13 mid-century modern living room ideas for a retro revamp
Are you feeling the retro vibes of mid century modern living rooms? Inspired by forward-thinking 1950s – 1960s design innovations, and rooted in functionality, clean lines, and simplicity, it’s easy to understand why mid century modern living room ideas are more popular than ever.
Sam Baldry, head of design at Swoon (opens in new tab), comments: ‘With over five million mentions on Instagram, mid-century modern designs (opens in new tab) are proving to be an extremely popular living room trend 2022. Aptly named, mid-century modern style presents a contemporary twist on the classic mid-century aesthetic that was all the rage in post-war America.’
‘Characterized by clean lines, natural materials, utilitarian functionality, and organic shapes – mid-century modern furniture does more than sit and look pretty. Think rounded Oak coffee tables full of crosswords, olive green velvet sofas with contrasting linen throw pillows, organically woven rugs in muted tones, and wooden TV stands. Dreamy.’
*Design note – mid-century modern is also often referred to as MCM.
1. Go for shapely designs
Wondering how to create a mid-century-inspired living room? To begin, stay ahead of the curve with sweeping silhouettes on seating, decorative accessories, and mid-century modern coffee tables that cocoon your space in effortless chic and sociable allure.
Eleanor Trepte, Dekay & Tate (opens in new tab), says: ‘Curved and organic feeling furniture is very emblematic of mid-century modern design. The famous Eames chair is a hallmark of this look, and other unique shapes took hold through curved and almost round sofas, odd-shaped coffee tables, and even geometric shapes that felt angular and clean.’
Juliana Oliveira, Dallas-based Brazilian interior designer and general contractor, Beyond Interior Design (opens in new tab), says: ‘Highlighting iconic geometric shapes within art, furniture and decor pieces inspired from the 50s and 60s is a must. In order to acquire great places other than retail shopping you can source pieces at flea markets and/or estate sales.’
2. Balance materials
Amanda Thompson, Aline Studio (opens in new tab), says: ‘Materials were and are critical to mid-century design. Think lots of wood, metal, glass, and vinyl, often used in tension with each other to create a unique look.’
Jenna Choate & Mariana Ugarte, co-founders, Interior Fox (opens in new tab), comment: ‘It’s important to bring in subtle colors and a mix of materials because mid-century style can feel quite outdated when overdone if mixed with all the same tones of wood. Light oak woods do well with warmer textiles and rich textures, whereas the darker, warm woods look best with some cooler tones around. The key here is finding balance and using a keen eye to balance the choice of finishes.’
Shop a range of mid-century modern furniture (opens in new tab) designs in mixed materials at Living Spaces.
3. Choose sleek-lined furniture for a minimalist twist
Touch on modern minimalism with furniture that features simple lines and strong silhouettes, for an unfussy look that celebrates form and function.
Oliveira says: ‘When selecting furniture pieces, clean lines and thin frames are ideal as well as furniture that is elevated and off the floor.’
Shown here, the Copa Coffee Table (opens in new tab) and End Table (opens in new tab), from Designer Looks Furniture brings a fresh look to a classic mid-century style, with a sleek-lined design finished in a rich, warm brown.
4. Add impact with color
Grace Baena, interiors curator, Kaiyo (opens in new tab), says: ‘When creating your mid-century modern living room, try utilizing high-contrast colors along with the lines and shapes of mid-century design. Incorporate the sorts of textures and colors associated with bright and fun places – specifically Latin America. This sort of energy pairs well with the strong, sober lines of mid-century.’
Trepte says: ‘Embrace the true texture and colors of the time but translated to make sense within your space. If you love blue living room ideas, then a nubby upholstered blue cushion on a wishbone dining chair could be a great fit for your space without compromising on your personal preferences.’
Trepte continues: ‘Mix the neutral and the bold. The great thing about mid-century modern is that you can still achieve a muted color palette on the whole but use color as your friend, in a way to bring the shapes and textures to life. The contrast created when mixing these two will feel exceedingly modern and you’ll realize that a little goes a long way!’
5. Mix and match pieces for an eclectic edge
Express your living room’s unique personality with a curated scheme, layered with a variety of design influences. And If you’re feeling creative, why not create something unique, and learn how to stencil to upcycle furniture for a mid-century look?
Thompson says: ‘Pick and choose. You want your home to feel modern, not like a museum of the 1960s. An Eames chair or a modern coffee table with chrome legs can contrast nicely against a more textural rug, industrial-style cabinet, or transitional couch.’
6. Invest in timeless pieces
Get inspired by the shape and material of vintage furniture, and steer towards iconic designs that stand the test of time.
Choate and Ugarte comment: ‘When considering modern living room ideas, start with a showstopper item such as a statement chair or unique lighting piece and look at the design language it presents to you. Do you want to build upon the black thin legs or play up the rattan elements and go slightly boho? We try not to look at a statement piece as a limitation to a specific design era but rather as a starting point to build a conversation and create depth + character. We suggest skipping the high street as the best statement pieces will be found as a bespoke design or vintage find.’
Living room flooring ideas can make or break a design scheme, and when it comes to mid-century styling, a wood floor can make all the difference. Choosing a classic oak tone as the authentic foundation for a mid-century scheme will bring all the elements together, adding coherence and character.
