Monday, May 17, 2021

Adapting Mid Century Modern for a New Era

A mid-century modern bathroom vanity is softened with tropical foliage.

Mid-century modern style has been enjoying a heyday since we came round the bend into the 21st century. Other than a decade-long stint in the 80s, it has pretty much been an ever-present design standard since the mid 1930s when it first began to emerge. 

When the world wars forced European power-house designers like Bauhaus out of Germany and they landed in America, a whole new design style was born. America was primed to receive something totally new after an era of conflict. Modern design was born.

The late 70s and all through the 80s, designers shifted their focus to “different” styles but never truly escaped modern design with its organic lines and use of colors. The late 90s brought the reawakening of the modern and dubbed it mid-century modern. Just after the launch of Mad Men it was suddenly everywhere we looked. 

Now nearly 20 years later, is mid-mod on its way out? Some say it is. But they fail to realize just how entrenched the style is in design culture. The Brady Bunch style we love so much has been revamped again and again over the years for each new era of modern design. 

Mid-mod is not finished; it’s just evolving. In the words of Alessandra Wood of Modsy, online interior design house, “don’t sell your Eames chairs yet—just throw a sheepskin over the backs of each of them and add a bunch of houseplants to your bookshelves.”  If you understand a few current design trends, it’s easy to adapt your favorite  mid-century modern wall scones, modern furniture, and color schemes. Here are some ideas.

A little boho design in this bathroom (light wood and organic shaped lighting) makes for beautiful mid-century modern design.

Boho-ize It

The Boho-chic movement in fashion was characterized by loose, flowy, carefree clothing. Sort of the opposite of the put-together and precise style of mid-century modern. However, that’s what makes it a perfect way to adapt mid-mod. Just take your modern design elements and find a way to soften them; make them more earthy. 

The organic curves and shapes of mid-mod are already well suited to a Bohemian style. Play up those features in your design then add some softer elements: high pile rugs, fuzzy throw pillows, macrame and crochet textiles, neutral colors. 

The design industry has already coined the term “mid-century boho” as a design style so you should be able to find furniture and accessories with the clean lines of mid-mod in Bohemian fabrics, textures, and colors. Add an accent chair to your space in light fabric or earthy color. Or use your existing modern furniture and add a few boho pillows.

Go 80s

We are in the middle of an 80s resurgence. Adding any element of the 80s to your mid-mod design will surely take the edge off, so to speak. Many of the styles of the 80s, especially those that are popular again, blend seamlessly with mid-mod. 

Lucite, or acrylic was a favorite of the 80s. It was a carryover from the modern design era, which played with man-made materials like plastic and glass liberally. Add some lucite to your design. It doesn’t have to be a large piece of furniture to have an effect, a few bar stools will do. 

Some 80s color is a great addition to a mid-mod design. Neon, pastels, and mauve (lately renamed millennial pink) are all a go for updating a modern style. You could also try chintz and large-scale florals. Multi-colored florals are easy to blend into an existing color scheme and soften clean-lined modern styles in an instant.

A millennial pink tile backsplash behind a mid-century modern vanity updates this bathroom.

Embrace Biomorphism

Biomorphism is a design that lets nature take the lead. Think coffee tables that follow the natural shape of the tree from which they were cut. Or a fluid, amoeba-esque sofa. Whether naturally occurring or by design, these organic shapes slide right into mid-mod design with ease and have the benefit of easing it up a bit. 

Once again, you don’t have to go big to get the benefits of biomorphism. Vases, statement mid century modern wall sconces or floor lamps in more organic shapes all get the job done. Look for ergonomic furniture pieces. They generally have the organic shapes you’re looking for. 

Loosen Up On Minimalism

Mid-mod is about as minimalistic a style as there is. The easiest way to adapt is to let your “stuff” show a little. Don’t be afraid of a few knick knacks. Bring out your collections. If you feel like looking at it, put it where you, and everyone else can see it.

The key to making “stuff” work is to be sure it ties into your design in some way. Make sure it has some of the colors or textures already in your space. It needs to play nicely with everything else but doesn’t have to be matchy-matchy.

Gold-toned fixtures in this white and light wood bathroom are perfect for updating a mid-mod design.

Warm It Up

Use of warmer colors and metallics helps mid-mod adapt without interrupting it. The 70s and 80s latched on to this concept with the introduction of cozy oranges, reds, pinks, and plenty of gold and brass.

Introduce warm woods to your space. Mid-mod likes no-fuss light or dark woods, but some warm woods like oak or cherry will warm things up quickly. Add some new cabinets or flooring for bigger changes or for smaller changes, try a credenza or built-in shelves.

Gold-toned fixtures are an easy way to achieve warmth in the kitchen or bathroom. You don’t have to embrace the brassy look of the 80s (unless you want to). The muted gold finishes available now not only warm things up but soften them too.

Tropical plants introduce a softer touch in this modern design.

Green Up Your Space

Mid-mod is pretty sterile. House plants make it a cheap and easy way to soften things up. Just bring in several plants of different sizes and watch your design come to life (literally). 

Tropical plants are a favorite to introduce into mid-mod. They can be bushy and big or they can be demure and orderly but they all bring in some organic shape and natural color that works wonders. Stick to neutral colored pots so as not to detract from the actual plant.

Succulents are another lovely plant for mid-mod. They often have a muted green color that has natural shapes and a softer color that transforms your mid-century modern spaces. 

Evolve your mid-century modern design. With a few adjustments, your space can take this design standard to new heights. We have the products that will help you do it: from mid-century modern wall sconces and floor lamps to gold-toned sink fixtures.

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