Let's start with what is mid-century modern, anyway? Here are some quintessential spaces that come to my mind: the living room on The Brady Bunch, Don Draper's office on AMC's Mad Men, and almost anywhere in Palm Springs during the 1950s and 60s.
Basically, the mid-century modern movement of the 40s, 50s and 60s (thus the term mid-century) was all about progress. The War had ended, and designers were interested in open spaces, freedom of movement, and looking forward to the future. The New Frontier (i.e. space) was on everyone's mind, and so the aesthetic was very futuristic (and that's where the "modern" comes in). These spaces were full of glass, very airy, and the lines were clean. Clean lines didn't necessarily mean angular, however. Curvy, organically-shaped furniture (think kidney-shaped coffee tables with metal legs) worked, too.
Hallmarks of mid-century modern furniture included functionality and a blend of wood with non-traditional materials like Plexiglass. The use of plastic and other materials manufactured during wartime became intentional. As for accessories, bold colors and geometric designs were popular, but pieces generally had minimal ornamentation.
As the saying goes, everything old is new again. These days, mid-century modern is enjoying a huge comeback. If you love this style but live in a colonial-style home, never fear. There are plenty of ways to incorporate this style through the use of home accessories. After all, not all of us can live in a Frank Llloyd Wright home.
1. Cut Clutter
Yes, this may seem like counter-intuitive advice on a Site all about home accessories, but it's true. Mid-century modern homes have fewer accessories; however, the ones they do have pack a big visual punch. So if you're going for this look, cut out the clutter and pick just a few pieces with presence.
2. Add a Relic
I just said "cut the clutter" and now I'm saying to add a collectible. But since we are talking about a style that gives a nod to a very distinct part of the past, it's important to evoke that style with a sense of nostalgia. Collectibles of this era might include vintage barware, colorful ceramics, or a sunburst clock.
3. Choose Lighting with Presence
The lamps and ceiling light fixtures of the mid-century modern era tended to be quite large. A large gourd lamp with a drum shade or an over-sized, geometric pendant light would be great choices. Single arc floor lamps also evoke the style because they are sleek and a bit futuristic. Steer clear of chandeliers, lamps or sconces with lots of ornamentation or scroll work.
4. Think Geometric
The futuristic thinking of this period of our history translated to geometric designs. The feminine florals of the pre-war era were replaced with bold shapes and patterns. If you're going for a vintage mid-century modern look, try atomic, starburst, or boomerang prints. But if you want more of an updated look for the soft furnishings in your mid-century modern space, such as for throw pillows or rugs, go for colorful, geometric designs.
5. Add Graphic Art
If you've watched AMC's Mad Men, then you know that the mid-century modern era heralded the age of advertising, which is why adding some graphic art to your space is important.
The image here does double-duty because it's graphic art, and it just happens to feature a chair by Eames, the name of two very influential designers of the mid-century modern era. Obviously, graphic art depicting this style doesn't have to be so literal. Art from this time was bold and graphic, with geometric designs and lots of color. Iconic artists include Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder and Roy Lichtenstein. For a reproduction piece, try Etsy or Art.com.
For a more DIY version, recreate your own mid-century modern canvas, or simply frame vintage postcards, propaganda pieces from the Cold War, or advertisements from the era.