Mad for mid-century modern?
You aren’t alone. Mid-century modern design continues to enjoy tremendous popularity, as its functional elements, minimalist sensibilities and seamless integration with nature appeal just as much to eco-conscious millennials as they do to nostalgic boomers.
“People who grew up in the mid-1950s and 1960s, not to mention fans of the TV show Mad Men, which took place during the same time period, quickly visualize mid-century modern architecture and interior design as minimalist and simplistic—and maybe a little fun,” says Bonnie Foster, project manager at Dickson Development. “It’s become a modern classic.”
Characteristics of mid-century modern design include:
- A contemporary, minimalist look with flat planes and clean lines
- A focus on function over form
- Large windows and open floor plans, which connect the home to nature and draw the outside in
- Use of geometric and abstract forms
- Blend of industrial and natural materials, such as steel and wood
- Pops of bold, saturated color integrated with contrasting black, white and gray themes
“Mid-century modern is a flexible, clean style of design that can blend well with others, from traditional to contemporary,” explains Richard Dickson, who has been building and renovating homes since 1972. “Here in New Jersey, we don’t typically design homes with a classic, mid-century modern flat roof, due to the climate. But we do incorporate many other elements of mid-century modern style, such as mixing industrial metals with natural wood or blending indoor with outdoor living spaces. These trends have been popular for years and remain so today.”
The mid-century modern design movement originated in the 1930s but rose to prominence during the 1950s and 1960s. Germany’s Bauhaus movement of the early 20th century was a primary influence with its stripped-down aesthetic and bold colors.
The style became popular in the United States in the mid-1950s, which was a time when there was a great deal of optimism about the future and Americans were captivated by scientific discovery and space travel, science fiction movies and TV shows like The Jetsons. Mid-century modern design reflected the mood of a nation that equated futuristic design with social change and industrial advancement.
Today it simply works with the way we live. It’s attractive and versatile, and it complements both expansive open floor plans and small urban spaces. Mid-century modern–inspired furniture, lighting and home décor accent pieces are easy to find and available in a wide range of prices. “Like post-century contemporary, with a similar uncluttered look, mid-century modern also serves as a great backdrop to today’s modern homes with smart gadgets and technology,” adds Bonnie.
Bonnie cautions against going too mad for the mid-century modern look. “We like to work with select elements so the style doesn’t overwhelm the space or become quickly outdated,” she says. “It’s a really easy style to use, but also to abuse if you aren’t careful. Mix things up for a more balanced look.”
Incorporating mid-century modern into your home:
- Learn to identify vintage pieces or credible replicas. Sellers tend to overuse the term “mid-century modern,” so the buyer must beware! Vintage pieces originate from Denmark, Yugoslavia, Japan, Italy and the United States.
- Use restraint when shopping. Focus on stylish touches versus a complete overhaul.
- Shoot for clean and uncluttered. If you decorate a room in 100 percent mid-century modern style, you may tire of it quickly.
- Start with one piece that fits with your existing décor. Then build around that piece with complementary colors and textures, including new cabinetry, fixtures and lighting.
- Take it easy when using bright, saturated colors. They can quickly go out of style, unlike today’s neutrals.
- Consult with a design or building professional for guidance and planning.
Here to stay?
“I think it’s safe to say that mid-century design will remain popular for the foreseeable future because of its versatility and appeal to a wide range of people,” says Richard. “Finding your own personal style is about how you live as well as what you like.”