Mid century modern homes – the ultimate design guide (2024)

Mid century modern homes have appeared everywhere from Slim Aarons famous photographs of backyard parties to noir films from the 1960s. But mid century modern homes are the most recent style of architecture and house design to be given an iconic status among design historians.

The angular forms and signature elements of any mid century modern house goes behind the stone masonry of a Georgian home or the joinery used in Craftsman cottages; this most distinctive of house styles remains memorable for a different reason – the modernist lens that broke traditional barriers in the mid-20th century.

What are mid century modern homes?

Mid century modern homes are residential, single-family homes built using modernist principles and design tactics like cantilevered walls, flat-facing surfaces, and simple lines.

While the style is still used today in new structures, the name comes from the period in which the style emerged, between 1945 and 1970, though primarily between 1947 and 1957.

Mid century modern homes – the ultimate design guide (1)

(Image credit: Bob Osias/Unsplash)

Where did the mid century modern style originate?

Because this style is pegged more to time than geography, there are a few answers that could be plausible. Depending on your preferred versions of modernism from this era, some might say that the Bauhaus school led to mid century modern design in America.

Within the US though, the style largely stems from California, where architects and designers like Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, Arne Jacobsen, and so many other pioneered the style by bucking the traditions of more formal, ornate styles.

In cities like Chicago and in Europe, designers like Le Corbusier, or Mies van der Rohe were working on modernist structures, building large, monolithic structures that made the most of flat surfaces and curtain-glass windows for a sleek, minimalist approach.

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(Image credit: Alamy)

What are the characteristics of mid century modern homes?

Mid century modern homes are characterized by the geometric lines of the architecture, flat, angled roofs that extend beyond the walls, and flat surfaces without ornamentation. Large windows that often slide open on to similarly geometric inner courtyards, patios or decks – integrating indoors with outdoors is an important design feature – are the main feature of rooms that often have changes in level. These rooms are often wood-panelled, boxy and flooded with light.

Where other homes might have a sloping mansard roof or jutting bay windows, mid century modern buildings catch the eye for their lack of grandeur. Aesthetically, mid century modern homes are so simple that they read as sophisticated. They are, almost literally, a box.

Rather than deal with the ornate exteriors and ornamented molding that inhibited designs previously in architectural trends, mid century design throws all that away and lets fewer lines, broader spaces, and the openness do the talking for the rest of the architectural plan, which people find refreshingly open.

People gravitate toward the style for several reasons. Unlike other home styles like Victorian or Colonial homes, which are old too, but feel more antiquated than retro, mid century modern homes aren’t so old that there are people today who still remember when they came to prominence. Like when your grandfather tells you about how he remembers seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

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(Image credit: Alamy)

Where are most mid century modern homes?

You can find mid century modern homes just about anywhere in America, with slightly different variations. The originals are mostly tucked into the hillsides of Southern California – notably Palm Springs – and you'll find everything from bungalow style homes and stilted silhouettes are dotted all along the streets of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Across the country, other formats of mid century modern house design came to prominence, but using more winter-worthy materials like brick to construct their signature looks. A few hours north of New York City, for example, pupils of the legendary modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright built an entire town of case study homes using mid century modern design, dubbed 'Usonia'.

Original mid century modern homes sell for millions of dollars in California – even for just a one-bedroom home. New builds have become expansive, sprawling properties with thousands of square feet to show off and angular, clean shapes that stand out on any street in America.

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(Image credit: Sterling Davis/Unsplash)

How to decorate a mid century modern home

Luckily, there’s a whole interior design style under mid century modern interiors.

Most interiors are open floor plans in these homes, so less is more. Use rugs or plants or bookshelves to create your own dividers that suit you and your family’s needs in these architectural floor plans.

As for what furniture to bring into the space, there are plenty of examples of classic, mid century designs to use, such as tulip chairs from Eero Saarinen, Eames lounge chairs, Barcelona seating from van der Rohe, and plenty more alternatives that use chrome plating and minimalist lines to make the same simplicity outdoors work inside.

Mid century modern interiors also lend themselves to new design styles and trends, such as the retro revival trend or the Organic Modern trend, offering new styles timeless appeal.


Mid-Century Modern

Mid century modern homes – the ultimate design guide (2024)


What are the rules of mid-century modern design? ›

Mid-century modern style focuses on clean lines with a mix of both organic and geometric shapes. Simplicity rules, and some of the most basic mid-century modern furntiure pieces like coffee tables and chairs are often the most beautiful.

