Mid-Century Modern Architecture and Design - Explained

Decoration and Design
Additions and Remodels
Architecture
By Contractors.com Team July 19, 2021

Reading up on modern interior and exterior design trends you are sure to find examples of mid-century modern interiors and architectural works. Despite 70 years since its initial arrival into the limelight and to the attention of homeowners across the country, the mid-century modern aesthetic is still holding on strong. You can find countless elements of its design in modern interiors and exteriors. 

As with any other design style that has come, gone, or still remains with us today, the mid-century modern still has a lot of fans and deserves to be understood. Many of our modern design trends were inspired by this style and will continue to be as long as homeowners enjoy the eye-candy of vibrant interior and unique exteriors mid-century modern architecture offers.

The Roots of Mid-Century Modern Style

How Mid-Century Modern Design Came Into the Spotlight

How Mid-Century Modern Design Came Into the Spotlight

As modernist interior and exterior design moved further away from classical architecture, this retro-futuristic style culminated in the mid-40s as mid-century modern. Moving away from the symmetry and uniformity of classical design gave architects and designers more freedom when it came to shapes, colors, materials, and other elements of both the exterior and interior.

Modernism opened up plenty of opportunities for new and unique designs, with never-before-seen elements. One particular design aesthetic that rose from the modernism movement in the mid 20th century was the mid-century modern (hence the name). 

While the design was trending from the mid-40s to the late 60s, the term “mid-century modern” was first coined by interior design journalist Cara Greenberg in the year 1984. Better late than never, but in the case of mid-century modern there is really no such thing as “late”. The mid-century modern is still quite popular to this day and has paved the way for the evolution of countless other interior and exterior designs. 

How to Recognize Mid Century Modern Architecture and Design

The Most Important Elements of Mid-Century Modern Interior Design

The Most Important Elements of Mid-Century Modern Interior Design

There are several very prominent factors that contribute to the mid-century modern style, both on the interior and exterior of the house. 

Colors

In most modern interior designs color plays a major role although that role is limited to some extent. Many interior styles focus on a set of colors, typically around three, utilizing all of their potentials to bring the room’s aesthetic together. The mid-century modern interior on the other hand does not shy away from color and incorporates as much of it as possible.

How to Work With Color In Mid-Century Modern Design

How to Work With Color In Mid-Century Modern Design

This leads to a bit more experimentation with color, allowing for unorthodox, but smooth, combinations. As a result of this greater freedom, homeowners have allowed themselves to try out more odd and interesting combinations of colors, in effect creating more unique interiors. 

Round Shapes

The Forms and Shapes of Mid-Century Modern Architecture

The Forms and Shapes of Mid-Century Modern Architecture

While mid-century furniture does feature plenty of angular shapes and hard edges, what really sets it apart are the organic curves and round patterns. As with most other elements of mid-century modern design, it is all about finding a balance between the angles and the rounder shapes.

A plush but solid mid-century modern living room sofa paired with metallic materials in its surroundings is a great example of how one can make this work. Pieces with rounded structures come together with angular, classical themes in accessories like floor lamp shades, framed collages, or classic wall panels in mid-century modern to create a comforting mix of hominess and excitement.

The Slanted Roof

The Recognizable Architecture of a Mid-Century Modern House

The Recognizable Architecture of a Mid-Century Modern House

One element that is very indicative of a mid-century modern house is wide, slightly slanted roofs. Classical architecture tends to have more angular and pointed roofs while more modern designs typically opt for something flatter. Mid-century modern homes have a balance between these two modes of thinking by having a wide, almost flat roof with a slight angle to it.

The Charm of Having a Slanted Roof

The Charm of Having a Slanted Roof

On the exterior, this gives mid-century modern houses that iconic wide-angled roof. On the interior, however, you will find a much higher ceiling giving the dwellers plenty of headroom and airiness to create an aesthetic in. In some cases, one side of the angled roof will overlap the other, creating even more asymmetry on the exterior.

How to Design Your Mid-Century Modern Interior

Implementing mid-century modern design is about paying closer attention to the finer details which come together to form one wholesome aesthetic. There are several key elements that are needed for a mid-century modern interior design to work.

Freshen Up the Walls

Mid-Century Modern Wall Decoration Ideas

Mid-Century Modern Wall Decoration Ideas

Whether you’re using paint or wallpaper,  the walls of a mid-century modern interior need to say something instead of being absolutely muted. Over time, the walls become more muted and lose their vibrant color. For your mid-century modern interior to work, you need to have either a bright and colorful wall or walls amongst the rest of the backdrop, or at least for your calmer wall color to have a rich tone to it. The best way to get those is to give the walls a nice refresher.

Repainting the walls or replacing old wallpaper is one of the less time and resource-consuming DIY projects out there, but it pays off quite a bit when you consider the results. Find a well-lit room in your home and choose a bright color that speaks to you. If you wish to accentuate the retro feel a bit more, consider lining the walls with vinyl or even natural wood panels. 

Materials

Most Prominent Mid-Century Modern Materials and Textures

Most Prominent Mid-Century Modern Materials and Textures

Something that immediately catches the eye when looking into a mid-century modern interior is the range of colorful materials. This variety juxtaposes textures and bright colors often used in modern design with stained wood. 

You will see examples of this in all kinds of retro technology, from television sets to radios, and even in digital alarm clocks. These devices were considered to be high-tech for their time and utilized all kinds of artificial materials such as plastic, metal, and silicon, but also often come with polished wooden shells. This contrasted the artificial materials with some natural textures, creating a very unique aesthetic that is widely associated with the 60s and 70s. 

You can find plenty of modern appliances and devices with a retro aesthetic nowadays. They tend to be somewhat more expensive than the standard makes as they are typically not mass-produced. However, if you can get your hands on a few varying appliances or furniture and decor with varying textures, it can really hit home with that mid-century modern vibe. 

A Balance Between Order and Chaos

Ways to Balance Interior Uniformity and Chaotic Elements

Ways to Balance Interior Uniformity and Chaotic Elements

One element which plays a major role in mid-century modern interiors is the richness of color. Most interior designers creating in this style opt for including a handful of rich colors to place amongst various grounding themes.  

However, simply because there are colors, decorations, and other interior design elements at play does not mean that the mid-century modern look should be eclectic or bohemian in terms of how chaotic it is. It’s definitely not boring, with varying pieces of decor, from paintings to glass sculptures, but everything does have a place and is placed strategically to preserve balance all across the room.

A great example of how to bring this balance of order and chaos is with the decor. You can have plenty of paintings all across the room that speaks to the room’s aesthetics, creating a bit of uniformity. But you can also get creative with their placement; some can be hung on the walls, others can be placed on the floor, leaning against the walls.

But Give One Aspect an Edge

Keeping the balance between order and chaos should be important in any interior design, not just mid-century modern. However, to give your interior a more personal or one would even call it a “human” touch, you can give one side of the order-chaos spectrum a little edge. 

This does not mean clogging up the interior with decor and dozens of colors, but it does mean going a little eclectic. On the other hand, you could give order a bit of an edge and focus more on having everything be in its place. It’s up to you how to balance order and chaos in a mid-century modern interior. 

To recap, mid-century modern creates just enough homogeneity in the room so that it does not overcrowd the senses, but also enough heterogeneity that it creates a bit of vibrancy and an eccentric atmosphere.



Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team