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Mid-Century Modern Endures

In design, the adage is that “everything old becomes new again.” Since the late 1990s, many designers and creative types have abandoned the “shabby-chic” ethos for 1950s-inspired mid-century modern. The clean lines and simple finishes of mid-century design are functional and beautiful, and now available at almost any price point.

Even though most design trends last a few years – see the aforementioned shabby-chic, 1920s Spanish, and art Nouveau – mid-century modern remains popular with designers and consumers alike.   You need only to flip through a home magazine or stroll through a mass retailer like West Elm or CB2, and it’s all variations on the Eames-chair-and-tulip-table theme.

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Photo from The New York Times

Why does mid-century remain so popular?  Its wide appeal makes sense, because it was designed specifically to be lived with, rather than show pieces – it is democratic and made in simple shapes with classic materials – so it seems timeless and goes with everything.  The pieces are beautifully functional and they lend themselves well to smaller spaces and urban environments like city lofts.  Its simplicity is universally understood and appreciated.  Mid-century modern is also uniquely American, so it’s easy to find – both the antique versions and reproductions at modern retailers.  

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Photo By Interior Designer Amy Lau

Designers caution that you should not use midcentury exclusively – filling a room entirely devoted to a theme looks too deliberate and not reflective of personal taste.  You’re not trying to recreate a ‘Mad Men’ set in your home, after all.  But melding mid-century modern basics with some personal, interesting pieces can create an elegant interior that’s uniquely yours.

Consider mixing a pair of clean-lined mid-century chairs in an otherwise traditional space, and add some mid-century accessories like drum lamps or a spiky-legged coffee table to tie it all together.  Or use mid-century seating against a rustic wood dining table for an interesting mix of modern and traditional.

What is Your Living Room Telling Your Guests?

What we don’t talk enough about is home design, specifically room design. The placement of your furniture can determine the role of a room. Is this space for play or for reading? Is it a personal getaway or does it invite guests in to stay and chat?

Here’s one layout you are probably using – your furniture faces your television. This could also be your fireplace, window view, etc.

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If the room is meant to invite conversation, then face your seating inward. Notice that television is set up and away from eye level. TV is an afterthought when guests are visiting.

Those with children will want to create an open space for the kids to play by pushing their furniture farther back towards the walls. Then surround the play area with seating so you can both monitor and chat.
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Here the sofa is used to split the room in two. The conversation has been left in the rear where guests can talk over cocktails.

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The center sofa keeps out the chatter so you can be left to read by the fireplace in peace.
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Helpful hint:
Before you get to carrying couches all over your living room, draw up a plan using an online room planner. Start with the bigger couches and chairs and then position the small items like coffee tables and end tables.