Cheat Sheet: Here's what people mean when they say 'mid-century'

Cheat Sheet: Here's What People Mean When They Say 'Mid Century'

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If you've spent any time on Pinterest, you'll know that the mid-century trend is just as popular as it ever was. But, how much do you really know about the mid-century trend? Do you know where it comes from? And do you know how to style your home in a mid-century fashion without making it look uncomfortable, boring or like a bad movie-set? Well, let's start at the beginning...

What is the mid-century trend?

Mid-century refers to the furniture, architecture and design between the 1940s and the 1970s. There's a good argument to say that it spans an even longer time frame than this, but whatever the case, it's all about simplicity, functionality and elegance. It's the kind of style you'll have seen in Mad Men, with Don Draper kicking back on his sofa with a whisky in hand. Mid-century was a modern look then, and still looks fresh and relevant today - an amazing feat given that so many trends look outdated and undesirable (avocado bathroom suites, anyone?!).

What's the history behind the mid-century trend?

Well, the first and most important thing to remember is that by the mid-century (let's say the 1950s, for argument's sake), we'd just come out of two major world wars. Resources were scarce, and frivolity, design, and spending money on yourself (or home, as the case was) wasn't the 'done thing' for a long time. People had become used to being innovative, using minimal resources and 'making do and mending'.

But, with the wars over, and brand new materials available after so much innovation (metal, glass, vinyl, plywood and plastics), there was a renewed sense of optimism. People were looking forward to the future, and building a better, brighter life was definitely on the top of everyone's agenda. Pair it with the space race, the availability of new designs and materials, and a higher disposable income, it's no surprise that the clean lines, punchy colours and accentuated curves of the mid-century trend took hold.

Of course, most 'ordinary' people didn't have the money or the inclination to totally remodel their homes in a mid-century style. But, little by little, the trend took hold and has been so well-loved that it's permeated through the decades, all the way into our modern interiors.

What are the key characteristics of the mid-century trend?

  • Simple and functional (furniture is elevated off the ground, fit for purpose, and not at all fussy or frilly. Architecture is clean, sharp and often open plan).
  • Streamlined design (think space-age: clean lines, ergonomic shapes)
  • Structural transparency (you can see all the supports, joins and structure)
  • Excellent form (without fussiness and frills, there's nowhere for a shoddy mid-century item to hide).

So why does the mid-century trend work?

This trend works because it's all about stripping things back to form and pattern. In that way, it feels pretty timeless. It's a popular style if you want to create a home that's functional, beautiful, practical and nice to be in. With an open plan mid-century space, you can create a home where the indoors and outdoors combine seamlessly together, and it's not too tricky to pair with other interior trends either.

How to do the mid-century look in your home

If you like this trend, here are a few ideas to get you started...

Pick one or two key pieces

If you want to create a look that's inspired by the mid-century, rather than a dodgy museum replica, just use one or two key pieces of furniture. If you've spotted a gorgeous mid-century sofa or a brilliant mirror, let it take centre stage. Iconic pieces speak for themselves and will set the tone for the rest of your interior.

Use real wood

Real wood took centre stage for the mid-century trend, so invest in pieces of furniture with plenty of wood on show. Real wood is preferable (after all, mid-century style was all about beautiful form and excellent quality), but if you can't afford the genuine pieces (us neither!), check out the modern replicas that mimic the clean lines of mid-century furniture. A streamlined sideboard will stand you in good stead and looks classic too.

Paint the walls white for a modern take

Of course, not all mid-century rooms have been painted white. But, if you want yours to look fresh and really let the furniture do the talking, create a blank canvas with white walls. Opt for a white paint with neutral undertones so that you don't feel like you're living in a mid-century art gallery.

Remember that less is more

This trend isn't about minimalism, but it's certainly about quality over quantity. Strip it back, and let the furniture speak for itself: you don't need many accessories or too much fuss if you've invested in key pieces of mid-century furniture.

Don't forget lighting

It's always the last thing people think about, but bold lighting plays a huge part in good mid-century design. Think big, and think artistic: opt for pieces that look futuristic, or make it your goal to find a vintage floor lamp - it will go a long way towards making a functional trend feel homely and inviting.

So, what do you make of the mid-century trend? Do you love it, loathe it, or feel pretty on the fence?

p.s here's everything you need to know about boho interior design, and have you seen this home tour?

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