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 modern living room authentic in this day and age?
The word midcentury gets thrown around easily these days, with reproduction furniture dominating the home décor market. Beyond hairpin legs and the classic mid-wood teak hue we've grown accustomed to, there is a myriad of oft-forgotten decorating details that make a space authentically midcentury.
To shed light on how to decorate midcentury modern living rooms that feel like they belonged in the last century while still feeling 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, here is exactly how to mix in midcentury staples in a more contemporary setting.
Mix Molded Plastic Lighting With Sunset Colors
These Verner Panton–designed Flower Pot pendant lights were originally designed in the '60s, but they were reintroduced by &Tradition in recent years. These molded plastic lamps were iconic in midcentury style, especially 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 in the whole space together.
Mix Iconic Seating With Jewel Tones
Even if your home has a more traditional architectural style, you can infuse some midcentury modern accents to 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 Oversize 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 oversize 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 antiqued rugs and cushions, and add in a lounge-y low leather chair, like a Tobia Scarpa Soriana chair.
Mix Danish Chairs With an All-White Color Palette
For a more contemporary take on midcentury-modern living rooms, try painting the whole space white and keeping within a light monochrome palette, adding only 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. Mix this with a low-slung coffee table and floor cushions, and top off the space with an oversize midcentury Noguchi Akari lantern to throw off proportions and give the impression of grandeur.