Mastering Mid-Century Modern Design Techniques at Home


Clean lines, simplicity, form and function—those are the building blocks of Mid-Century Modern design.

Anchored by statement-making pieces like the Eames lounge chairs and George Nelson Marshmallow sofa, Mid-Century Modern design is defined by architecture, furniture and graphic design from the middle of the 20th century, though some interior designers say the heyday of the period was actually between 1947 to 1957.

“It brings in a contemporary take on luxury, where the emphasis is on pared-back elegant shapes and forms,” said Tara Bernerd, founder of London-based Tara Bernerd & Partners. “Exquisite craftsmanship is key to its appeal and this is paired with contemporary fabrics, which bring a real sense of understated opulence.”

An homage to the era spanning between the 1930s and 1960s, Mid-Century Modern design is rooted in affordability and practicality in the aftermath of World War II with influences of minimalism sparked by Scandinavian design, notes. Think decorative motifs, marble countertops, wooden floors and leaving materials as they are in all their simplicity with the idea that function dictates the style with flat and geometric shaped furniture.

The modernist movement spawned from the Industrial Revolution and got its influence from interior design and architect geniuses such as George Katsutoshi Nakashima, known for his natural, oversized wood tables made from single slabs with natural edges joined together. Another standout artist of the period is Isamu Noguchi, a landscape architect known for his signature accent tables that comprise a curved wood sculpture-like base with a freeform glass top. And, of course, Eero Saarinen, a Finnish-American architect and industrial designer known for the now ubiquitous, gravity-defying pedestal tables and chairs for some of the most recognized Knoll-branded furniture between the late 1940s and through the 1950s. His wildly popular Tulip Table, dating back to the late 1950s, made in round and oval iterations, continues to be sold among mainstream furniture makers from Ikea to West Elm.

Isabelle Dubern-Mallevays, co-founder of the design marketplace The Invisible Collection, says new trends in the timeless Mid-Century Modern design style, including an affinity for curvy furniture, materials with luxurious details and elaborate lines, and statement-making sofas as the ultimate style signifier—whether it’s in a textured boucle fabric or a more modular iteration.

“Heirloom quality, aesthetic and comfort are imperative—hence the lasting influence of mid-century,” Ms. Dubern-Mallevays said.

Here are three ways to incorporate Mid-Century Modern design into your own abode.


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