Design Styles

Mid Century Modern Style: The Architecture of Ideas (Part 2)

Mad Men, I Dream of Jeannine and American Hustle have more in common than you think. All showcase examples of Mid Century Modern design.  A style that’s highly coveted today.

Here are 10 Signature Elements of Mid Century Modern Style: The Architecture of Ideas

Residential Architecture was simple and emphasized horizontal lines; lots of windows and an open flow from room to room.  This created a new way for modern America to live.   Mid Century Modern Landmark Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright of Chicago is considered the greatest American architect of the 20th century.  Other whose vision shaped Mid Century architecture were Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.  Both fled to the US from Nazi, Germany and eventually taught at Harvard School of Design.  Also, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who founded the Second School of Chicago at the U of Chicago.

Yellow Door Entrance with a surprising yellow pop of color and a lucite table just inside this typical Mid Century ranch

Geometric Lines – Gable roofs and the flat rooftops were common.

MCModern-Gable roof CAA classic gable roof home was introduced in homes of the time

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water House1Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Waterfall House

Seamless Flow from inside to the outside – Many elements from exposed brick, wall of windows, courtyards, patio and sliding glass doors were included in Mid Century Modern homes to create easy access to outside.

FLW multilevel wood roomView of a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home with a wall of windows that transitions the indoors outside

The Philip Johnson Glass House - windowsThe Philip Johnson Glass House – known as the house of windows

Birth of the Open Floor Plan  – Homes were built with wide sweeping floor plans, partial walls, and built-ins a style that’s coveted today.

MCM Living room styleOpen floor plan and furnishings inspired by Mid Century Modern style

Screened walls in geometric shapes defined room spaces and create privacy. Often screens added texture to the room decor using ornate graphic designs or etched glass panels especially when they were backlit.

Mod bedroom with screen and mod lounge chair

The Box and the Curve were distinctive furniture shapes of the time

Furniture design was clean with details emphasized over ornamentation.  Many new furniture shapes were inspired by geometric shapes and organic forms.

box-sofa-compact-oak-ozdemir-caglar-de-la-espadaMid Century inspired box sofa with oak sides and trim by Ozdemir & Caglar

arne-jacobsen-3300-chair 1956Box  leather original chair by Arne Jacobsen 1956

Mid Century living room designed by MIKEL IRASTORZA SpainLiving room inspired by Mid Century Modern Style

Mid-Century-Office Don Draper on couchFrom the Mad Men TV show Don Draper takes a nap in the classic box sofa of the era.

 verner-panton-chair curve1The Curve Chair by Verner Panton – crafted from molded plastic

Multiple Elevation / Split-level Spaces – stairs were used to delineate separation between living spaces.   rooms (Ike & Tina turner) ounge areas stepping down into the pit.

Modern sunken living room today's versionIn many homes the main living area or master bedroom required a step up or step down.

The Color Palette

The predominate color palette for Mid Century Modern was earth-tones with olive green, pumpkin, mustard and umber popular.  In the 1960s psychedelic colors appeared in fashion.  Soon it was common to see bright accent colors such as turquoise, neon green, yellow and pink included in home decor.

Mid Century Modern Color Chart


modern-neutral-living-room by David Scott

1950s Living room in vintage Mid Century Modern colors

Natural wood is Sculptural and Simply Elegant

Wood on wood roomNatural wood used everywhere – On walls, floors, ceiling and furniture.

Cabinet by Louis Paolozzi Italy 1950sThe beauty of natural wood is highlighted in this 1950s cabinet by Louis Paolozzi

Round coffee table natural woodA play on circles makes this cocktail table memorable and functional

Geometric Patterns in Textiles, Wall and Floor Coverings

MC Mod Patterns

Bold graphics using geometric patterns

Orange pattern rugMod patterned wool rug in bold Mid Century Modern colors

The clean lines and minimalist approach adds a timelessness to Mid Century Modern style that’s still attractive today.  It’s funny, I never thought very much about the furniture I grew up around but today I wish I’d kept more of it.  I’d love to have an Arne Jacobsen egg chair.  How about you.

Are you in the market for Mid Century Modern?  If so, what are you looking for?  Or how do you plan to incorporate Mid Century Modern furniture into your decorating style?