It’s been around for half a century, yet many of us still love midcentury style. These elegant living spaces show us why
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Defined by simple lines, natural materials and a functional edge, midcentury modern design still looks contemporary today. The look transfers particularly well to living spaces, so if you love Danish sideboards, wooden-framed sofas and natural greens, browns and oranges, welcome to the midcentury club. Here are 13 rooms that work this style brilliantly.
Add a bit on the side
This room showcases why a sideboard is a mainstay of the midcentury modern look. It gives a room structure and personality, and makes blank walls more interesting. A sideboard is a great place to hide clutter and can even provide a dividing line in open-plan spaces. Its wide surface provides a handy area for a multitude of items, including a TV, as shown here.
To get the midcentury look, choose a sideboard in warm, mid-toned wood. Look for original Danish versions in rosewood or teak, or if you’re on a budget, you can still get 1970s G-Plan numbers relatively cheaply in many secondhand shops.
Put things on the shelf
A vintage shelving unit can make a big impact in a midcentury living room, as this space demonstrates. Seek out slim frames combined with an open back for the era-specific look, and modular designs which feature metal brackets. The Danish string® shelf is a design classic, but can be pricey.
Look for similar models to the one shown here in rich-hued woods. You can also pick up retro sideboards with shelving attached above, combining two midcentury trends in one.
Sweeten your seating
Every midcentury living room needs a classic wooden-framed armchair. These are linear and boxy, rather than big and squashy, typically featuring loose cushions upholstered in greys, browns and greens.
A matching pair, as seen here, instantly adds midcentury attitude. If you want to save money, hunt for old chairs with cushions that need reupholstering. Ikea also does a very convincing, reasonably priced modern version.
Looking for your perfect armchair? Follow these handy tips to find the best one for you
Go on the wire
Give your living room a midcentury feel with pieces that reflect the exploratory techniques designers were working with at the time, such as wirework. This iconic Harry Bertoia chair was the result of an experiment involving bent metal rods. Similarly, moulded ply, coloured plastic and melamine can all be found in midcentury designs.
Can’t afford the original chair’s hefty price tag? There are lots of wirework coffee tables on the high street at reasonable prices, all inspired by this midcentury technique.
Button things up
A structural, button-backed sofa, typically with wooden legs, is a key silhouette of the midcentury living space. This leather number has a pleasing, boxy shape, while the dark colour helps to ground the rest of the room.
In general, when putting your midcentury room together, think about how you’ll ‘curate’ it. Each piece should work organically with what’s around it, and have enough space to breathe.
Frame some artwork
A midcentury living room isn’t complete without some era-sensitive artwork. In this grown-up space, the pieces help create a boho, museum-like feel along with the Persian rug and leather chairs.
Abstract canvases and minimal black and white photography fit the bill. Also, think about your frames – wood and chrome chime nicely with the midcentury aesthetic.
Need some more midcentury inspiration? Explore this 1960s modernist home
Panel the walls
This midcentury space uses a wall of wood panelling to add warmth and create the simple, natural-without-being-twee feel that’s at the heart of much of this era’s style.
The panelling looks perfect teamed with the tan leather Herman Miller Eames chair and ottoman – midcentury style at its most iconic.
Stay simple and uncluttered
The midcentury look is all about using simple colours and shapes, as well as good-quality materials.
This room is midcentury in spirit thanks to its muted palette, boxy shapes and accents of wood. The limited ornaments are natural and handcrafted.
Use colour carefully
The midcentury look is more about texture and materials than colour, but olive green is a tell-tale hue, along with burnt orange, mustard yellow and earthy browns. Many of the era’s colours are borrowed from nature for a subtle, toned-down effect that’s easy to live with. These striking armchairs contrast beautifully with the black walls and tweedy rug.
Make your tables talk
No midcentury room is complete without a retro coffee table. This curvy glass and wood design is simple yet elegant. It also looks great with the leather butterfly chair – the original model retails for thousands, but you can snap up versions inspired by it for much less.
Other common midcentury coffee table designs include rectangular wooden versions, often with a magazine shelf, and, of course, the nest of tables – that 1960s must-have.
Don’t skip the light fantastic
This living area is filled with stylish midcentury touches, including a modernist pendant that adds a graphic touch.
When it comes to ceiling lights, the midcentury look eschews frilly shades and pretty crystals for an industrial aesthetic – think the atomic-inspired Sputnik light, perhaps the quintessential midcentury light.
Vintage lighting can be expensive, however, and you’ll need to check it has been wired to today’s standards. Fortunately, you can find modern, multi-armed pendants similar to this one at reasonable prices online.
Warm up a new build
Don’t assume a new-build home won’t adapt to the midcentury look – in fact, this style is made for clean-lined spaces. This light-filled living room shows how a few midcentury touches quickly help warm things up. The brickwork, stove, wooden and metal framed furniture all add to a vintage-meets-modern feel, while the iconic Noguchi triangular coffee table, made of glass and wood, is timeless.
Bring in small touches
The midcentury look doesn’t have to take over your home. It’s possible to take just one or two pieces from the era and mix it up.
This cottagey living room has a subtle retro feel, but the standout item is the golden sunburst mirror, which gives a subtle nod to the era. Sunburst designs have been around for centuries, but became popular in the 1950s and 1960s in the form of mirrors and clocks.
What do you love about the midcentury look? Share your thoughts and photos in the Comments below.