What exactly is Mid-Century design? Find out how to channel the look in your home here

Most of us will have been transfixed by Mad Men (the geekier among us struggling to concentrate on the plot line as we admire the interiors), so we know Mid-Century design is hot. But what exactly is the mid-century modern style? Mid-Century refers to the middle of the 20th-Century, so we’re talking approximately 1933 to 1965. Modern refers to the modernist movement; a school of architectural and design thinking that championed the use of modern materials and techniques and quality design for the masses; as Charles Eames put it “the best, for the most, for the least.” The term first appeared in the mid-50s, but was coined by Cara Greenberg when she published Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s in 1983.

But how do you get the look at home? We find out how to channel the Betty Draper style in your home. 10 interiors experts give their top tips here:

(Top image: Tino Tedaldi)

For inspiration, Mark Parrish recommends visiting a mid-century modern fair such Mid-Century Modern at London’s Dulwich College to get some ideas and to see lots of pieces together in ‘room sets’.

(Above image: Mark Parrish)

Vitra’s Jane Thompson suggests watching the new film ‘Eames: The Architect and The Painter’ for inspiration and recommends the range of mid-century chairs still in production and available in plastic from Vitra as an affordable place to start your mid-century collection. (And so right is she, that you can almost play spot the Eames RAR in this post!)

‘Start with furniture first; that will give you the ‘bones’ to build on,’ advises Kathryn Williams from Knoll International. ‘Mid-Century design is about optimism and innovation, refinement and subtlety. For the true Mid-Century experience use the genuine versions of 20th-Century classic furniture. Better to have fewer genuine pieces than a lot of poor copies.’

Tabitha Teuma, Editor of Mid-Century Magazine says: ‘a light, plain wall forms the best backdrop for your prized Mid-Century pieces.  It sounds obvious, but this immediately gives a contemporary look that allows you to appreciate the shape of the furniture without visual distraction.’

(Above image: Tino Tedaldi)

Fears and Kahn’s Pippa Kahn has some advice on colour too: ‘Incorporate 1950s colours; think blues, pinks, yellows, oranges and limes.’

(Above image: Fears and Kahn)

Minimoderns’ Keith Stephenson says: ‘Keep all things light and structural – from shelving to seating – all the way through to pattern, which can have a clean wireframe look, atomic style or even abstract nature inspired designs – think Calyx by Lucienne Day. And paired-back simple furniture, often wire frame construction or hairpin legs.’ But Keith adds: ‘The mid-modern look is not all hard angles – mix in warm materials like woods, leather and natural weaves like rattan.’

(Above image: Andrew Boyd)

As well as Vitra products, Jane recommends checking out Forest London for Scandinavian pieces and charity shops like the Trinity Hospice Furniture and Interiors Shop for originals.

‘A good tip is to get the lighting right,’ says Michelle of Made Good. ‘Large ceramic or glass side lights, floor lamps, pendants lights, which are very typical of that era, for example Stilnova lights, tie the rest of the look together. They are a good point of reference for taking signature colours too, which you can then follow through with other soft furnishings.’

Adam Thow, Head of Retail & Buying for Southbank Centre says; ‘The main ethos behind Mid-Century design was the embracing of new materials and manufacturing to create stylish pieces that ‘everyone’ could afford. There are a lot of purists who would only buy ‘vintage’ but if you can buy a contemporary, beautifully produced, handmade ceramic piece, made in the UK or a linocut print celebrating the aesthetics in a bold colour pallet, then they are hugely attractive and affordable options.’

Check out ACHICA regularly for Mid-Century  furniture here.

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Katie Treggiden, Guest Editor

View all posts by Katie Treggiden, Guest Editor