The Ultimate Guide to Mid-Century Modern Decor

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.

Modern living room with orange couch

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.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Learn more on my Disclosures page (and thanks for your support!)


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.

More: Find the right lighting for your modern house


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.

Modern use of neutral paint colors

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.

More: The best neutral paint colors picked by home bloggers

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.

More: How to decorate with turquoise in your mid-century house


Mid-Century Modern Decor Ideas by Room

Those are the basics. Now let’s drill down to ideas you can use in each room.

Bedroom Decor

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:

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!

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.

Accessorize with houseplants and gorgeous MCM coffee table books.

You can soften the modern look of mid-century furniture with extra blankets, throw pillows and ottoman poufs.

Bathroom Decor

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.

Home Office

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.

You can spruce up the decor with a few modern office accessories and houseplants in stylish planters.

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.

Christmas

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!

Halloween

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.

Spruce up your front porch with vintage Halloween decor and jack o’lanterns. Go retro with my Sputnik and mod cat pumpkin stencils.

And don’t let Christmas have all the tree fun. You can pick up a Halloween tree in any size and adorn it in vintage style ornaments.

Other Celebrations


Mid-Century Modern Resources

These are some of my favorite resources when I’m looking for MCM design ideas and inspiration.

Atomic Ranch

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.

Make it Mid Century

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.

MidMod Midwest

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.

Retro Renovation

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.

Mid-Century Modern decor book
Living with mid-century modern design book
Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors book
Mid-Century Modern Living book

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! Leave a comment below if you have a question.


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