Essentials of Mid-Century Modern Interior Design


The Background
The roots of mid-century modern design began in post-World War I Germany, when architect Walter Gropius had sought to reform art education and founded the Bauhaus, a school of art and design, in 1919. His teaching sought to unite fine art with architecture, keeping function slightly ahead of form, and creating designs that could easily be mass produced.

What was once a school became a movement when Bauhaus closed its doors in 1933. Its principals created a lasting effect on design and architecture both in Germany and, eventually, overseas. Bauhaus design was introduced to the American market post-World War II, after many German architects, including Gropius, made the move across the Atlantic Ocean and into the United States to set up shop. Along with their businesses, they brought with them their techniques and ideologies of designing with functional art, which they had already made popular in their homeland. Advances in technology and an improving American economy led to an expansion of urban development, and created an opportunity for them to introduce their methods into new designs. The Bauhaus style was the perfect fit for the new demand, and quickly gained popularity to become the modern look from the 1940s to 1970s. Today, we refer to this design style as mid-century modern, and Gropius is now revered as one of the pioneers of modern architecture.

Functional Shapes
A major characteristic of mid-century furniture and decor is geometrical shapes and clean, sleek lines. Keep designs simple yet stylish, with an emphasis on functionality. Ornately carved corners and heavy inlays found on traditional furniture is very limited on mid-century pieces, as they often contain continuously smooth surfaces and subtle curves to create an uncluttered minimalistic appeal.
Broad Range of Colors
Mid-century art encompasses a vast variety of colors, ranging from natural, dim tones to bold, vibrant hues. Don't shy away from contrasting colors, either. Mixing a pastel blue with a burnt orange, or showing spring green alongside mustard yellow will work very well. Mid-century modern design embraces the use of a diverse range of tints and shades while using heavy doses of black and white.
Mixture of Materials
New technology and advancements in the construction industry allowed for materials other than wood to be used for mid-century style. Durable plastics are used heavily in furniture and decor, as well as metals, glass, plexiglass, vinyl, leather, and acrylic. Blend a variety of materials in your space to create contrast and fully embody the mid-century modern look.
Mid-Century Design for your Bathroom
Hairpin legs or angled peg feet are symbolic of cabinets and other furniture from this period, so choose a mid-century modern vanity that features this detail. If you decide on a vessel sink vanity, be sure that the sink that you choose to pair with the cabinet reflects the clean, sleek design of the cabinet.

Tile and countertops should be relatively simple in style. A white or black background with pops of color here and there is a quintessential mid-century modern method. Get creative by adding geometrical patterns within your tile scheme.

If a shower is in your layout plans, consider a glass shower enclosure. Glass was a frequently used material during this era, so adding it wherever possible is a great way to achieve the look. Offset the rectangular shape of the enclosure with a big, round vanity mirror to create contrast.

For bathtubs, opt for styles that have clean, crisp edges. Rectangular freestanding tubs contain the straight, modern lines that are essential to mid-century modern design. Pair the tub with a very simple and functional freestanding tub filler. Ensure that your bathroom sink faucets complement the design of the tub filler.

Bath stools and swinging makeup mirrors are a few examples of accessories that add flair to your space. Mid-century modern is all about function and style, so select items that serve both purposes.

Remember, when planning your bathroom layout, the key is to keep in mind that the overall feel should be clean, geometrical, and sleek.

Ideas for Other Rooms
Lighting – Pendant lights and modern chandeliers fit perfectly into a mid-century modern redesign. Lighting fixtures can often become the centerpiece of your room, so take your time choosing the right fit. Don't be afraid to choose something bold.

Wallpaper – Sure, choosing from a vast variety of wallpaper can be intimidating, but the result can also be glamorous. Consider adding wallpaper that contains clean, geometric patterns or striking graphic prints. If you aren't a fan of wallpapering an entire room, test out the idea by only doing one section and creating an accent wall.

Bar Carts – Bar carts were extremely popular in the 1950s, which was the heart of the mid-century modern movement. Scavenge your local flea markets and antique shops to find a vintage bar cart and use it to display your favorite liquor and cocktail set.

Mirrors – Mirrors are an essential accessory of this design era. When shopping, look for mirrors that are cut into asymmetrical shapes or feature simple, retro-looking frames. Mirrors with sunburst frames were a popular choice during the period.

Wall Decor – Don't overdo it. Choose one or two statement pieces for the walls—the goal is glamour, not gaudy.
If the whole retro vibe of bold colors and geometric shapes isn’t for you, don’t fret. Read about other interior design styles below to help inspire your home’s redesign.