What Is Mid-Century Modern Decor Style?

What Is Mid-Century Modern Decor Style? - Nathan James

Trends in interior design come and go, but some come back stronger than ever before. This is exactly what happened with mid-century style, otherwise known as “MCM”.

Mid-century modern style emerged in, of course, the middle of the 20th century. Designs were focused on clean lines, simplicity, functionality, and a bit of futurism, which reflected how the world was back then. And thanks to its key principle of functionality, MCM is coming back in style today.

But what is mid-century modern decor style? What are the key elements of mid-century modern? And what would this design style look like in your home? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about designing a mid-century modern home!

What Is Mid-Century Modern Decor Style?

Mid-century modern is a design movement that became well-known in the middle of the 20th century (the 50s and 60s). During that time, the North American economy was booming, and so was the population. New homes were being constructed in designs that reflected optimism for the future. Families wanted more efficiency and functionality in their homes, and the population was brimming with excitement for new technology (this was around the time when people got their first television sets!)

Post-war development, the Space Race, the International and Bauhaus movements; the key events during this iconic time period reflected how people designed their homes. Mid-century modern style is characterized by clean lines, muted tones, graphic shapes, and other unique elements that you won’t find in other interior design styles.

Elements of Mid-Century Modern

To adequately answer the question, “what is mid-century modern decor?”, we must dig deep into the core elements that make up this interior design style. Here are the key characteristics that you might find in a mid-century modern home:


People in this era wanted to move on from the war, so they loved what was new and modern. Mid-century modern rooms are uncluttered and understated, with furniture that focuses on functionality and simplicity.

Combination of materials and aesthetics

Mid-century modern furniture is often made from a combination of man-made materials (e.g. plastic, fiberglass, vinyl) and natural materials (e.g. wood, glass, marble). Some great examples include chairs made with bent plexiglass and wood, fiberglass tables held by metal legs, cantilevered tables combining tubular steel and leather, and much more.

Mid-century design aims to create a somewhat seamless flow from indoor to outdoor. So, it is not uncommon for mid-century modern designers to use plants as decor, emphasize the use of natural light, and incorporate natural materials in almost every design element.

Natural tones with vibrant accents

The mid-century modern color palette often consists of colors from nature, such as bright oranges, muddy browns, and forest greens, which are used as accents against neutral shades like black, white, and wood tones. In this design style, it is common to see bright-colored upholstery (e.g. a Mars orange couch) matched with dark accents (a dark walnut frame) to create a balance in the space.

Mid-Century Modern Vs. Scandinavian

Both mid-century modern and Scandinavian styles rose to popularity in the 1950s, so it is clear why these two design styles look quite similar. Both styles emphasize simplicity and practicality, as well as share some common elements like warm tones, “futuristic” materials, and modular lines. 

Yet, they have their own unique take on modernism. For one, Scandinavian focuses on brighter colors, modern furniture, and a bit of rustic in between. Mid-century modern favors darker palettes and retro-futuristic furniture.

We have a whole article answering the question - what is Scandinavian design? Check it out if you want to learn more!

Mid-Century Modern Vs. Rustic

Mid-century modern and rustic are two completely different styles, but–surprisingly–they look amazing when combined. 

A rustic mid-century modern home would look something like a modern cabin. A few ways you can marry these two styles include matching retro furniture with rustic accents; opting for mid-century furniture with “lovingly used” wood; and marrying clean lines with odd shapes, among many others.

But what is rustic interior design, you may ask? Lucky for you, we have an article dedicated to that in our blog. Be sure to check it out!

What Is Mid-Century Modern Decor Going To Look Like In Your Home?

This style consists of simple and functional pieces that combine manmade and natural materials. Today, you’ll learn what it will look like in your home. And to help you envision it, here are some of the most affordable mid-century modern furniture pieces to put on your vision board:

Mid Century Modern Bedroom Furniture

When designing a bedroom with mid century modern bedroom furniture, we recommend starting with the biggest pieces first. Of course, your bed will be the focal point of the room. Consider a dramatic headboard that is reminiscent of the beds popular in the 60s. Then, choose bedding with neutral colors plus some bold accents (and maybe a geometric pattern).

When it comes to nightstands, you can choose either angular or odd-shaped pieces. The latter is going to create a more “retro” look, but if you want to keep things simple, go for the former option.

Mid Century Modern Living Room Furniture

A mid-century modern living room is going to consist of sleek and simple living room furniture. From the minimalist coffee table to the media console, choose pieces that focus on functionality over form. You want to go for straight lines, natural materials, and neutral shades against vibrant accents (or vice versa!)

By the way, we have an article on how to decorate a coffee table that can help you plan the design of your mid-century modern living room.

Mid Century Modern Bar Carts

Bar carts were all the rage in the 1950s as a way to entertain guests at home without a full-fledged bar. No mid-century modern home will be complete without at least one in the dining room, living room, or den! Take a look at these mid century modern serving carts for some inspiration.

Final Thoughts On Mid Century Modern Decor

Now that you know the basics of the mid-century modern style, it’s time to move on to where you can find everything you need to design a mid-century modern home. Nathan James is proud to carry one of the best collections of Scandinavian, rustic, and, of course, mid-century modern furniture!

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