15 Ways to Give Your Rooms Midcentury Modern Mojo

Love the hipster-chic look of Midcentury Modern design? Then these 15 boomerang-style interiors are just your type of vintage. We'll demystify the iconic furniture pieces you'll need to steal this style for your own home.

By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Al Argueta/Apa Publications


Photo By: Kim Cornelison (styled by Elizabeth Demos)

Photo By: Adam Gibson

Photo By: design by Studio Schicketanz

Photo By: design by Studio Schicketanz

Photo By: Stacey Brandford

Photo By: Brandon Barre ©Brandon Barre

Photo By: Craig Kuhner

Photo By: Mathew Williams ©Mathew Williams

Photo By: Lisa Romerein (Styled by Heather Bullard)

Period Piece

To give a home designed by famed Midcentury architect Milton Ryan a look in keeping with its 1950s roots, the team at NEST Modern Design used a mix of custom furniture and vintage pieces, like the George Nelson Bubble Pendant hanging above the dining area. "During the renovation great care was taken to preserve any original materials possible, and replace those that were unsalvageable with period-appropriate pieces," say the designers.

Dining in Midcentury Style

To give this cozy breakfast nook its vintage appeal, designer Victoria Kirk of Victoria Kirk Interiors set a trio of classic furniture designs — Eero Saarinen's Tulip Table, Charles and Ray Eames' DSW chairs, and Louis Poulson's Pendant Light — against a cushy upholstered banquette. "The nook provides a place for casual family dining, kids' homework, and arts and crafts," she says. "And all materials, including the wood, paint, upholstery, and fabric are 'green'."

Mix-and-Match Modern

You don't need a huge budget or a house full of pedigreed retro treasures to get a cool, vintage look. Designer Shannon Eddings' home is a perfect illustration of outside-the-box thinking. In her son's room, for example, she paired a $300 Midcentury dresser with a brand new West Elm chair and rug, a new double-gourd lamp, and a collection of framed prints. The shapes and styles all have a '50s look, even though some are straight from a catalog. For more inspiration, tour her home, that was featured in HGTV Magazine

Perfect Partners

Originally designed for a hotel in Copenhagen, Arne Jacobsen's Egg Chair has lived on as a design classic and cozy living room feature ever since. Here, in rich blue upholstery, the chair repeats the organic lines of Isamu Noguchi's glass and wood coffee table and Frank Gehry's cardboard Wiggle Chair. Design by HMH Architecture + Interiors

Grown-Up Elegance

"My clients desired a fairly warm room for grownups (only) that would catch the eastern sun. The kids' arts-and-crafts room is adjacent and visible through a pair of glass doors," says designer Adam Gibson of Adam Gibson Design. To give the adults' retreat a sleek, sophisticated look, Gibson grouped a collection of Midcentury-inspired furnishings around a minimalist hearth. The stars of the space are the Wally chairs by Kube, designs based on Marcel Breuer's iconic Wassily chairs; the Amici metal bench by Nuevo; and the Spencer sofa by Gus Modern.

Playing With Color and Shape

When a former food writer decided to refresh the kitchen in her 1951 home, she turned to kitchen designer Christine Nelson for help. Nelson helped her client increase the counter space and overall efficiency and gave the kitchen the "colorful, updated, Midcentury Modern" look she wanted. "A gray linoleum floor, stacked subway-tile backsplash, and butcher-block counters create a clean backdrop while orange walls, and avocado-green accents add a burst of Mad Men-era color," says Nelson. Classic period furnishings like a Saarinen-style Tulip Table and a pendant light based on Werner Panton's Flowerpot design complete the look.

Modern, Inside and Out

"The update of a Midcentury home in Carmel, California had multiple goals, bringing 21st century comfort and LEED-certified energy efficiency to an older home, without increasing the footprint or sacrificing its vintage appeal," says architect Mary Ann Schicketanz of Studio Schicketanz. Choosing Midcentury furnishings like the classic Bertoia Diamond Lounge Chairs, designed by sculptor Harry Bertoia for Knoll in 1952, helped create a look in keeping with the home's architecture.

Great Legs

Midcentury furnishings are ideal for small rooms. Pieces with simple lines, unadorned surfaces, and slim legs create a sense of space and air in even the tightest quarters, like the bedroom of this studio apartment which was intended, according to designer Chris Nguyen of AnalogDialog, "to showcase the owner's incredible art and furniture collection while maintaining the feel of a warm and inviting home and not that of a museum."

Best Seat in the House

With inspirations as disparate as an English club chair and an American baseball mitt, the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, designed in 1956 by Charles and Ray Eames, has nonetheless become a design classic. The duo creates instant Midcentury Modern cred in any setting, but looks particularly right when paired with other period-appropriate elements like the vertical wood paneling architect Mary Ann Schicketanz specified in the renovation of this Carmel, California home.

Serving Up Vintage Style

As part of the the total rehab of a dated kitchen, designer Sarah Richardson created a cozy breakfast area with the help of some modern classics: a vintage chandelier inspired by the Sputnik style designed by engineer Gino Sarfatti in the 1950s and chairs similar to Marcel Breuer's chrome-and-cane Cesca chairs, designed for Knoll in 1928.

Layered Luxury

To give this bedroom a boutique-hotel style, the Toronto Interior Design Group used a rich mix of tone-on-tone fabrics, textures and materials, including an embossed metallic dresser and a chrome-and-glass side table inspired by Eileen Gray's famous design, part of the permanent design collection at New York's Museum of Modern Art. "It's the perfect spot to recharge your batteries after a long day," say the designers of the space.

Personal Selection

"Although we incorporated traditional family antiques in areas of this client's home, she requested her home office be a more accurate reflection of herself, with Midcentury Modern influences and brightly colored accents," says designer Laurie Woods of Laurie Woods Interiors. The table and chairs are contemporary interpretations of Eero Saarinen classics. The colors and pattern of the custom cowhide rug provide a feminine twist. The framed graphic photograph is by Allison V. Smith, the client's childhood friend.

Cool Contrast

The strong, simple silhouettes of Midcentury Modern designs work well in spaces of every architectural era. Case in point: In designer Anna-Carin McNamara's own traditional dining room, a pendant fixture inspired by George Nelson's polymer creations for Knoll in the 1950s extends from an ornate plastic ceiling rose, and the Cherner and Eames-style molded plywood and plastic dining chairs live comfortably before a pair of arched French doors.

Making a Statement

Designer Jennifer Scott of A Good Chick to Know took care to layer plenty of personality into a young bachelor's newly built condo. "We started with striking wallpaper to set a darker, more masculine mood within the space; we then found our statement pieces and opted for custom lighting with a sense of story. We scoured estate and garage sales for the vintage Persian rug to counterbalance the light wood floors, and add in a little traditional glamour with the industrial decor elements," says Scott. Among those statement pieces is a Midcentury gem: Marcel Breuer's Wassily chair, designed for Knoll in 1925.

Living With History

Kylie and Ryan Durkin love Midcentury Modern design so much, they opened a store devoted to the style: Modern Manor in their hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. And of course their own home showcases their favorite aesthetic, from the living room's orange-upholstered Danish Modern armchair to the Sputnik-style ceiling fixture and the vintage road sign. Take a tour of the rest of their boomerang-style home.

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