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Mid-Century Furniture Style Lesson

An interior living room. A dusty pink two seater sofa is at the back of the room with a plum colours matching single seater to the right. A gold coffee table with a marble bench top is between the sofas, sitting on a simple shite rug. An assortment of paintings hang on the back wall which is painted white. The floor under the rug is timber and the wall to the right is painted a soft pink.

Image Source | Meridiani

As the saying goes, what’s old is new again - and that’s definitely the case when it comes to mid-century furniture. From bold colours to mixing fabric types, mid-century furniture is still a popular staple today. Whether you’re looking for new pieces for your home, or need some inspiration on how to revamp the vintage furniture you have lying around, here’s everything you need to know about styling your mid-century furniture.

What is mid-century furniture?

Two mid century single seat sofas are resting on a cream wall. The sofas are beige and corderoy with buttons on the seat and back. A framed painting hangs on the wall and the floor is black.

Image Source | Camille Charriere

Mid-century furniture is a style of design that arose from the 1930s-1960s. Created in the aftermath of World War II, mid-century design is all about functionality and form, with sleek lines and simplicity at the forefront. Common features of mid-century furniture include:

  • Simple, sleek lines and the use of geometric shapes

  • Minimalistic style

  • Bold colours paired with blacks and whites

  • Mixing and matching different materials like plastic, leather, fabric, metal and timber

Nowadays, mid-century design can refer to vintage pieces from the period itself, or modern pieces created in mid-century style - the options are endless! So, let’s take a look at some style options…

Up-cycling and repurposing

A dining room. A dark timber table is in the middle of the room. It is rectangular with 4 legs attached at angles. There are four matching chairs, two each side, with royal blue cushions on the seat. The table has a vase with wheat in it, a plate of bread and glasses on it. The wall behind is white timber planks with a mirror resting on the left hand size, arched at the top, and a simple wooden bookcase on the right. The floor is cream lino.

Image Source | Icon By Design

While I love seeing vintage pieces kept in their original condition, sometimes furniture needs a facelift, especially when it comes to wooden items. You’ve probably seen the chalk-paint craze that hit social media in the last few years, with every woman with a paintbrush taking old timber dressers and tables and painting them in an assortment of colours, often stripping back the paint for a ‘worn’ look. Taking a similar approach, a new lick of paint and some selected hardware could be all you need to turn a dusty heirloom into a bespoke mid-century piece.

A pink hall table rests against a white painted wall. The table is painted dusty pink and has two drawers with gold diamond shaped handles. The legs are natural timber and are tapered, attached at angles to each corner. Assorted items sit on top of the dresser - a framed print, a vase with a leafy plant, some books, a cactus. The floor is timber chevron and a striped cream and blue woven rug is in the foreground.

Image Source | Elizabeth Dot Design

I personally LOVE this sideboard from Elizabeth Dot Design. The fresh coat of pink paint is feminine but sophisticated, and is the perfect shade to seem both neutral and colourful at the same time - remember that juxtaposition is a hallmark of mid-century design, so colour choice is really important. Next, the tapered legs are another mid-century staple, and very a-la-50s. This is a really great way to turn any piece of furniture into a mid-century piece - simply take off any exisiting feet and screw on a new tapered pair! Finally, the gold handles on the drawers is what really makes this look. The diamond shape is perfect for mid-century style, and makes that final mix of materials (raw timber, painted timber and metal) shine.

Book nooks are in

A corner of a room, set up as a book nook. The walls are white and the floor is timber. One wall has four framed prints in neutral tones handing in a square formation. The other wall has shelves, attached to the wall with no base, in a natural timber, filled with an assortment of books. A brown leather ball chair rests in the corner with a brass bottom. A gold overhanging lamp with a simple cream shade rests over the chair.

Image Source | Rose Uniacke

Have you ever watched a show set in the 1950s and noticed the man’s study? Stylish bookshelves, a power desk and, of course, a brass lamp, are the standout features of any husband’s business retreat. While we might not all have a full room set aside for our books (just me?), book nooks are definitely in vogue, and definitely not just for the husbands anymore - hello, boss babe retreat!

For me, book nooks are the perfect mid-century set up because they encapsulate the functionality that the period was all about. Turn your regular book-corner into a mid-century space by carefully arranging any picture frames in a linear fashion, and then adding a metal lamp - naked bulbs or simple shades are the best choice here, and overhanging styles are a must!

A corner of a room with white walls and a timber floor. A large white bookshelf rests on the far wall, with various books, vases and brick a brack resting on the shelves. A black leather and timber eames chair and matching ottoman sit in the corner. A leafy plant is next to it and a small gold lamp with a naked bulb rests over the chair, attached to the wall.

Image Source | Woodies Rustic Workshop

The final piece of the puzzle for your book retreat? The perfect chair. From linen wingbacks to leather ball chairs, there’s so many options when it comes to single-seater book nook seats. My personal favourite is an Eames Lounge Chair with a matching Ottoman. The Eames Lounge and Ottoman was designed in 1956 by the husband and wife design power couple, Charles and Ray Eames. Thanks to its comfort, functionality and timeless aesthetic, 60 years later it remains the epitome of mid-century sophistication.

Bold furnishings

A photo of a study. Large timber bookshelves line the left wall, filled with books. The right wall is painted white and has assorted framed prints hanging on it in different sizes. A white fluffy rug sits in the middle of the space with a timber and plaid fabric eames chair and ottoman sitting on top. A silver tall standing lamp is on the left of the chair.

Image Source | Pinterest

While we’re talking about chairs, check out this beauty! If you’re lucky to snag one of these vintage chairs, it will likely need some upholstery TLC. If so, don’t be afraid to play with pattern. Like the Eames Lounge and Ottoman above reupholstered in plaid, its form is strong enough to handle most anything you throw at it. Pair it with neutral tones like natural timber and a cream rug, and the whole space is elevated to a super chic oasis.

A corner of a living space. The floor is cream carpet and the walls are painted white. A flat screen tv is attached to the wall on the left with a light timber entertainment unit below it. The right wall has a framed painting and a large window with blue curtains. Two plum coloured arm chairs with timber legs sit facing each other, away from the tv, with mustard cushions on them. A leafy plant in a grey vase sits in the corner.

Image Source: Consort | Photography: Reid Rolls

The other thing when it comes to your furnishings is to not be afraid of unconventional or ‘outdated’ fabric options for your sofas and armchairs. From suede to velvet, corduroy to linen, there’s no end of materials that you can explore for your living room or sitting area. Remember too, that colours are in, so if you have your eye on a plum or pumpkin coloured couch, go for it!

Are you a fan of mid-century furniture? Let me know your favourite style choices below and any pieces you have in your home!

A millennial woman, residential interior designer based on the Lower North Shore of Sydney, Australia. She is wearing a white and grey tweed blazer with a white cami, jeans and black framed glasses. Her hair is dark blonde and she is smiling with her legs crossed and her arm rested on a marble and walnut side table surrounded by native Australian flowers and plants. A watercolour abstract painting in a matted and brass frame hangs on the wall behind her as do charcoal drapes.

Krista Collard Interiors is a full service design-build firm focusing on creating timeless spaces that honour sustainability and functionality across the Greater Sydney area.

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