What is Mid-Century Modern Style and How Did it Become so Popular?

by Design Theory
A Guide to Mid-Century Modern Interiors

Mid-century modern (also known as MCM) is an interior design style that developed in the United States, spanning from the mid 1930s to the mid 1960s. Although it originally grew from the German Bauhaus style, MCM encompasses many different design movements and schools. It is characterized by simplicity and functionality, with clean lines, organic shapes and a wide range of materials. In this article we shall explore why this interior design style has stood the test of time, and how you can incorporate a mid-century modern aesthetic in your home.

Why is Mid-Century Modern Design so Popular?

Few interior design styles have proven to be as timeless as MCM, and the reasons for this have been pondered by design critics for decades. Even though the style is so broad and captures many different movements within it, it has remained understated and functional, and so it quite simply appeals to a lot of people. It works well in small spaces, which makes sense for an increasingly urban population. It’s readily available to the mass market, yet can be found at every price point. The classic shapes and mixed, even juxtaposed materials, means it goes with just about everything. It can therefore be argued that MCM is less a style era, and more a byword for design itself.

In the last twenty years mid-century modern design has seen a particular revival, which could be due to what the New Yorker calls “The Forty Year Itch”, where nostalgic trends move in 40-year cycles. This also coincides with the popularity of shows set in the 1950s and 60s such as Mad Men, and bands such as Artic Monkeys and The Strokes with their distinctive 60s style.

How to Use Mid-Century Modern Style in Your Home

Thanks to MCM’s broad influence, there are many ways you can bring this interior design style into your home. Firstly, you may want to consider remodeling your home to bring the airy, open plan feel that was popularised in that period, by creating one space for your kitchen, dining and lounge areas. Walls should be painted white or just a shade off, which will allow your high-quality, stylish furnishings to take center stage. If you are feeling more adventurous, a touch of glamour can be added to a room with a feature wall in bold, graphic wallpaper.

In terms of decor, remember that MCM is not about everything matching; instead, furniture and fittings are individual pieces of art to be celebrated. Look to bring in pieces of furniture made from solid wood, such as teak, walnut and oak. While they are more expensive than veneer wood, they are built to last, just like original pieces of MCM furniture. Flea markets and vintage shops are ideal places to find genuine mid-century pieces, and you might even find an original bar cart to really bring back the 50s feel. Light fittings should be bold and stylish, and you can further increase light in a room by using mirrors - a sunburst mirror being an icon of this era.

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