How to Get Midcentury Modern Style On Any Budget

Whether you can spend a lot or a little, it’s easy to give your home a trendy—and timeless—midcentury influence. Here, ten tips for getting this livable look at every price point.

By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Chris Nguyen, AnalogDialog

Photo By: Design by Jill Greaves Design Inc.; Photo by Gillian Jackson

Photo By: Design by Jen Talbot Design; Photo by Dustin Halleck

Photo By: Design by Tasha Schultz, Tchotchkes Design Studio; Photo by Thea Volk

Photo By: Design by Aletha VanderMaas, True Home Restorations; Photo by K. Holly Photography

Photo By: Design by Michelle Lord Interiors; Photo by Peter McMenamin

Photo By: Design by Kress Jack, Kress Jack at Home; Photo by Catherine Nguyen Photography

Photo By: Design by Michelle Lord Interiors; Photo by Peter McMenamin

Photo By: Design by Christen Ales Interior Design

Photo By: Niki Schafer Interior Design; Photo by Clare West Photography

Take Your Time

If you want to create an authentic midcentury look—and don’t have the budget for an “instant” collection—get used to going slow. Designer Chris Nguyen shares his own approach: “Persistence and patience were the keys to finding great vintage pieces for the pictured apartment. The best collections are built over time with careful selection from sources such as local and online dealers and even places like eBay and Etsy. Don’t be afraid of pieces that need a little work either, sometimes a little elbow grease or knowing a good furniture restorer will help you get that dream piece sooner and for less money than you think.”

Steal the Style Signatures

Take a look at midcentury designs and you’ll notice a number of characteristics that are easy to adapt to any space—without investing in a single vintage piece. In this bedroom, for example, designer Jill Greaves created a midcentury look by using a mix or warm wood tones, pops of primary color, and graphic design patterns.

Mix Old and New

To give her clients Chicago loft a midcentury modern update with a "touch of farmhouse chic," designer Jennifer Talbot turned to a range of sources, combining new pieces with flea market and antique pieces the couple collected over the years. "The key to creating a natural visual balance is a blend of new pieces and things that have been thoughtfully collected. If you vary where you shop for the new pieces the end result will feel personal," she says.

Shop Strategically

"I find the majority of my vintage pieces at thrift stores," says designer Tasha Schultz, who created this inviting midcentury-influenced living room. "I always have a running list of things I am on the hunt for and dimensions. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find something at your first stop, vintage hunting requires patience and perseverance!"

Mix it Up

"I love mixing authentic midcentury pieces with reproductions to make a space feel fresh and not too much like a time capsule," says designer Aletha VanderMaas. "The bold, blue sectional sofa and matching ottoman complement the orange brick wall, which is an original feature in this midcentury modern home. The vintage end tables that flank the sofa give the room a retro vibe—and were both Craigslist finds for less than $50 each. The assortment of graphic pillows makes the space feel more modern and not stuck in the 1960s. And the reproduction Sputnik light fixture is from Practical Props in Los Angeles, and is certainly the focal piece of the entire living room."

Cook Up Some Midcentury Flavor

The ingredients for a midcentury-style kitchen are simple: stained wood cabinets with flat-panel doors and a few vintage accessories (like the bulb pendants above). Designer Michelle Lord shares her money-saving strategies for creating a midcentury look. “I like to shop for midcentury furniture and accessories at garage sales and at Salvation Army stores. Then, to pull the look together I use pops of midcentury colors like lime green and orange.”

Be Flexible

When designer Kress Jack had a month to furnish a three-bedroom home, he turned to a wide range of sources to find pieces that were available right away. “Luckily the clients wanted to incorporate as many vintage pieces as possible to give the home character and uniqueness. You can find great vintage pieces, including great bargains, if you aren’t afraid to run around a bit. For this home, we bought pieces from local flea markets, vintage stores, and estate sales. For inexpensive Mid Century reproductions I like HD Buttercup and West Elm. I also like to repurpose pieces when I can and give them a new life—like the coffee table, a midcentury piece that we turned into a terrarium by adding sand and air plants, and a Plexiglas top to contain the mess.”

Update the Architecture

The graphic patterns and bold colors characteristic of midcentury style can overwhelm a small space. But with a little creativity you can get the same effect, as designer Michelle Lord did in this bathroom update. Adding a lattice panel between the vanity and toilet/bath area not only created a sense of privacy but also incorporated pattern and texture, without straying from the all-white and wood palette.

Let the Location In

Give your version of midcentury style a more personal look by letting your home’s geographic location influence the design. For this house in Austin, Texas, for example, designer Christen Ales, chose colors and motifs that nod to the southwestern site—and yet still have a midcentury look. “The décor mixes fun bohemian patterns and textures, like this wallpaper from Cavern Home, with modern and more traditional Mexican style furniture silhouettes for a clean, but eclectic look,” she says.

Start With One Piece

“Falling in love with a vintage piece of furniture and basing the room around it is a great way to decorate,” says Niki Schafer, who designed this colorful, midcentury-inspired living room. “I always encourage clients to design with colors, patterns and textures they truly love not just what’s the latest fashion. Vintage midcentury modern pieces can be pricey but that will be reflected in their quality. Look for treasures at garage sales and flea markets, and consider reupholstering pieces with new fabrics to give your furniture a new lease on life without ruining its heritage or style.”