the furniture and the floor allows for better visual flow, making the room appear more spacious and less cluttered. This aligns with the mid-century modern design's emphasis on open floor plans and uncluttered spaces.

“Elevated furniture is also a hallmark of mid-century modern design. Many iconic pieces from this era, such as sofas, coffee tables, and sideboards, were designed with slender legs or raised bases. By incorporating such pieces, you evoke the timeless and sophisticated mid-century modern style.”

A walnut dining table and 6 matching chairs. The slim legs of the Vincent Dining Table and Austen Chairs in Walnut create an open dining space. Picture credits: @edwardleefilms

Introduce plants

“Bringing plants into this scheme is a really nice way to embrace the connection of indoors and outdoors that this style encourages,” says Adrika.

The mid-century modern design seeks to connect with nature and bring the outdoors into the living environment. By incorporating plants, you infuse your interior with a touch of nature, creating a harmonious and organic ambiance.

A dresser with fluted elements and brass handles and potted plants atop. @mattandomar adds plants to the Emery 6-Drawer Dresser.

Choose plants that thrive indoors, like monsterras, snake plants, and terrariums. Place them near your sofas, on your coffee table, or in a corner to liven up the space and create a refreshing atmosphere.

Mid-century modern interior design continues to captivate homeowners and design enthusiasts with its timeless aesthetic. By understanding the origins, key elements, and principles of this style, you can create a space that seamlessly merges the past with the present.

We hope this guide has equipped you with the knowledge and inspiration to embark on your mid-century modern design journey. Shop our range of mid-century modern furniture to transform your home into a sophisticated, inviting, and enduring sanctuary.

If you need more help visualizing how the mid-century modern interior can work for you, check out Castlery’s room designer tool! This tool allows you to bring your imagination to life by placing different furniture pieces and customizing colors to suit the mid-century modern interior design. Try it out today!

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