Mid-Century Modern 101: Everything You Need to Know

Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Mid-Century Modern furniture is characterized by its clean lines, gentle curves, and organic shapes. This style originated mid-20th century—hence its name— but thanks to its elegant simplicity and timeless aesthetic, Mid-Century Modern furniture is still highly popular in contemporary interior design.

Astrid Cherry Platform Bed in Cherry

Astrid Platform Bed

Audrey 4-Door Buffet by Copeland Furniture

Audrey 4-Door Buffet

Larssen 3-Drawer Nightstand in Cherry

Larssen 3-Drawer Nightstand

Exeter Glass Top Table in Walnut

Exeter Glass Top Table

What is Mid Century Modern?

Mid-Century Modern, or MCM, is a design philosophy that emerged in the mid 20th century. It blends smooth designs with highly varied textures, materials, and colors.

Photo by Francesca Tosolini on Unsplash

Notice how the smooth curves of the wooden lounge chair and dining table legs meld seemlessly with the black leather sofa, white plastic chairs, blue cushions and colorful rug. This type of diversity in material, color, and texture is a hallmark of mid-century design.

In today’s market, you may also see Mid-Century Modern furniture labelled “MCM” for short. Some of the characteristics that define this style are:

  • Simplistic: Ornate elements are used sparingly—if at all.
  • Functional: Abides by architect Louis Sullivan’s philosophy, “Form follows function.”
  • Organic: Uses shapes found in nature that tend to lead to soft curves.
  • Geometric: Utilizes basic shapes for clean lines and sleek edges.
  • Diverse: Embraces a large range of materials and colors

The History of Mid-Century Modern

While there is some debate over the exact year of origin, most can agree that this style dates back to the mid-1930’s through to the mid-1960’s. However, it wasn’t until 1983 that the descriptor “Mid-Century Modern” became a household phrase.

Art historian and writer, Cara Greenberg, coined the term with the title of her book, Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s. Fast forward over 60 years, Mid-Century Modern is now widely recognized as a term and significant design movement by the general public, museums, and scholars.

As for the style itself, MCM was highly influenced by Danish Modernism and the German style/school of design, Bauhaus. With the changes that World War II brought to Germany, America suddenly found itself with immigrants that were both trained and practiced in this style. This combined with the baby boom and the urgent need for housing with modern furniture birthed a new era of technological advances and exploration of new material in design.

Materials like molded plywood, plastic, glass, metal, and fiberglass were suddenly commonplace. Many becoming the basis for iconic furniture designs by designers, such as Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Herman Miller, Arne Jacobsen, and Eero Saarinen—just to name a few.

Mid-Century Modern Vs. Modern Industrial

With both styles exploding onto the interior design scene after World War II, “modern” in both names, and their popularity in today’s market, there are some definite similarities between Mid-Century Modern and Modern Industrial. However, there are also some key differences that you should note.

Mid-Century Modern

  • Clean and finished edges with a uniform finish.
  • Comes in an array of colors, including bold hues
  • An elegant style free of imperfections
  • Not overly ornate

Modern Industrial

  • Embraces materials in their rough, unfinished form.
  • Often uses neutral tones and monotone color schemes
  • An edgier style that welcomes natural characteristics like live edges and burls
  • Embellishes with contrasting material

When built by master craftsmen like the ones we work with at Vermont Woods Studios, both mid-century and modern industrial style furniture are built to last for generations.

Mid-Century Design Colors

Mid-Century design philosophy is well known for its use of vibrant colors—often embracing shades like mustard yellow, aqua, tangerine, olive green, and fire engine red. However, these attention grabbers can’t do it alone. Tones of gray, brown, and white are needed to ground the design, contrast any colorful accents, and cultivate MCM’s signature style.

Bright, bold colors contrasted with light and dark woods are a common theme of mid-century modern designs.

One simple way that Mid-Century interior design incorporates earthier shades is with wood furniture and finishings. Not only can wood help strike the perfect balance in a room, but wooden Mid-Century Modern furniture is available in an array of hardwoods that each offer their own style and benefits.

Handcrafted & Guaranteed for Life

All of the wood furniture at Vermont Woods Studios is handcrafted in Vermont and guaranteed for life. Our craftspeople have several variations on classic mid-century style.

Mid Century Modern Furniture Collections

Astrid Furniture by Copeland

Astrid Collection

Audrey Furniture by Copeland

Audrey Collection

Axis Furniture by Copeland

Axis Collection

Berkeley Furniture by Copeland

Berkeley Collection

Catalina Furniture by Copeland

Catalina Collection

Contour Furniture by Copeland

Contour Collection

Essentials Collection by Copeland

Essentials Collection

Exeter Collection by Copeland

Exeter Collection

Keaton Furniture Collection by Copeland

Keaton Furniture Collection

Larssen Collection

Larssen Collection

Mansfield Furniture by Copeland

Mansfield Furniture

MiMo Furniture by Copeland

MiMo Furniture

Moduluxe Furniture by Copeland

Moduluxe Furniture

Monterey Furniture by Copeland

Monterey Furniture

Rizma Furniture by Copeland

Rizma Furniture

Sloane Collection by Copeland

Sloane Collection

SoHo Furniture by Copeland

SoHo Furniture

Statements Collection by Copeland

Statements Collection

Shop Mid-Century Modern Furniture by Category

Mid-Century Modern Bedroom Furniture

Mid-Century Modern Bedroom Furniture

Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Furniture

Mid-Century Modern Dining Room Furniture

Mid-Century Modern Office Furniture

Mid-Century Modern Office Furniture

Mid-Century Modern Living Room Furniture

Mid-Century Modern Living Room Furniture

What's Different About Vermont Woods Studios?

  • All our furniture and home decor is handcrafted in Vermont. We strive to offer you the highest quality products on the market while supporting the American economy and sustainable business practices
  • We have excellent customer testimonials both here on our site and on third-party review sites like Yelp, Sitejabber, Facebook and Google+
  • We offer a lifetime guarantee on all our furniture, and free, white-glove shipping on orders over $3,500
  • You can easily customize your furniture online or by giving us a call
  • As wood furniture makers, we're passionate about forest conservation. All our hardwoods are locally sourced and sustainably harvested, and we plant 10 trees for every order.
  • Our customers are helping to save forest-dwelling species from extinction. Now how many other furniture companies can say that?

Join us in Furnishing a Greener World.

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