Why Mid-Century Modern Interior Design Guide Never Goes Out of Style

Jonathan Adler, potter and designer whose eponymous furniture and home-decor collection is heavily influenced by the era—specifically by the work of David Hicks, Alexander Girard, and Bonnie Cashin—distills mid-century modern in this way: “Mid-century modern design is about stripping away unnecessary ornamentation and really getting to the essence of a design gesture. That clarity of vision is innately communicative, and communication is ultimately what good design is about.”

Molly Purnell, co-founder of LA-based interior design firm Laun, who draws inspiration from the movement in her work, adds that mid-century modern’s relevance in contemporary design is, in part, due to the movement’s emphasis on spaces that meld indoors and out. “I think the open connection between the interior and outdoor space is one of [mid-century modern’s] defining characteristics and we see that very much today—every client we work with makes that a priority in their projects,” says Purnell. Like her mid-century modern predecessors, Purnell’s company uses very large glass sliding doors to bring in expansive views and create an easy connection to the outdoors.

Mid-Century Modern Interior Design’s Characteristics

While the original movement spanned across many design practices—interior design, graphic design, industrial design, and architecture—and decades, it can be distilled down to these five main tenants:


Pared-down designs that solve a problem—emphasizing practicality before style.

Mass production

Pieces that could be made democratically without diminishing craftsmanship.

Connection with nature

Designs that prioritize indoor-outdoor living or that simply reference natural elements.

Rich colors

Deep hues used in a playful way—usually as an accent juxtaposed against more neutral tones—to communicate an idea.

Innovative materials

Manmade materials like glass, plastic, and formica juxtaposed against natural materials like warm woods, stone, and linoleum—always a mix of the two.

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Photo: Ye Rin Mok / Courtesy of Laun

How to Incorporate Mid-Century Modern Interior Design Into Your Home

Hankering to bring mid-century modern design into your space, without putting a down payment on an Eichler tract home or embarking on a major renovation? You can start by simply adding a few pieces of furniture to your current collection. “The Eameses said that furniture is architecture at a scale you can handle. And, they were speaking from the designer’s perspective, but I think we can also say from the customer’s perspective, it’s a lot more affordable to create that mid-century environment without addressing the structure of your home—by using the furniture to define it,” says Demetrios.


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