The midcentury modern era was known for its sunken living rooms, low-slung seating, bold color combinations, and floating fireplaces—an homage to an era when people loved to entertain in a glamorous but more informal manner than generations past. But what makes a midcentury-inspired living room in this day and age?
What Is Midcentury Modern?
The midcentury modern design movement became popular after World War II and continued until the late 1970s. The style is known for its clean lines, gentle organic curves, and wide variety of materials. Midcentury modern design includes minimal ornaments, uncluttered spaces, functional pieces, and the juxtaposition of contrasting materials.
The word "midcentury" gets thrown around a lot, with reproduction furniture dominating the home décor market. Beyond hairpin legs and the classic mid-wood teak hue we've grown accustomed to, there are myriad oft-forgotten decorating details that make a space authentically midcentury.
To shed light on how to decorate midcentury-inspired living rooms that still feel fresh and modern, we turned to a few of our favorite interior designers who love to adapt the style for today's taste. From molded-plastic lighting to iconic chair designs and wall-mounted shelving, this is how to add midcentury staples to a contemporary aesthetic.
Mix Molded Plastic Lighting With Sunset Colors
These Verner Panton Flower Pot pendant lights were originally designed in the '60s, but they were reintroduced by &Tradition in recent years. They're particularly striking when mixed with light wood and bright sunset colors.
Mix a Suspended Fireplace With Statement Chairs
What's more quintessentially midcentury than a suspended fireplace? Try adding one to a large open-plan living room and mixing it with built-in bookcases and iconic midcentury modern chairs. A bold color palette will tie the whole space together.
Mix Iconic Seating With Jewel Tones
Even if your home has a more traditional architectural style, you can still infuse some midcentury modern accents into your space. Try incorporating an iconic '50s chair, like Eero Saarinen's Womb chair, and mix it with coordinated jewel tones and a moody palette. You'll feel like you just landed on the set of Mad Men.
Mix Built-In Seating With Oversized Wall Lights
Built-in seating was a staple of midcentury modern living rooms—just think of the decade's infamous sunken lounge spaces. For a more modern take on built-in sofas, try a low-slung seat with storage, like a side table, and install it underneath an oversized wall light, like this Paolo Rizzatto sculptural piece designed in 1973.
Mix a Modern Fireplace With a Lounge Chair and Ottoman
If we had to name one piece of furniture to represent the midcentury style as a whole, it would be the Eames lounge chair and ottoman. This iconic design still lives on today thanks to its striking style and ultimate comfort. To channel the midcentury style in your own living room, place an Eames chair next to a modern fireplace with built-in shelving.
Mix Wall Shelving With a Low-Slung Chair
Wall-mounted teak shelving was a staple in midcentury homes, and West Elm has brought the trend back with its rail storage system. To channel the look in your own space, mix wall-mounted shelving with antique rugs and cushions, and add in a lounge-y low leather chair, like a Tobia Scarpa Soriana.
Mix Danish Chairs With an All-White Color Palette
For a contemporary take on a midcentury living room, try painting the whole space white and add a few light wood and tan leather accents. Naturally, a few black accents and a carefully curated selection of Danish midcentury chairs are also must-haves.
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Mix Low Sofas With Large Noguchi Lanterns
Seating was always very low in the midcentury era, so look for seating that's close to the ground, like this apartment sofa by CB2. Add a low-slung coffee table and floor cushions, and top off the space with an oversized Noguchi Akari lantern to throw off proportions and give the impression of grandeur.