27 Inspiring Mid-Century Modern Looks for Your Living Room
Mid-century modern is the classic style of the 1950s and 60s. It was born out of a desire to combine comfort, functionality, and art, and it’s just as popular now as it was back then.
If you like the design and ideals of this style, then follow these decor suggestions to upgrade your living room. It will look like it belongs straight on the set of an episode of Mad Men—fusing trendiness and practicality.
Furnish with Low-Profile Pieces
Create the illusion of more space by furnishing your living room with low-profile couches and chairs. This allows more natural light to flow through, reduces clutter, and also promotes lounging and reclining.
Since this decor style is all about comfort meeting practicality and functionality, make sure your couch isn’t too high-backed. That will have the negative effect of creating a visual block and cutting your view of the living room in half.
Make a Statement with Wallpaper
A bold wallpaper in a geometric pattern creates an accent wall. Adding a wallpaper pattern to one wall is also a great way to inject a bit of personality in an otherwise neutral decorating style.
You can get some stick-on wallpaper if you’re decorating on a budget, and none of your guests will be the wiser! Avoid covering too large a space, though, because that can become dizzying and cause strain on the eyes.
Create the Feeling of Open Space
Don’t put too much furniture in your living room or it’ll appear too cluttered. Instead, get a few staple pieces with thin legs or this geometric coffee table to create a more spacious feeling.
In true mid-century modern style, everything in the room has a function and purpose and there is no unnecessary decoration or knick-knacks. The cupboards are a great addition to put away any odds and ends.
Get Leather Upholstered Furniture
Add a leather upholstered couch or chair for a trendy mid-century modern look. This style is all about mixing materials, like the leather and wood of this chair. Leather furniture in shades of brown also fits in perfectly with the earthy tones of this decor style.
Floor-to-Ceiling Windows Create Light
Studies show that having natural light in your living spaces can greatly improve your mood. If you already have floor-to-ceiling windows, lucky you! If not, consider adding some to an exterior wall to promote more natural light in your living room and make your guests feel more at ease.
If you’re constrained by a tight budget, removing curtains and painting the walls white can help the room appear lighter even if you have smaller windows.
Draw the Eye with a Geometric Area Rug
A key feature of this decor style is the geometric and abstract patterns here and there. In this example, a geometric rug acts as the centerpiece of the room and adds a splash of color.
It matches the furniture perfectly with its gray, white, and yellow tones, tying the room together. With a geometric area rug, it’s important that you keep the other elements of the room low-key so it doesn’t become too overwhelming.
Go Natural with Wood Furniture
Wood is an important material in mid-century modern decor, and we see it here used perfectly. The cabinet, coffee table, end table, and furniture legs are all slightly different shades of natural wood. Instead of appearing dull, though, it creates a clean, modern look.
When buying natural wood furniture for your living room, be careful not to go too dark. Dark wood can look too bulky or heavy for the sleek and airy feeling of mid-century modern.
Keep the Room Neutral and Earthy
The main color scheme for mid-century modern is the neutral and earth tones, so don’t stray too far from that palette. White, gray, brown, and dark greens or blues characterize this style. Accents are in silver metal or brass.
In this living room, we see that the dark ceiling and walls are balanced by the big window and light colored furniture. Thanks to the earth tones, the room looks comfortable and inviting.
Look for Textured Fabrics
Textured fabrics help to break up the monotony of straight, clean lines. Look for couches, armchairs, and cushions in fabrics like tweed, broadcloth, or twill to make your space look more inviting and relaxing.
Your guests will be surprised and impressed that a room can be fashionable and comfortable at the same time!
Add an Iconic Noguchi Coffee Table
This coffee table was designed by American-Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi for the Herman Miller catalog. It represents the mid-century modern style perfectly with its mix of functionality and simple beauty. It’s a sturdy coffee table that also serves as an artistic statement.
Look for your own Noguchi-inspired coffee table; there are a lot of imitation versions of this table, so don’t worry if the original is out of your budget range.
Furnish with Tapered Legs
Tapered legs are furniture legs that angle outwards slightly and taper towards the bottom. It’s one of the most recognizable signs of this design style and tapered legs are found on any piece of furniture from sofas and chairs to tables and cabinets.
Using slender, rounded legs on heavier pieces of furniture makes them appear weightless. This adds to the feeling of an airy, spacious room.
Make It Lively with House Plants
What better way to spruce up a room that’s neutral and functional than by adding some green, lush plants? Look for bountiful, thick plants that are bright green in color to spice up your living room and make your space feel welcoming.
The pots should fit with the mid-century style, like smooth curved vases or smaller pots on hairpin legs. Don’t forget to keep your plants trimmed and tidy, so your functional room doesn’t look messy.
Contrast Neutrals with Bold Colors
This decor style encourages you to contrast your neutral tones with a few splashes of bold color. It’s all about the unexpected here, so don’t hesitate to put a brightly upholstered couch in the middle of the room, or add some colorful pillows or artwork.
