A Blast From The Past … Or Is It The Future?
Although it originated over half a decade ago, the Mid-Century Modern style is still alive and well today. The term Mid-Century Modern covers a wide range of influences, including architecture, furniture, interior design, and graphic design. The exact dates of when this style originated is still under debate, though we know it was around the time of the 1940s-1960s. Don’t let the dates fool you though, this style is still highly popular today.
Homes from this era are characterized by their sleek lines and connections to nature. One of the most famous is Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater” in rural Pennsylvania. Mid-Century Modern homes are extremely popular and inventory is limited, making it a competitive process to buy one, particularly if it’s by a well-known builder or architect like Eichler or Cliff May, who was behind the Ranchos in Long Beach. But don’t get discouraged! If you love the style, you can still transform your home on the inside and give it a new Mid-Century Modern vibe.
Why Mid-Century Modern?
The Mid-Century Modern style has been called “timeless” because of it’s continued popularity throughout the decades. Especially now, in a mass-produced society with cookie-cutter neighborhoods, it is not uncommon for people to be drawn to unique architecture and design. Mid-Century Modern is all about that. It has a minimalist, yet vintage and retro-y vibe, and is characterized by sleek lines, geometric patterns, free-formed organic shapes, mixtures of materials, and usually bold color palettes. It is simple, yet functional, as well as bold, yet sophisticated. It is a perfect blend between the old and the new.
Before You Start
Taking on a new decorating trend can sometimes be daunting, especially if you plan to recreate the whole interior of your home. The Mid-Century Modern style has so many different directions that it could go in, that your home can easily become overwhelming or tacky-looking if you do not execute your design with caution. A good way to avoid this is to start with either a specific color palette or a feature piece of furniture and the build around that. This will keep everything in the room feeling cohesive rather than just a jumbled mess. Also, unless you want to create an exact replica of a 1950s home or a set from Mad Men, be careful not to over-do the style.
Mid-Century Modern pieces can sometimes be hard to identify, especially if they are not original pieces. With that being said though, know that if you plan to go for all original pieces it will become very pricy, very quickly. One idea might be to just have one original, staple piece of furniture in the room that will serve as your focal point, and that would feel ok splurging on. Some of the most well-known designers of this era include Eames, Knoll, and Nelson. Once you have your center piece, it’s easier to build around that. Look for a large credenza, a set of plastic molded chairs, or a unique lamp. However, any starting place is a good one.
The most popular furniture materials of this style included wood and plastic along with brightly colored fabrics. Wooden furniture was usually solid wood, instead of wood veneer that is used more commonly today, and was usually teak, rosewood, or oak, and finished to show off its original beauty. Peg legs were also a staple of this design trend, as were plastic molded chairs, since plastic was a fairly new invention at the time. Lamps usually had curved bases with bold colors paired with a slim and sleek lampshade. Simplicity was key, so furniture lacked any extra ornamentation and was not too bulky.
For much of your furniture, hit the vintage shops and flea markets. Luckily, Long Beach has some great shops to choose from as well as a great monthly flea market! These are great places to find unique pieces of furniture and to start thinking outside the box. Mid-Century Modern is not a matchy-matchy kind of style, so it’s ok to mix and match different things like lamps and side tables. As long as you understand the characteristics of the style, you can find pieces that echo this, even if they are not exact replicas. You may even come across some hidden gems in these stores like a magazine rack or a rolling bar cart that were iconic to this era and will really finish off your space.
Let’s Talk Color
As mentioned before, if not done with caution, the Mid-Century Modern style can easily end up looking tacky. You want to have a mixture of fabrics and surfaces, but they also need to harmonize well with each other. Embracing a specific color palette may be one of the easiest ways to design your space and keep everything unified. Luckily, there are many different color trends that emerged within the Mid-Century Modern style. You can go with the bold and bright, such as tangerine and aqua, flamingo pink, or citrus tones. You can go with the earthy colors such as mustard, avocado, and olive. Or you can even go with all neutrals, with just black, white, and wood tones. Whatever you choose, try and stick within those colors to keep a more uniform feel in your space (just make sure not to go overboard with it!). Also it is important to mention that white walls are a huge staple in the Mid-Century Modern style. Walls were not painted different colors like they usually are today, the color came from all the furniture and the accents, and the walls were always left white to better showcase these pieces.
As You’re Designing
As you build your collection of Mid-Century Modern pieces, you will need to think about the best way to arrange everything. Your big pieces of furniture will most likely be your centerpieces, so make sure they have the room they need to stand out. The easiest way to do this? Remember the saying, “less is more.” With Mid-Century Modern, that should almost be its motto. The style is characterized by simplicity, so cluttered spaces are a big no. Keep things clean and sleek. It is also good to try and mix up different heights in your furniture. If you have a low sitting couch and coffee table, pair it with a high arced lamp to break up your space. On the walls, keep them white like we mentioned earlier, and keep them simple as well. Don’t go overboard with the artwork. One or two bold and geometric pieces will do just the trick.
As You’re Finishing Up
As you dive deeper and deeper into creating your Mid-Century Modern vibe, remember that it is ok if everything is not 100% perfect. This style actually blends wonderfully with some of the more modern interior design styles of today, which may help finish off your space perfectly. The Scandinavian style for example, is all about minimalism and functionality, or if you want to go Industrial, you can go for the utilitarian and stark feel. The new-age Modern style will blend nicely with its bold geometric shapes and colors, and even stores like IKEA can do wonders in helping you find just the right blend of furniture. Whatever you choose to do, remember to still put your personal touches in to make your house your home. And as far as going out of style? With 50+ years and counting? We just don’t see that happening any time soon.
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