How to Make Mid-Century Design & Decor Work in Your Home [Expert Tips]

1 March, 2018

The long-staying popularity of mid-century modern design is a testament to one simple fact: mid-century style is more than a trend—it’s simply timeless. That’s because the design principles of mid-century modern are versatile with nearly limitless applications. And, it just looks fabulous!

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What is Mid-Century Modern Design?

Mid-century modern design was a hallmark of interior design from the 1930s through the late 1960s, but its impact has lasted much longer. While style allows for a high level of personalization, modern design principles typically include:

  • A focus on functionality
  • Clean lines
  • Mixed textures and materials
  • Organic and geometric shapes
  • Sleek lines
  • Lack of clutter
  • White walls

When decorating in the mid-century modern interior design style, the goal should not be to mimic exact designs from this period. “There are specific design elements that make a piece mid-century. Splayed wood legs is the most prevalent and easiest to incorporate into a timeless design,” says Kelli Ellis, Celebrity Designer & RST Brands Ambassador. “Also look for contrasting piping in cushions and pillows.”

Expert Tip by Kelli Ellis

Choose one or two pieces from this era with the focus being on creating a functional space that complements your personality and lifestyle.

Mid-Century Modern Design Elements to Use in Your Home


There are two approaches you can take when it comes to mid-century modern furniture:

  1. Choose neutral pieces that blend well with surrounding elements. Kelli Ellis adds,BUT YOU MUST ADD classic mid-century eye-catching accessories.”
  2. Use pieces that will pop and serve as a focal point for the entire room.

Regardless of the direction you choose, it’s important to avoid clashing patterns or colors that can lead to a high level of visual clutter.

Older furniture or new pieces with that classic vintage feel will look right at home in a modern house. Wood furniture is a great choice, as it will give your room an organic and natural vibe. Remember, you’re looking for timeless, high-quality, and comfortable pieces.


When it comes to lighting, bold is better. The mid-century modern style favors lighting that makes a statement. Don’t shy away from unique, dangling light fixtures or lamps that serve as conversation starters. The pieces you pick don’t have to match perfectly; just make sure they don’t clash, and avoid adding too many colors into the room.


Regardless of your color scheme, theme, or other accessories, don’t underestimate the power of a well-placed mirror. Sunburst mirrors are an iconic design element in the modern style.

Pick accessories that show off organic shapes, like vases with smooth curves. If you chose colorful furniture and artwork, bring in some neutral tones with neutral throw pillows. Just make sure to stick to your color palette.


How to Incorporate Mid-Century Design Elements in Each Room


Mid-century modern living room set


Family Room

Your family room should be a gathering place, which makes picking your furniture from comfortable, beautiful living room sectionals a necessity. While it’s generally wise to stick with white walls to allow your furnishings and decor to shine, don’t be afraid to add in pops of color that make your family feel right at home.

Living Room


As with all rooms, pick a complementary color palette and stick to it. Don’t be afraid to let a single piece of bright furniture steal the show, or keep to neutral furniture to allow other elements of the room to take center stage.

No mid-century modern living room is complete without proper seating. Provide plenty of space for your guests with a beautiful living room furniture collection.

Don’t forget to include a mid-century modern coffee table. These tables can feature a mix of different materials such as wood, metal, and glass.

Expert Tip by Kelli Ellis

“Midcentury pieces play with shape and layers, don’t be afraid to add several pieces together to create a coffee table or side table collection.”


The kitchen is a perfect room to explore bold colors or patterns in a controlled way. You don’t want to create a cacophony of clashing colors, but feel free to make a statement with a limited color palette.

Always commit to smooth, clean lines in the kitchen. Swap out ornate, curved cabinets for flat, wood options. Invest in stainless steel appliances and marble countertops. When it comes to flooring, the flatter and smoother the better.


The office is a perfect example of how neutral colors and clean lines can create a perfect atmosphere. Generally speaking, stick with white walls, quality furnishings, and minimal decor.

Every office needs a good thinking chair or two.The Eames lounge chair captivated the attention of designers during this period, but it would be a mistake to limit yourself to looking at one style of mid-century chair. Stick to chairs with either distinct lines or smooth, natural-looking curves. Mixed materials are perfectly acceptable.

Master Bedroom

Your bedroom should be an oasis from the stresses and turmoils of day-to-day living, and your color scheme should reflect that. You can stick with clean neutrals for furnishings, bedding, and decor like grey, white, black, and browns, or you can add soothing colors like blues and gentle greens into the mix.

Stick with classic wood bookshelves, nightstands, and dressers. You can even add in a tufted armchair for a pop of color or a neutral addition.

Remodeled Basement

The rules for furnishing and decorating your basement are similar to rooms throughout the upstairs, but you’ll often have to pull it off with one major disadvantage—less natural lighting. Basements are a perfect opportunity to showcase unique lamps and other light fixtures to spruce up a room while adding more lighting.

Basements often feature lower ceilings; you don’t want to overcrowd the visual space in a room. Lower seating–like modern sectional sofas, paired with taller lamps–can be a great choice.

If you have a well-kept concrete floor, instead of covering it up with other flooring, consider treating it and showing off the natural, smooth beauty of the material. Just don’t forget to throw in a few rugs to keep the basement from getting too cold.


Your bathroom is a great place to pair strong, clean lines with smooth, gentle curves. For example, pick cabinets with strong angles and flat lines and pair it with a curved bathtub. Stick with flat tile flooring and matte countertops.

Glass shower enclosures are also a popular way to make a small bathroom feel much larger.

Expert Tip by Kelli Ellis:

Tile is a great way to add color – mid century favored the aqua and greens in the bathroom.

Guest Room

The guest room should follow many of the same rules as the master bedroom—clean lines, simple color palette, functional furniture.

However, it’s a good idea to keep the guest room a bit more simple and to shy away from choices that are too bold. While you might be able to get away with an orange accent in your own room, the bright color might be over the top in a guest room. Remember, you want to create a comfortable environment for your guests, and their tastes might not be the same as yours.

It’s always a good gesture to include a quality, comfortable, classic corner chair if the floor plan allows.  


2018 Trends to Watch & Incorporate


Terrazzo Surfaces

Mid-century modern homes celebrate the beauty found in natural stone floors, including terrazzo. This year, the rest of the interior design fashion world has decided to join in the fun. Of course, terrazzo can be used in more than flooring. You can also expect to see it showcased in countertops, showers, etc.

Bold Hues

Each of the major players in the color world releases a color of the year. While the 2018 colors range from blue to red to black, they all have one thing in common: bold hues.

The trick to using bold colors in the mid-century modern design is using them as accents rather than backgrounds. For instance, a bold red door or piece of furniture can serve as an excellent focal point for a dining or living room.

An accent wall featuring patterned onyx wallpaper can add a bit of glamour to an otherwise neutral room. If you’re going to go with a heavy color like onyx, make sure the room has plenty of natural lighting to balance out the color choice.


Wood is back and better than ever. Mid-century modern decor has always capitalized on the use of contrasting materials in the home, and woods like oak and walnut are popular staples. While wooden wall panels might not make a comeback, the use of natural wood in design is returning to favor in the design world.

A chair, table, modern bookshelf, or headboard are all excellent options for incorporating wood into various rooms in your home.

The true fun of using mid-century modern decor is the freedom it gives you to truly make your home a reflection of your unique personality. Above we’ve discussed various ways to incorporate mid-century modern design elements to various rooms in your home. With a few guiding principles and your individual creativity, you’ll be well on your way to creating this timeless look for your home.