Be sure to avoid going overboard. For example, if you’re adding a few bold color splashes, you probably shouldn’t be adding a geometric area rug or retro accent wall.
Mix Different Materials
The mid-century modern living room should be diverse without looking too busy. One way to achieve this look in your own space is to mix materials by getting furniture that has different elements.
Get a leather chair with wooden frame, or a glass coffee table on metal legs. These materials are usually all in earthy tones so they work together to look eclectic and utilitarian.
Hang Up Some Abstract Art
The art in this design style is usually abstract, with an emphasis on style and color instead of landscapes or portraits. Look for your own pieces that complement the room and that draw the eye. They’ll make great conversation starters with your guests!
Invest in a Sputnik Chandelier
Sputnik chandeliers are named after the first satellite sent into orbit and they are a fantastic piece of decor that add flair to any room. This chandelier has many thin arms with lights at each end made to resemble its space-age namesake.
Read more about the Sputnik chandelier design and how it became popular in the USA. You’ll impress your friends not just with your stunning chandelier but with your knowledge of its design history.
Add Some Retro Touches
Retro patterns are quite common in mid-century modern style. Add a few retro touches like this room’s painting, rug, and pillows. Your living room will look like it belongs in the museum of modern art!
Look for a Comfortable Lounge Chair
A lounge chair is a trendy yet comfortable addition to any living room. The mid-century modern style is about curved lounge chairs with sturdy frames that simply invite you to put your feet up. Look for your own to place by a window or bookcase.
Hang a Sunburst Clock
The sunburst clock is a classic mid-century item that has graced many living room walls. The sunburst look is often found either as a clock or as a mirror (or both side-by-side!).
Invest in your own living room sunburst clock which pairs as artwork. As you can see in this example, it hangs quite nicely in the center of a wall or above the mantel.
Keep It White for Smaller Rooms
If you have a smaller living room or one with fewer windows, consider sticking to white and light gray decor colors. This fits with mid-century modern design due to the neutral, clean aesthetic, but it also helps make your space appear larger and brighter.
In this example, we see a space that could be dark or dingy if it were painted in darker earth tones but is instead welcoming and fresh in all-white.
Brighten Up the Room with an Arc Lamp
Add some light to your living room in the evenings with a classic arc lamp. This is a floor lamp that’s smooth metal on a sturdy base and curves into the room to provide a lot of light.
You can go for a simple, minimalist arc lamp or one that hangs far into the room like in this example. Whatever you choose, the smooth design will add some curved appeal to the straight lines of your room.
Metallic End Tables Add Simplicity
This is an easy place to start your mid-century decor journey, because end tables are small and affordable. Look for some metallic and glass end tables which are simple and functional. This rounded example adds some nice curves to a room that’s otherwise dominated by straight lines.
Make a Couch Pop with Vintage Cushions
In a mid-century living room, the chances are good your couch is a neutral color. Make it pop by adding some fun, vintage cushions. You can get some cushion covers in different colors, textures, and patterns, and change it up when you want to.
You should take this step once the rest of your room decor is done because it’s much easier to match the cushion colors to the artwork or wallpaper than the other way around.
Keep Your Retro Television Console
Television consoles used to be necessary when TVs were heavy, bulky electronics with thick cables. These days, flat screen televisions are light and can be hung directly on the wall—but that doesn’t mean you should do it.
Keep your large television console or look for one that’s heavy and rectangular on thin, tapered legs to achieve a retro and authentic mid-century look.
Use Table Lamps for Decoration
Table lamps aren’t just about lighting a room. They can also be interesting decor pieces. Look for table lamps in bold colors or with smooth, interesting bases. Putting two table lamps side by side, like in this example, adds symmetry and a splash of color.
A Leather Pouf Is Comfort Chic
Leather poufs are quite popular in mid-century modern style because they break up the smoothness of the rest of the room. A pouf adds a different material to the room and also invites your guests to get comfortable.
It’s the perfect combination of trendiness and comfort, which are the main objectives of this design style.
Decorate with Ceramic or Glass
As we’ve seen in previous ideas, the mix of materials is a key component of mid-century living rooms. Don’t just stop at the furniture, though, because you can also add different materials to your smaller decorations like vases and coffee table centerpieces.
Look for a blown-glass vase like in this example, or the ceramic one on the coffee table. The important thing is getting something with clean lines or smooth curves.
Furnishing your living room in mid-century modern style isn’t as difficult as you might think!
Focus on decorating in earthy, neutral tones and look for pieces that are functional as well as fashionable. Remember to mix and match materials like wood, metal, glass, and textured fabrics.
Your mid-century modern look doesn’t need to happen overnight, either. Start with certain pieces here and there, and add to it as your budget allows. The important thing is making sure you’re comfortable in your living room, as you’ll be spending lots of time in this space.