It’s a little surprise that the midcentury modern design movement has lasted as long as it has. When the aesthetic first surfaced, America was emerging from World War II, the economy was thriving, and more and more Americans were buying homes. Naturally, those Americans needed furniture to fill those homes. And midcentury modern design with its sleek lines, focus on function, and emphasis on mass production was ready to deliver.
The midcentury modern movement offered a break from the glamour and ornamentation that characterized its predecessors (namely, the Art Deco movement and the American Victorian movement). It bid adieu to unnecessary embellishments, focusing instead on clean lines and honest uses of materials. Designers sought to create genuinely functional pieces, and it shows: many of the pieces were so well-designed that we still love them today.
Of course, pulling off any aesthetic in an apartment can be a challenge. You don’t have the option to change your space as materially as you could if you owned it. Replacing floors, fixtures, and other built-in elements is basically out of the question. So temporary additions like furniture and decor are basically all you have to work with.
Thankfully, the midcentury modern look is so recognizable that furniture and décor can get you pretty far. With a few striking pieces, you can transform your space into something that feels worthy of a Design Within Reach catalog. And since midcentury modern furniture is so incredibly trendy, you probably don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get there.
1. Sprinkle in a Few Plants
Plants are a no-brainer in any space, but they make a particularly natural addition to midcentury modern interiors. Why? Midcentury modern design appreciates natural and organic elements. So by adding plants, you won’t just be decorating the room you’ll also be cementing your midcentury modern aesthetic.
2. Mix High With Low
Midcentury modern design isn’t about elitism. Sure, midcentury modern design classics may cost a pretty penny today. But the design movement has its roots in mass production. So instead of going full fancy with your furniture, look for ways to mix high-brow with low-brow. Pair your sleek console table with a pop-culture-inspired accent. Or pair your favorite save with your favorite splurge.
3. Keep Your Hardware Sleek
As a renter, you may not have control over the smallest details in your space like your doorknobs, your drawer pulls, and the rest of your hardware. But you can control the hardware on your furniture. If you’ve scored a few old pieces that could use a quick tune-up, consider swapping out their hardware with something sleeker and more streamlined. Little makeovers, like these, can be all you need to make your space feel cleaner and more modern.
4. Balance Synthetic and Organic
As an architectural movement, midcentury modern design was largely focused on nature. It wasn’t unusual to see massive windows or transitional indoor/outdoor spaces. This love of nature lived side by side with an appreciation for man made objects.
As you outfit your space, look for opportunities to pair synthetic items with organic ones. Pair a metal mirror with a vase full of pampas grass, or top an acrylic dresser with some earthy ceramic objects.
5. Turn Your Storage Solutions into Decor
Functionality is one of the hallmarks of midcentury modern design, so don’t be afraid to put your most practical additions on display. Storage hooks may be the kind of thing you’d normally tuck away in a closet. But in midcentury modern design, they can double as decor (especially if they’re sleekly geometric).
6. Add a Few Metal Accents
Wood and plastic may be the first materials that come to mind when you envision a midcentury modern interior, but they’re not your only options. Sleek metal accents are just as true to the aesthetic. And since they’re less expected, they can be a striking way to add texture to your space.
7. Go Sleek With Your Accessories
Midcentury modern design is about keeping fuss to a minimum. You might think accessories would be inherently out of place, but that’s not necessarily true. If your accessories are made from sleek materials, boast clean lines, and ideally, serve some kind of function, they should fit right into your midcentury modern décor scheme.