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The Basics of Midcentury Modern Home Design

Retro style mid-century modern decorated apartment

Midcentury modern design is a term you might have heard pretty much everywhere at this point. Whether you enjoy the style and want to learn more or don’t know the first thing about it, there are a few basics to this set of design principles that are important to know. Here’s what to keep in mind when prepping for a midcentury modern overhaul.

mid century modern basics 11.  Subtle Vintage Elements

Even though many of the touches in this style are vintage, they tend to be subtle. You probably won’t find a complete art deco kitchen or a Victorian staircase in a midcentury modern home. Still, you probably can find any number of wood-paneled walls and ‘70s credenzas.

2.  Traditional Materials

True modern design often comes to life through the use of natural, traditional materials. Wood, leather, burlap and even metal, glass, plexiglass and vinyl can work together to create a more homey and rustic environment for the modernist shapes and colors to flourish.

3.  Form and Function

Midcentury modern design is probably exactly what you need if you enjoy form and function. It offers storage space, comfort and even affordability, and it also embodies a comfortable style that many people find appealing. Choosing suitable materials for your home’s exterior can be a great way to exercise this. Fiberglass and stainless steel tend to be stylish and durable, which is what this aesthetic looks to achieve.

Real photo of a retro armchair, coffee table and cabinet in a li
Real photo of a retro armchair, coffee table and cabinet in a li

4.  Clean Lines

You can expect to find clean lines and elegant shapes throughout a midcentury space. This is a great way to communicate a sense of sophistication while still allowing you to play around with your design style. Even though midcentury isn’t as strictly modernist as minimalist design, you can still glean inspiration from it.

5.  Less Clutter

This will ideally be true for various design styles, but it’s definitely important to mention here. One of the things that make midcentury modern design so clean and dynamic is the lack of clutter. This applies to the decor itself and the cleanliness of the space. Make sure you frequently evaluate the things you keep to avoid a cluttered appearance.

6.  Bold, Neutral Colors

The terms “bold” and “neutral” aren’t often thought of together, but many of the colors used in mid-century modern design are both. Consider deep navy blue, forest green, burnt orange and tan shades. These are all examples of subtle, neutral and yet somehow bold choices. It can be helpful to find one you love and carry it throughout the entire space.

7.  Layering Textures

Even with the clean lines and functional layout of most midcentury modern homes, one thing you might notice that adds to the comfortable feeling is the layering of various textures. This complements the bold neutral colors and clean lines. Whether the layering of textures comes into play with furniture, throw pillows, blankets, carpeting or art, it can make a space feel lived in and dynamic at the same time.

8.  A Personal Touch

Although midcentury design does have a specific aesthetic, it doesn’t mean you can’t put a little bit of your personal style into the mix. Doing this is often a hallmark of midcentury design choices.

Your home isn’t meant to be sterile and blank — you can bring in art, decor and personal touches to inject some personality into your home. Consider a striking vase you picked up in a gallery or a stunning black-and-white wedding photo. These things make your home your own.

mid century modern design 1Basics of Midcentury Modern Style

Midcentury decor has been all the rage recently, and for good reason. Between the subtle vintage elements, the clean lines and the bold neutral tones, this style can create a unique, dynamic home anybody can enjoy.


Evelyn Long is a Baltimore-based writer and the editor-in-chief of Renovated. She publishes home decor advice and product roundups for readers in spaces both big and small.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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