Darwyn Ker, managing director, Woodpecker Flooring (opens in new tab), says: ‘We’ve seen a big increase in enquires about how to achieve an impactful Mid Century look in recent months. This classic 1950s style is all about reminiscing and celebrating that golden age.’
‘When it comes to Mid Century styling, there are two really distinct directions in which to take the flooring. The first is Scandi style, keeping the wood light which allows homeowners to go to town on the walls and those fabulous accessories that the mid-century movement is renowned for.’
‘The second option is to go with a much darker board. Mid-century furnishings are very rounded and soft, the juxtaposition created with a dark floor really highlights these curves, allowing your furnishing to take center stage.’
Browse and shop a variety of wood flooring options at Wood Flooring USA (opens in new tab).
8. Make an attractive display with open storage
Why hide favorite pieces behind doors when you can add interest to apartment living room designs with collected treasures from near and far?
Baldry suggests: ‘To incorporate a mid-century vibe into your living room, why not switch up your current storage for a natural wood sideboard (opens in new tab) with exposed cupboards? For a true retro feeling, top with a vinyl player and a few of your favorite records, and add some playing cards for the ultimate authentic display.’
9. Add warmth with wood paneling
Decorate a blank space and take warming texture to walls with a retro-loving, wood paneling living room wall idea.
Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery (opens in new tab), comments: ‘When designing a mid-century modern living room, fitting horizontal wall paneling will make a room feel wider or longer, making it a great trick for small spaces. Furthermore, wall paneling can be a work of art in and of itself; it does not have to be strictly architectural.’
10. Lay down the wow factor with a retro rug design
Add punchy attitude from the floor up with a living room rug idea packed with the soft curves and distinctive geometrics associated with interior schemes of the 50s and 60s.
Chris Bond, director, The Rug Retailer (opens in new tab), says: ‘There is a real timeless quality about the mid-century movement, with the furnishings associated with that era still as popular today as they were back in the 50s and 60s.’
‘A statement rug, like those from the Muse Retro (opens in new tab) collection, will brighten up any space, adding color and character. They are ideal if your home needs a quick injection of personality.’
11. Get sociable for cocktail hour
Bottoms-up! Think with Mad Men suave, and incorporate a happy hour fixture to raise glasses and spirits – quite literally!
Oliveira says: ‘Mid-century design is done with entertaining in mind, so adding a bar area whether a bar cart or cabinet highlighting mixology pieces is great.
For a fun weekend project, serve up a sizzling measure of style and functionality with a fabulous DIY bar cart.
12. Sink into mid-century modern seating
Zone your living space with an exciting best couch design that harks back to the nostalgic era.
Mark Smith, chief designer and CEO, Arlo & Jacob (opens in new tab), is a fan of mid-century style: ‘Furniture design from the 1950s – 1970s has never really been out of style. Its modernity looks as at home today as it did 70 years ago.’
As shown, Smith continues: ‘The Leon sofa (opens in new tab) was designed with off-the-floor clean lines and a simple shape in mind. Details such as tapered legs and the addition of bolsters add a feeling of luxury. It’s perhaps best described as a master of understated, discreet luxury.’
13. Add uplifting pattern hits with funky wallpaper
Introduce another dimension of color, pattern, and interest, with a retro wallpaper design that creates a living room feature wall with a playful edge. If you’re renting and in the mood for a bold boost, try the Peel-and-stick removable wallpaper in Mid-century modern (opens in new tab), by Spoonflower at Walmart.
Rebecca Drury, co-founder, MissPrint (opens in new tab), says: ‘Reflected in all areas of culture, from TV shows to fashion, we are noticing a definite lean towards retro style. Mixing natural materials, reclaimed wood, and rattan with mid-century furniture and objects is a popular theme coming through interiors. This is a look that can work with both neutral color palettes – think whites, stone grays, blacks, and tans – or with brighter, nostalgic shades such as mustard yellow and teal blues.’
14. Get creative with unique mid-century features
Emily Mackie, interior designer, Inspired Interiors (opens in new tab), flipped her mid-century home for modern-day functionality:
‘Take advantage of original floor plans and unique mid-century features to give a more current design character. A gray V-shaped sofa projecting into the living room adds some spin to the space.’
What are the origins of mid-century modern design?
Trepte says: ‘Mid-century modern design was born really in the 50s and 60s, as a response to the changing world around us at the time. The need and desire for functional, simplistic furniture and decor in our homes was a rebellion against the ornate traditions from decades before, and a way for families to embrace a more modern, organic way of living.’
What are the key elements of MCM design?
Thompson says: ‘Color was a big element. We saw the use of color in ways we didn’t see before, often either as a bold accent or as a way to make a piece of furniture stand out singularly in a room.’
‘Don’t forget function! The entire heart of the MCM movement lies in function so if you acquire gorgeous antique MCM chairs, for instance, make sure they are sturdy enough to handle daily use!’
Lily Wili, founder, Ever Wallpaper (opens in new tab), says: ‘Mid-century modernism championed the idea of using natural materials in architecture and design. This style is often characterized by simplicity, functionality, and an emphasis on clean lines. In the living room, this might mean using a light-colored palette with few adornments, incorporating natural elements like wood or stone, and choosing furniture that is both comfortable and stylish.’