What comes to mind when you hear the term mid-century modern? Maybe it’s eye-popping hues or effortless minimalism. Maybe it’s even kitsch! And, yes, it’s all of that.
Mid-century design, despite its dated name, has been given new life thanks to its accord with modern elements. Now anyone can bring the past into the present, and look good doing so.
A Brief History of Mid-Century Design
Depending on who you ask, there is some debate as to what’s considered ‘mid-century.’ However, most will agree that this period lasted from around the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s.
Mid-century arose based on the principles of Bauhaus design. Bauhaus, the German school of architecture and design, was mostly operational from the 1910s to the 1930s. The heyday of Bauhaus marked a move away from romanticism, ornamentation, and excess.
After the World Wars, there was a fundamental shift in lifestyle and technology. The devastating economic impact of war necessitated a dramatic change in the wants and needs of the people. Expansion in city centers led to high demand for furnishings, and developments in textile production rose to meet the challenge.
And from this increased need and post-war sensibility, mid-century design was born. The main characteristics of this movement were:
- Combining craft and mass production. Innovations in production and textile design turned décor from the sphere of the elite into an art form that was accessible to all.
- Form follows function. Prioritization of utility over aesthetic appeal.
- Honest materials. Materials are integrated into the design, rather than hidden.
- Minimalism. Focused on linear and geometric forms, avoiding ostentatious florals, corbels, and curves.
Does this sound complicated? Let’s break it down into bite-sized chunks. Like all principles born of complex social and economic conditions, mid-century design can be thought as simple, unadorned, minimal, straight lines, and mixed materials.
Getting the Look
Now that we know the look we want to create, let’s talk about how to accomplish it.
Despite its practicality, mid-century modern is full of personality. It’s playful, yet streamlined style hints at nostalgia without looking dated. The devil really is in the details here.
There’s a broad range of time and aesthetics to work with, so mid-century modern design can be adapted to any taste. From pops of color and patterns to sleek surfaces to intriguing (but never fussy) shapes, here are a few ideas to help you turn your kitchen into an homage to designs past.
Incorporate mid-century modern into your storage units with flat front or shaker-style cabinetry. This smooth, simplistic design is super versatile and will fit with just about any kitchen. Plus, it can be paired with any kind of hardware, from a chunky, funky knob to a sleek metal handle.
Many contemporary and modern designs trend toward neutral and earthy color palettes, but that doesn’t mean your kitchen has to be bland. Neutrals can easily be dressed up or toned down, depending on your preference. It’s super simple to brighten up your kitchen’s subtle tones with eye-popping accessories, appliances, or an accent wall.
If you’re after a bolder design, try colored cabinets, countertops, and large décor items like tables and chairs. Don’t be afraid to mix and match! After all, mid-century design is known for its iconic color and pattern combinations. It’s up to you to decide how much of that you want to bring to your modern kitchen.
With post-war innovations in textiles and production, mid-century design has a particular affinity for human-made materials. Metals, plastics, laminates, and linoleums were all top choices in mid-century design. However, mid-century modern is inspired by, but does not replicate, the era it draws from. Don’t be afraid to choose natural materials that fit the minimal aesthetic. Wood, cork, quartz, and ceramic will serve you well in your mid-century modern kitchen.
Borrowing from the Past
Apple green and turquoise were both bold, popular color choices during the heyday of mid-century modern. Beautiful diamond-patterned flooring is another classic vintage touch, and both the diamonds and the tiles themselves now come in a range of sizes and colors. Black and white checkerboard was once all the rage and is a genuinely punchy way to evoke that mid-century nostalgia.
Does mid-century design speak to you? Whatever your vision might be, we’d love to help bring it to life! Whether it’s a subtle homage to the past or a bright and bold time capsule with a modern twist, our design-build team is as passionate about transformation as you are. Reach out today, and let’s get started.
Brittany received her interior design degree in 2010 and recently earned her kitchen and bathroom certifications. She sees her job as much more than just picking out pretty colors and materials – it also involves exact measurements, plenty of planning, and determining how to have a space accurately reflect the lifestyle of its occupants.