Is mid-century modern in style 2024? ›

Mid-century modern interior design has certainly made a welcome comeback since its introduction in the 50s. Now a favorite worldwide, it's easy to incorporate the look with a few simple elements.

What city has the best mid-century modern homes? ›

As we mentioned above, New York City is a mid century modern hotspot! Featuring iconic MCM builds by the top architects of the period, NYC is home to more mid century modern buildings than any other city in the U.S. (5,937, to be exact). From the Seagram's building by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe to the Solomon R.

Do people still build mid-century modern homes? ›

Even some 60 years since its heyday, the style has endured and serves as the inspiration for many of today's most prominent trends. Instantly recognizable, homes built with midcentury modern designs continue to attract buyers who are looking for a contemporary layout with stylish finishes.

What are 5 key elements of MCM decor? ›

5 Key Elements of a Cozy Mid-Century Modern Living Room
  • Embracing Minimalism with Style. The heart of mid-century modern design is simplicity. ...
  • Natural Materials and Textures. ...
  • The Role of Color and Patterns. ...
  • Lighting: A Blend of Function and Form. ...
  • Integrating Technology Seamlessly.
Feb 5, 2024

How do you style a mid-century modern house? ›

Midcentury modern decor ideas include the natural look of wood, especially teak. Hardwood floors and a wood-panel ceiling with prominent beams bring warmth and texture to this living room. The wood tones are repeated throughout the room on seating and accent furniture to tie the space together.

What design trend is going out of style in 2024? ›

Too-Bare Minimalism

“In 2024, we anticipate a move towards more maximalist designs, incorporating bold patterns, vibrant colors, and curated collections.” The shift away from minimalism continues. “For years the trend has been minimalist when it comes to moldings.

What is the biggest interior design trend in 2024? ›

Nature-inspired reigns supreme as designers, homeowners, and businesses gravitate towards bringing the outdoors in. We're talking lush greenery, earthy colors, eco-friendly materials, and an oh-so-soothing atmosphere. It's fitting, too, as sustainability is also cementing its spot in 2024's interior design trends.

Is MCM out of style 2024? ›

Midcentury Modern

There is a new focus on organic curves and classic charm, and that will come back in 2024. But it's also about the principles of this era, which were often a nod to functionality and simplicity.

What are the cons of mid-century modern homes? ›

Maintenance costs

Due to their age, some midcentury modern homes may require more upkeep than newer properties. Thoroughly inspecting the home's electrical wiring, plumbing and insulation might help identify any potential costs for down the road.

What state has the most mid-century modern homes? ›

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs has one of the highest concentrations of preserved midcentury-modern homes in the world, as the style's emphasis on indoor-outdoor living is perfectly suited for the area's desert climate.

How much does it cost to build a midcentury modern home? ›

A mid-century modern home costs $200 to $500 per square foot to build because you may need custom materials and features, like windows or roofs, that cost more per square foot. A true MCM home typically has around 1,500 to 2,500 square feet, so your total project cost could range from $300,000 to $1,250,000.

Why do Millennials like mid-century modern? ›

In a time where technology and information is cluttering Millennials' minds, we (yes, me included) are drawn to the ease of this style. Millennials also crave authenticity and individuality. We appreciate high design but want to feel connected to our style.

Do mid-century modern homes have baseboards? ›

Mid-Century Modern homes feature clean, unadorned baseboards, with gentle curves to provide a simple accent rather than an eye-catching statement.

What are the elements of mid-century modern art? ›

Geometric patterns, earth tones, primary colors or soft pastel shades characterize these works of art. Mid-Century Modern abstract art partakes in these general tendencies to abstraction, while retaining straightforward, fundamental forms and shapes.

What are the hallmarks of midcentury design? ›

Key Traits of Mid-Century Modern Interior Design

Clean Lines: This design style prioritized clean and straight lines, often with gentle curves to create a sleek look. Geometric Patterns & Shapes: Furniture pieces often include geometric shapes, such as the use of ovals, triangles, and other non-traditional forms.

What are the rules for modernist design? ›

As a design principle Modernism promoted sleek, clean lines and eliminated decorative additions that were purely for the sake of embellishment. Out were the frilly fripperies of pre-war styles. This new world would take its cue from technology, factories, practicality and usefulness.

What are the principles of modern design? ›

Coinciding with its focus on function, another principle of Modern design is to avoid over-adornment. It is also one of the most important details that separates true Modern design from Transitional design, which often features excessive decoration and allows for more “made-up” interior finishes.

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