Basic Mid-Century Modern Characteristics

Dog on a chair in a Mid-Century Modern screened porch

We all recognize mid mod style when we see it around Phoenix, but do you know what specific mid-century modern characteristics to look out for? For starters, authentic midcentury modern furniture typically comes from countries like Denmark, Japan, Italy, and the United States. But there are two main things that set mid mod apart from other time periods: democratic and minimalistic form, and juxtaposed materials, colors, and textures.

 

Democratic and Minimalistic Form

Function Over Form

Although mid-century modern pieces are beautiful, they are designed with function in mind. Minimalistic form and function work together, and no piece is created just for aesthetic purposes. This attention to functionality also means pieces are made to last, explaining why vintage furniture from this era is still around today.

A big part of its functionality is also being democratic. Mid mod design focuses on accommodating the largest number of people. Architects create simple designs that can be embraced by everybody.

Minimalism

Mid mod style has no room for clutter or ornamentation. Simplicity is key. You’re more likely to see statement pieces like large plants rather than collectibles and trinkets. You won’t find ornate details, busy patterns, or shimmery fabrics. Instead, sleek tables, tapered wooden legs, clean lines, and glass fixtures are the hallmarks of this style.

 

Juxtaposed Materials, Colors, and Textures

Organic vs. Geometric Shapes

The mid-century modern style mixes organic and geometric shapes. Furniture items are typically curved and rounded, angular and geometric, or a mixture of both. An Eames chair is a perfect example of this interplay between organic and bold. It has curves and rounded corners yet firm and sleek cushions.

Mixing Materials

Most vintage mid mod furniture was made from wood, specifically teak, which was preferred for its rich color and durability. Designers of the time also experimented with many other materials. Some man-made materials used included plastic, acrylic, and vinyl, and natural materials used included glass, metal, and marble. One of the more common mid-century modern characteristics is to see many of these materials working together in a single piece.

Neutral with Pops of Color

Like with materials and textures, midcentury modern designers love to mix colors. Mid mod decor uses primarily neutral tones against bold accent colors. Traditionally, the 1950s palette used brighter hues like jewel tones and pastels. In the 1960s, a bright color palette transitioned to warmer earthy tones that reflected nature, like forest green, mustard yellow, and muddy brown in the 1970s.

Welcoming Nature Indoors

With the attention to organic style and earthy tones comes the need for living with nature. Big windows integrate homes with their natural surroundings and plants are incorporated into the decor to encourage a sense of continuity from the outside world to the inside of the home. Some great plants for mid mod design include the monstera, fiddle leaf fig, snake plant, and umbrella plant.

Now that you know how to identify mid-century modern characteristics, add the mid mod style to your home.

Want some help adding mid mod flair to your home?

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By Ryan Smith

The founder and president of Mid Mod Phoenix, Ryan is passionate about mid-century modern architecture, real estate, modernism, restoring homes, designing beautiful living spaces, ASU, and enjoying life in the Valley of the Sun. To learn more about any of these topics, get in touch with him at ryan@midmodernphoenix.com.

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