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Know your styles: midcentury modern living rooms

Midcentury modern style refers to a period of design that spanned from the start of the 50s until the end of the 60s, a movement in the United States which left a profound effect on modern decor, architecture and graphic design.

Thanks to innovative designers such as Eero Saarinen, George Nelson and Milo Baughman. We can still see evidence of this movement this day in modern decor and design. However, just what are the hallmarks of midcentury modernism? How can you identify it? And perhaps achieve it in your own home?

Well, our first tip would be to do a deep dive binge-watch into all seven seasons of Mad Men. But, if you don’t have the time to re-indulge yourself in its sumptuous set designs, check out these pointers below.

 Lehariya – Red by Laura Spring – Available from www.floorstory.co.uk £295

Geometric patterns

When it comes to patterns, bold geometric shapes are the type most closely associated with this decor type. Asymmetrical abstract patterns were the dominant choice for artworks, rugs, upholstery, and even wallpaper. Many of the titans of this period such as Knoll are still producing products in these styles, so it’s possible to snap up an authentic pattern without having to splash out on an antique rug.

 Image via Wikipedia – Author:   Expandinglight5  –  CC License .

Iconic furniture pieces

Without doubt the most obvious way to spot mid-century decor is within the furniture, items like the Noguchi coffee table have become icons of modern design, even if you don’t know the names there are pieces of furniture you will without doubt recognise. Some examples of midcentury modern furniture sit within art galleries.

And it’s no surprise considering how reminiscent in form some of the tables, chairs and sofas of this era are of abstract sculptures of the same time. Genuine pieces from this time can attract an incredibly pretty penny. Happily however there are many manufacturers producing high-quality reproductions of the original designs for substantially less. You could of course head to local markets, car boot sales and the internet to see if you can get lucky and snap up a real article for an absolute bargain.


The juxtaposition of colours and materials that is so commonly utilised by interior designers today harks back to this design movement. They particularly loved taking natural materials, in particular American hardwoods and juxtaposing them with glass and the newly invented moulded plastics — You will find with midcentury modern decor rather than trying to disguise plastic as other materials, it’s natural appearance is celebrated being seen as futuristic and chic.


Modern Open-plan living really traces its roots back to this movement, in the pre-war period architects favoured the traditional approach of building homes in a compartmentalised manner with many small rooms connected by hallways. Midcentury designers through this concept out of the window favouring large open-plan spaces to create a sense of flow and cohesion. As such a typical midcentury modernist living room will often be a shared space with the kitchen and diner. However, interest and focus was often added to the area by such tactics asraised platform around the fireplace or even by installing a sunken conversation pit.


The stalwart designers and architects of this style took great influence from Scandinavian design and the German Bauhaus art movement. As such midcentury decor is deeply intertwined with minimalist design. The movement favours uncluttered sleek lines, and objects with minimal ornamentation keeping true to the “Form follows function” rule. It is only the patterns found in textiles and artwork that breaks this to add splashes of interest.

Therefore when it comes to artworks, furniture and other objects contained within the living room a midcentury modernist general approach would be ‘quality over quantity’ keeping things to a minimum but insuring that everything that was included in the room was of the best standard.

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