Want to decorate your house in mid-century modern style? This design movement from the 1940s-60s is known for clean lines and modern shapes, with functional yet beautiful furniture.
Think hairpin legs, bullet planters, bubble lamps and Sputniks. Think Jetsons and Mad Men.
The idea behind the movement was to make great design affordable for everyone. While the cost of those “clean lines” has gone up, with some creativity you can still get mid-century modern decor on a budget.
Since 2014, I’ve been giving my ranch a mid-century modern makeover. Now I’ve compiled this guide to help you get the mid-mod aesthetic in your home.
Learn about the elements of mid-century modern style, get decor ideas for each room and find retro holiday inspiration.
- Elements of Mid-Century Modern Decor
- Mid-Century Modern Color Palettes
- Mid-Century Modern Decor Ideas by Room
- Holidays in Mid-Century Style
- Mid-Century Design Resources
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Elements of Mid-Century Modern Decor
MCM design is known for incorporating natural materials, like hardwoods, brick and grasscloth. You’ll see a lot of big windows and airy rooms with statement furniture pieces.
You might want to start by removing features that aren’t mid-century. At my house, that was a stained-glass chandelier and ornamental cabinet hardware.
Intricate details like crown molding or flashy curtain rod finials are the opposite of clean lines.
A few quick swaps to more modern elements can make a big difference.
Mid-century furniture often looks museum-worthy, like the iconic Eames rocker or Nelson marshmallow sofa. Couches tend to be low-slung with tapered legs, not plush and full of cup holders. (Not to say I wouldn’t love a few cup holders…)
Look for fun, abstract art pieces, like atomic kitty art. And let your lighting be its own art with a big Bubble lamp, Sputnik chandelier or globe light.
Mid-Century Modern Color Palettes
Some mid-century houses stick to a more neutral color palette, while others use a lot of bold retro colors. A little bit of both can give you a beautiful balance between mid-century and modern.
Neutral Paint Colors
Start by choosing two neutral paints for most of your house:
- One basic white
- One basic beige, taupe or gray
Picking a white paint can be deceptively challenging. Do you want a cooler white for a minimalist look, or a warmer off-white for a more retro look? I opted for a warm vanilla to complement my grasscloth wallpaper.
Next, choose a beige, taupe or gray. Beige leans toward traditional, while gray can feel cold. I think the gray/beige combo of taupe feels very modern but still warm and cozy.
Accent Paint Colors
When choosing accent colors, look for two or three options that feel cohesive together. Here are some classic mid-century colors to consider:
- Avocado or mint green
- Mod pink
- Pastel yellow
- Retro orange
- Aqua, turquoise or powder blue
- Brick red
Usually lighter, muted paint colors are the best choice to let the rest of your decor shine. I mostly stick to my off-white and taupe paint colors, with splashes of light aqua, pink and mint.
Accent paint colors work well in smaller spaces like bathrooms, closets or single walls. Experiment and see what you love.
Mid-Century Modern Decor Ideas by Room
Those are the basics. Now let’s drill down to ideas you can use in each room.
For the master bedroom, I like to keep it relaxing with a neutral color palette of white, gray and wood tones.
In other rooms, you might want to be more creative and colorful. Check out these mid-century bedrooms for ideas:
- Adorable cat decor for a mid-century bedroom
- Retro travel-themed guest room
- How to create a cozy minimalist bedroom
Kitchen and Dining Decor
One of the first things we did in the kitchen was swap out the cabinet hardware and add contact paper for a quick kitchen refresh.
Eventually, you might want to install mid-century style countertops and backsplash tile.
And add lots of fun retro decor, like your Cathrineholm collection.
- Colorful accessories for a mid-century kitchen
- Easy floating shelf DIY for your modern kitchen
- How to style kitchen counters and shelves like a pro
Living Room Decor
The living room is all about the sofa. We tracked down a vintage orange couch and had it brought back to life with reupholstery.
Go bold with a mid-century modern area rug.
You can soften the modern look of mid-century furniture with extra blankets, throw pillows and ottoman poufs.
So far we’ve updated two out of three bathrooms at my house. The master bath got a quick makeover in mod pink, with a few simple accessories.
The main bathroom was more involved. We tiled the shower starting from the studs.
If you’re not ready for a remodeling project, just a few coats of paint and a new shower curtain can make a big difference in the bathroom.
You might also want to invest in a quality soap dispenser and a retro window valance as the perfect finishing touch.
For the home office, den or rec room, create a focal point like this mid-century modern shelving unit. Get all your books on display and easily accessible.
If you spend a lot of time in your home office, a standing desk converter is a must to let you switch between sitting and standing.
Retro Tiki Bar
The home tiki bar is a mid-century tradition! Turn on the Hawaiian music and let’s set up your tropical escape.
Holidays in Mid-Century Style
The holidays give you an excuse to double down on your mid-mod decor with whimsical items. Here are some ideas.
Read all about what goes into a mid-century modern Christmas here. The aluminum tree, tinsel wreath and felt stockings are a good start.
Felt is really easy to work with for retro Christmas crafts like this easy Sputnik tree skirt.
And don’t feel like you have to stick to red and green for your MCM Christmas. We love to decorate with all the colors, especially pink!
- Pink Christmas tree village in Palm Springs style
- A colorful Shiny Brite Christmas
- How to make fabric cone trees
Do you go more spooky or cute for your Halloween decorations? I’m all for a cute Halloween with lots of orange, turquoise and mod accents.
And don’t let Christmas have all the tree fun!
Mid-Century Modern Resources
These are some of my favorite resources when I’m looking for MCM design ideas and inspiration.
This design magazine is the biggest source of modern architecture, renovation stories and mid-century decor. They also have an active Instagram account for your daily dose of house eye candy.
Susan at Make it Mid Century brought back the glitter countertops that I absolutely had to have in my kitchen! In addition to the retro products she offers, Susan also publishes an informative mid-century blog and monthly newsletter.
Della at MidMod Midwest offers architectural design services tailored for mid-century home updates. And for those of us going the DIY route, her blog offers invaluable remodeling guidance.
If you want to achieve the time capsule look with adorably retro decor, check out Retro Renovation. They track down the cutest mid-century and vintage decor items…constantly showing me more things I need.
MCM Decor Books
You might also like these design books to inspire your mid-mod makeover.
H & H Clubhouse
And don’t miss out on my blog, too. I have a free resource library with printable decor and helpful checklists for your mid-mod home and garden. Sign up for the newsletter to get access.
Best of luck with your mid-century modern makeover!