When it comes to architecture and interior design, what exactly is mid-century modern?

The “mid-century” time period is disputed, and somewhat broad. Some consider it to be exclusively set in the mid-1960s—part of the era depicted in TV’s 60s drama Mad Men, when mid-century design, skinny neckties, dirty martinis, and smoking in public buildings ruled the day. Others say the time frame is much broader and begins as early as the mid-30s.

The architectural and interior design characteristics that define mid-century modern, however, are undisputed.

Architecture and Interior Design

Mid-century is a genre of architecture that is typified by home facades with long, flat roofs. Split levels allow multiple-story homes to maintain a horizontal roofline. Open-concept floorplans and multipurpose spaces create a natural flow from one room to the next—interior design aesthetics that continue to be wildly popular.

Expansive walls of glass that flood rooms with natural light, and sliding doors that open walls and extend living spaces outdoors—and invite the outdoors in—are perhaps two of the most dramatic trademark features of mid-century interior design.

Other characteristics include floor-to-ceiling stone fireplaces, terrazzo floors, and wooden-planked ceilings.

Furniture Design: Form Follows Function

When it comes to home furnishings, the mid-century design philosophy focuses on function and basic elements.

Use of Mixed Materials

While traditional wood is liberally used in the construction of mid-century style furniture, materials like plastic, Plexiglas, plywood, Lucite, glass, vinyl, and metal are also front-and-center. Instead of covering up these industrial materials with batting and fabric, they become design features and are showcased.

Clean Lines

Sleek lines, curves, and smooth surfaces juxtaposed against angular and geometric shapes are all hallmarks of mid-century furniture design. Furnishings aren’t fussy and usually have minimal ornamentation. Skinny, peg legs on dressers and tables are a typical look.

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