The midcentury modern era was known for its sunken living rooms, low-slung seating, bold color combinations, and floating fireplaces. It was often defined by entertaining at home in a glamorous, but more informal, manner than generations past.
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 is a myriad of 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, they've mastered the art of adding midcentury staples to a contemporary aesthetic.
Keep scrolling to learn how to decorate with midcentury modern décor and transform your space into a luxurious blast from the past.
Hang Plastic Molded Lighting
These Verner Panton Flower Pot pendant lights were originally designed during the '60s, but they were reintroduced in recent years. They're particularly striking when mixed with light wood and bright sunset colors. Natural wood ceiling beams, vibrant hues, and wall-mounted shelving styled alongside low seating are a few more elements that bring out the midcentury vibe in this space.
Introduce Statement Chairs
What's more quintessentially midcentury than a suspended fireplace? Try adding one to a large, open-plan living room, then mixing it with built-in bookcases and iconic midcentury modern chairs. A bold color palette will tie the whole space together.
If you're not into mixing too many different colors, opt for a single vibrant shade to include throughout your design. Choosing a rug that reflects the bright hues of your accent furniture can tie the space together for a cohesive finish.
Mix Various Textures
One of the more favorable aspects of midcentury modern design is its flexibility in mixing styles and patterns. Adding the style to your living room can be as easy as layering different textures together: This room successfully mixed various pieces through the wood palette wall, black twin coffee tables, and the patterned rug layered on the white carpet.
Add 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 a modern remake of 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.
Go With Wooden Accents
Wooden accents can go a long way in bringing this style to your space. Go for items that are a bit out of the ordinary, like the statement chair in this photo. You can also add pieces that are sleek and sturdy, like the tripod lamp styled by this couch. Having multiple options can set the stage for midcentury in a subtle way.
Feature an All-white Color Palette
For a contemporary take on a midcentury living room, try painting the whole space white, then 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. Statement lighting, like this oversized leaner floor lamp, brings in angular lines characteristic of the design style.
Use Oversized Wall Lights
Built-in seating was a staple of midcentury modern living rooms—just think of the decade's famous 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 and reproduced by current brands like Burke Décor.
Focus on a Few Key Pieces
To bring this popular style into your living space, you may feel the need to change every aspect of your room. However, focusing on a few key pieces that radiate the midcentury theme can do wonders. A modernized sectional, marble-topped accent table, hanging black light fixture, and a small plant on the fireplace may only be a few items in this living room. However, they bring the idea to life with a modern and minimalistic twist.
Bring in Geometric Designs
One of the simplest ways to elevate your room from minimalist to a distinct midcentury vibe is by adding geometric shapes into the mix. A statement piece like this solid black coffee table, amongst a primarily white color scheme, shifts the style away from what would typically be considered decidedly modern.
Pair 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.
Don't Be Afraid of a Brighter Color Palette
Midcentury modern may have some of its roots in neutral and all-white color schemes, but this doesn't mean you have to avoid brighter colors to achieve the look. This emerald green sofa that sits lower to the ground still radiates the style and stands out against the sea of various blue textures. If you can find pieces still reflective of the time in different shades, you can create a stunning space that fits your room's color palette.
Grab Vintage-Style Dećor
Old school dećor seems like an obvious choice, yet the pieces you choose can still set your space apart. Instead of leaning into contemporary pieces, grabbing some vintage options like this TV stand and cabinet, along with a mustard-colored leather sofa, allows you to step back in time. Paired with geometric wall art and a vibrant patterned rug, this space is full of midcentury accents that blend with current boho décor.
Opt for Wall Shelving
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 low leather chair, like a vintage Tobia Scarpa Soriana. This popular chair was first designed in 1969 and became a staple of the midcentury aesthetic.
Pair Gray and Light Wood Tones Together
If you want to keep things neutral and easy to navigate, try working with a gray color scheme paired with light wood options. Neutral colors give a natural vibe and keep things sweet and simple. A minimalist mindset is a great base to start building off of to move into a more apparent midcentury theme.
For rooms that adhere to modern minimalistic color schemes, introduce a flair of midcentury with your choice of furniture—like round mirrors, low seating, and coffee tables or accent chairs with angled legs.
Incorporate Brown Leather Pieces
Whether you want a dark, richer tone or a lighter option like the leather armchair in this living room, leather is a fantastic material to easily add midcentury vibes without going overboard. Place it next to a less organic piece to change things up, like this metal side table with a marble block base. An angular metal floor lamp and textured throws help add to the cozy, inviting vibe characteristic of midcentury design.
Showcase Low Sofas With Large Lanterns
Seating was typically designed 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, then top off the space with an oversized Noguchi Akari lantern to throw off proportions and give the impression of grandeur. On an all-white background, these vintage-inspired pieces feel brand new.
Invest in Unconventional Furniture
Clean lines are great, but mid-century modern is also defined by its quirkiness and unconventional nature. By adding a simple piece like this unique light wooden accent table next to a neutral-colored sofa, you can change the definition of your space with ease. Seek out smaller, out-of-the-ordinary accent furniture pieces that can work seamlessly with what you already have in your home.
Accent With Gold Metallics
Golden metallic accents are a well-recognized design staple in the midcentury modern realm. Adding a lamp, golden rimmed circular table, and abstract artwork with gold weaved throughout is a great way to keep the space modern and upscale without losing the midcentury edge. You don't need to go overboard–start with a smaller gold dećor initially that is either geometric or incorporates sleek lines.
Hang Sunburst Décor
Few pieces are as associated with midcentury modern as sunburst décor. Ranging from mirrors and clocks to wall art, adding just one element can get the point across. With so many ways to incorporate it, there is bound to be an option that will fit in with the rest of your living room. We can't get enough of this statement chandelier that commands a focal point at the center of the room.
Mix Organic and Synthetic Options Together
This style does a great job of not forcing anyone to choose between certain aspects, especially if there is a way to include both. Investing in pieces like the circular white block coffee table creates a great contrast to the wooden framework of this sofa, chairs, and wall décor. Organic and modern come together to create a stunning environment.