Mid-Century Modern is a design term – and trend – that you probably already know well for bot it’s history and also it’s strong influence on modern design.

Fondly known by some as “MCM”, it describes an era of style from the mid 1940’s to the min 1960’s that has carried forward to today as one of the most popular design trends.


The Evolution of MCM

Today, MCM’s streamlines shapes an open concept spaces speak to the future of design, while its fondness for warm, solid woods link it to the past.

It is a happy medium that, in the beginning grew in popularity very quickly in the mid century; it represented the beginning of the mass production of affordable house hold items like bowl sets, clocks, lamps and radios, which were as pervasive as they were popular with buyers!


A Little History

Mass production was the result of many of MCM’s chief designers, such as Charles and Ray Eames, wanting their work to be affordable to the average homeowner – and not just the wealthy elite.


With the wars over, and the economy back on the upward tilt, housewives were having a blast decorating with fun colours, sleek but organic lines, and new patterns and materials that had not been so easily available prior, including Lucite, wire mesh, and teak.


Recently, the greatest of the Mid-Century Modern designers have made a major resurgence in the design world, with so many amazing designs that are marrying the sculptural form and everyday function that made MCM so popular in the first place.


Below are some of my Mid-Century Modern favorites with a brief explanation of their modern interpretations.

Chairs and Dining MCM-Style

Above: Two examples of Mid-Century Modern dining rooms. Are they from back then? Nope – these are recent designs!  Notice the warm woods with sleek turned legs. Note the sunburst mirror, which became popular during the MCM era and continues to be a staple decor feature in may rooms today.

Above: On left, the Naguci coffee table was created by Herman Miller in 1948 and continues to steal the centre of attention in many living rooms today. Pair it with a boxy tufted sofa for an easy MCM vibe.  On right, wire mesh chairs where invented by Eames in 1951 after the team started playing around with bent steel wire. They are paired here with fun pops of colour in a sleek kitchen for a cozy contemporary take on a classic look.

Above: One of my designs! My client loves to travel so the theme was “Global Adventure.” You can see here how well some classic MCM pieces work with items with a more ethnic vibe, like the side tables and rug. To see more images of this project, visit my portfolio.

Above: The shell chair, another classic Eames creation and a wildly popular design today, was created in the early 1950s. This chair seems to work in all types of design styles – from the ultra modern urban condo, to the farmhouse chic, girly glam and cottage lake house. 

Cairo Chair White                                                Shell Chair                                            Cairo Chair Black


Where Classic Lighting Meets Modern

All of the lamps to follow will help you add a ton of personality to a dining room or foyer. Layer them for a more dramatic effect in rooms with high ceilings or lots of space.

Above: Lighting was another area of home decor that experienced some great MCM-inspired innovations. These are Charles Nelson Bubble Lamps, which are made from wire frames and stretched plastic. Nelson was very savvy with the architecture of the time and designed these to hang in the open concept homes being built in the MCM era. Nelson went on to become the Design Director for design firm Herman Miller.

Above: The classic bubble lamps and some examples of recent uses in all areas of the home. Today, there are many variations of the bubble lamps, and they have inspired new designs all together. Because of the round shape, and white shade, they radiate a soft glow that doesn’t create harsh shadows – and hence is very flattering and easy on the eyes.

Above: The Artichoke lamp was another MCM creation that is still used frequently today. The gorgeous version above has a bit of a masculine-feel to it, with its strong lines and edgy vibe. The Cerebo lamp, in the middle, has a more feminine feel with its soft layers that are reminiscent of icing, or tulle. And, lastly, a nice compromise between the other two is the Meringue lamp, with its wavy form reminds me of the tide washing up on the shore.


The Star Bust design was another offspring of the MCM design era.

If your into for a more glamorous or industrial design aesthetic, these baubly beauties will help you achieve that look.

  Aura Pendant                              Sylvie Pendant                    Caza Pendant                       Yves Pendant

Last but not least, there where some really great furniture designs that emerged during this design happy period.

Above: On left, the Wing Back Chair has been around since the 1600s, when people lived in cold stone houses and big old castles and spent a lot of time by the fire to keep warm. These chairs where designed to absorb heat and prevent drafts from giving you the chills, so sitting in one is like getting a warm hug from a good friend! In the 1950s, the designs started changing from the classic English style to more streamlined and angular designs, and they continue to be re-invented today.

Second from left, the side board, or credenza, is another castle-era creation. It was originally used as a place to display the Royal supper – and taste test it for poison before serving the court! During the MCM days, they became a popular place to store and display all those great new dinner and bar ware sets, and pieces like the Rivka cabinet have continued to serve up a practical solution in all areas of the home. 

Right, the Wire Back dining chair works well with any table or desk such as the gorgeous Matt Desk.

A contemporary home featuring fun MCM styles. Source: Pinterest


In the recently published Zillow Digs Home Decor Trend Report, they reported that “Mid Century Modern elements will weave their way into 2015 home decor — from architecture to furniture — and will one of the biggest up and coming design styles for 2015.” They also go on to say “be careful when integrating [MCM] into homes — the trend shouldn’t take over the house.”

Rather, the design experts, including myself advise to blend MCM inspired styles with antiques, shaker style and other styles for a modern and sophisticated look. Eclectic, multi-era decor is here to stay!

Above: An eclectic take on Mid Century Modern by Studio M.

Why is MCM still so popular? Perhaps because of nostalgia; with the children of that time are all grown up and buying their own homes, they find comfort reminiscing about their family home, “the good ‘ol days”, and want to evoke the feelings from then in their current abode.

Maybe it’s because we live in such a fast paced, information overload world that when we get home we yearn for the clean, simple, airy styles of MidCentury Modern. Perhaps it is just what we need to slow down and find peace of mind while we put our feet up and lay back in a lounge chair.

Or perhaps it is because the aesthetic style is so easy to mix with today’s contemporary home décor products and you can easily create a totally unique style that perfectly suites your vibe.

What ever the reason, I hope you found some pieces that will work for your life, which is, no doubt, a blend of artful form and daily practicality – just like MCM!

And, as always, I am here to help if you need it. Ask me about my decor consultations if you would like a pro to help you create your dream space!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *