Volume 5.

How to Create the Mid-Century Modern Style

The term Mid-century modern was coined by author Cara Greenberg and used to discuss the now iconic furniture and design movement of the period between 1945 and the late1960s. The style is governed by practicality and defined by clean lines, accented with smooth curves and highlighted by brass and punches of colour. 

© Marmol Radziner

The first element to consider when creating a Mid-Century Modern interior is the overall shape and form of its content. Chairs, tables and case goods are defined by simple, straight, clean lines accented with smooth curves. Ornate decorative pieces are to be avoided. Note also that when arranging your furniture, embrace the space in between; these items look best in an environment free from clutter. The elegant simplicity of the Mid-Century Modern Teak Lounge Chair by Kurt Olsen for Slagelse is stand out example of the genre. For a serene setting place it in front of the Fristho Rosewood Sideboard and pair with the Rosewood Magazine Rack.

A beautiful lounge chair by Danish designer Kurt Olsen, designed in 1955 and crafted by Slagelse Mobelvaerk Denmark.

The clean simplistic timber and base metal furniture shapes form the perfect backdrop for a strong colour palette. Try darker neutrals with saturated accent colours combined with 1960s car colours for a wider palette; rich burnt orange, pale salmon pinks, moss greens and neutral taupes. These Pink Modular Seating Elements by George Nelson would look fabulous sat with the mossy tones of the DSW Charles Eames Side Chairs and sharpened by the smooth timber and brass accents of the Gio Ponti Italian Bar. Let your colours be bold but avoid combining more than four main colours to maintain a streamlined appearance.

“The details are not the details. They make the design.”
Charles Eames

A pair of 1956 modular seating series chairs designed by George Nelson. 

Key to the Mid-Century Modern style is matching suitable patterns to your furniture collection. Accent the distinctive forms of the furniture with heavy linens, wool textures and asymmetrical abstract patterns. Keep the textures neutral and the patterns bright. If you can not find an original 1950s fabric select a vintage piece from another era but with similar characteristics. The African Ewe Cloth, with its saturated colours and abstract geometric pattern, whist created in 1910 would look perfect upholstered onto an accent cushion or hung as an art piece on the wall. Also look to art and sculpture to inject an element of pattern into your interior. For example the beautifully unusual textured French 1950s Internally Lit Picture or the striking Abstract Sculpture.

“A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles.”
Hans Wegner

A 1960s minimal floor lamp in the style of Max Bill and made by German-Swiss lighting manufacturer, Temde Leuchten.

Create additional colour and shape within your Mid-Century Modern design scheme with the use of ceiling, table or floor lighting. The mid century period produced some sublime examples of modernist lighting. As with the furniture, similar principals can be observed; geometric shapes paired with curved contours and spheres. When selecting your lighting include elements of metal, especially brass, with touches of timber and the occasional exposed bulb. The Temde Leuchten Glass Globes Floor Lamp would balance wonderfully with the Pair of Arteluce Table Lamps. Starburst designs are also a popular signature of the Mid-Century Modern era, as seen in the Tole and Crystal Flower Plaffonier.


Mid-Century Modern Picks on Kairos
A pair of 1956 modular seating series chairs designed by George Nelson.
A 'Medea' chair designed by Vittorio Nobili for Tagliabue, Italy, c.1955.
A mid-century Italian chest of drawers produced in Italy in 1952.
A matching pair of elegant Scandinavian mid-century armchairs, Norway, c.1960.
A pair of Italian armchairs in the style of Giò Ponti, newly upholstered, Italy, c.1950s.
Mid-century sideboard manufactured in the United Kingdom by E-Gomme - G-Plan.
A 1962 daybed with a solid chrome base frame designed by Ludvig Mies van der Rohe for Knoll International, Italy, c.1960.
A mid-century teak drinks trolley of angular form on tapering legs with twin tiers.
Tall multicoloured floor lamp made in 1950s Italy, in the style of Arredoluce.
A 1950s side chair with a black seat pad designed by Harry Bertoia for Knoll, made in the U.S.A.
An umbrella stand of funnel shape with a scooped base crafted in wicker, Italy, c.1950.
A magnificent pair of beautifully aged 1960s Knoll Barcelona stools designed by Ludwig Mies vd Rohe in original cognac leather.
A walnut and glass coffee table in the style of Gio Ponti, c.1950.
A pair of black leather model 65A armchairs with rare original black bases.
A Mid Century Danish rosewood and aniline leather dining chair designed by Kai Kristiansen in 1957 and made before 1970.
A beautiful coffee table in excellent original condition.