Style Guides: Mid-Century Modern
September 27, 2018
Designing an interior is exciting, in part, because there’s so many different styles you can draw from! The almost limitless variations in design can make it a bit difficult to navigate; there’s a million different ways you can construct an overarching theme, let alone the infinite variations in colour, texture, pattern and spacing for each of the different items in your room. This plethora of options makes it enticing to design from the top-down; that is to say, start with a theme and make your design choices within the confines of that theme. One such style that has remained popular in the 21st Century is mid-century modern.
Mid-century modern, as the name implies, was created in the middle of the last century; it began in the late 1930s, became dominant in the late 40s and 50s, and began to fall out of favour in the 1960s. The movement is heavily influenced by the Bauhaus and International styles the preceded it, and was spearheaded by American designers.
The emphasis of mid-century modern is based on a peculiar dynamic; new materials and organic design. A stark departure from the Art Deco period that preceded it, mid-century modern is focused on clean lines and organic shapes, sharply defined and never overly ornate. Mid-century modern had “function meets forms” as a key pillar of it’s design philosophy, so ornamentation for ornamentation’s sake is right out.
The meeting of form and function meant mid-century designers didn’t shy away from new materials, like plastic, Plexiglass and Lucite. These materials were not used to imitate other materials; rather, true to the style’s mantra, they were incorporated to add brilliant colours to an elegant design. Traditional materials were used with as much frequency as man-made, so seeing a home with beautiful hardwood floors and a bright red egg chair in this style isn’t uncommon.
Functionality being paramount to the style means mid-century furniture is often easy to fold, bend, move and stack. The homes decorated in this style tend to have a lot of open space; the emphasis on function at work again, with unnecessary ornamentation and large, ostentatious furniture set aside, it’s easy to navigate the walking space of a mid-century modern home.
The juxtaposition of traditional materials and new technologies, of bright synthetic colours and natural wood makes the furniture of this style look almost futuristic, even though it’s based in the past. This has inspired retrofuturism, a style that imagines what our technology might look like if we continued to use the organic, clean lines and bold colours of the mid-century style.
You can use the countertop to contrast well with hardwood flooring, creating the blend of synthetic and organic that’s so iconic of this style.