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A design principle that originated in the 1950s and 60s, the mid-century modern design aesthetic uses clean lines, minimalist styling, a neutral color scheme, and organic home decor to cultivate relaxation in any space. Mid-century modern is a particularly appropriate aesthetic to keep in mind while designing bedrooms, as most desire to unwind and relax at the end of the day.
We consulted interior design experts from across the globe for strategies, principles, and elements to look for while designing the perfect mid-century modern bedroom. Even using just a few of these elements can introduce a sense of calm to your space.
1. Clean Lines
A defining characteristic of mid-century modern design is the use of clean lines. Whether they’re found in the frame of a lounge chair, legs on a credenza, or in the arms of a chandelier, clean lines demonstrate mid-century modern’s design principle of function over form. Thus, a mid-century modern bedroom is simple and clean, but still aesthetically pleasing.
According to interior designer Katie Simpson, clean lines are created through the negative space in each piece of furniture, which allow for the piece to feel airy instead of heavy and bulky. Designer Karen Rohr agrees, adding that “the details on each piece are mostly in the finishes rather than the piece itself, to keep the overall shape smooth and plain.”
2. Geometric Shapes
Bold, geometric patterns are often indicators of mid-century design. These patterns have a retro feel to them, and can be found in just about any textile, from rugs and pillows to curtains and wallpaper. If you’re thinking about bringing in a mid-century modern aesthetic to your bedroom, designer Karen Rohr suggests “adding geometric accents in items such as rugs, pillows, and art pieces.”
In addition to curating a mid-century modern style, designer Amy Youngblood says that adding geometric shapes help the space feel more comfortable, as geometric shapes follow the function over form rule.
3. Mix and Match
While it may be simple to purchase a bedroom set that checks all the boxes of mid-century design, this often “doesn’t add the unique flair associated with designers from this era,” says Ashley Daubert of Beam Interior Design. Daubert recommends mixing and matching finishes, natural woods, and metals while keeping the fabrics in the room neutral and solid.
While this may take a bit more work, mixing and matching allows you to flex your creativity and create a customized space that reflects your unique style.
4. Add Contrast
Contrast is an element often forgotten while designing a bedroom, as it's easy to get caught up in matching colors, fabrics, and finishes. However, adding contrast creates depth and areas of interest that are pleasing to the eye.
Lucy Small of State and Season Home Design and Supply advises using “white and black for contrast throughout the room by having white walls and a dark accent wall, or a white bedframe with dark linens.” Small says that this element of contrast carries on the drama that is typical in mid-century modern designs.
In the above bedroom, white, black, and metal accents are used to create contrast. Small, who designed the room, adds that in mid-century modern bedrooms, “a few hero elements draw the eye” and play up the typical minimalistic aesthetic.
5. Choose a Platform Bed
To create a modern look, Danielle Walish of The Inside by Havenly suggests choosing a platform bed. Walish particularly likes choosing a bed made from light wood or fabric, which emphasize the clean lines created by most modern platform beds.
A practical advantage of platform beds is that they’re often easy to assemble and take apart for those on the move, and are a simple piece to add to any bedroom. If you’re going to add a platform bed to your space, small pieces of accent furniture will accentuate the bed’s simple design.
7. Mix Fabrics
Similar to mixing and matching finishes, woods, and metals like Ashley Daubert suggested above, try mixing fabrics as well. Grace Hoffend, a design specialist at Maiden Home, says that “mixing fabrics is a powerful way to bring mid-century vision to life in the bedroom,” and recommends starting by choosing a bed that features elements of both fabric and solid wood.
“Mixing fabrics is a powerful way to bring mid-century vision to life in the bedroom."
Hoffend uses Maiden Home’s Essex Bed as an example of a bed that showcases both fabric and wood while bringing in the clean lines and modern bedroom design aesthetic typical while cultivating mid-century design principles.
However, while mixing fabrics can create individuality and areas of interest, it is wise to ensure that the fabric you’re introducing to your space complements each other in some way. For example, if you have an olive accent chair, tan bedding with splashes of olive work to complement each other.
8. Introduce Tapered Legs
Tapered legs are another prominent design feature in mid-century modern furniture pieces. While the legs of pieces such as dressers, beds, or lounge chairs may seem like a small detail to focus on, the shape brought to a space through a tapered leg influences the lines brought in by a piece.
“The shape of the legs on your future are small details that really make an element qualify under a certain design style,” says Ashley Daubert. “A typical mid-century modern leg can be splayed, tapered, or on a pedestal, for example.”
9. Play with Textures
Adding texture to any space creates an area of interest or intrigue and adds variability. While curating a mid-century design, Lucy Small recommends including funky textures that add warmth and softness to your space, and suggests playing with area rugs, velvet chairs, and wool blankets. “The minimalism of mid-century modern designs calls for these textures to fill out a space and keep it from looking cold,” Small says.
In the bedroom above, Small took bestselling fabrics from the 60s and 70s and stretched them across canvas to fill an accent wall. Getting creative like Small did in this bedroom demonstrates that textures are often hidden in plain sight. Try taking a look at decor you already have and see how it can be repurposed to introduce texture to your space.
10. Mix Light and Dark Woods
While many think to stay consistent with their use of light and dark woods in a room, it can actually be an advantage to mix them, as “the contrast between the two finishes create a visual interest that helps to anchor the space,” says Kristin Patrician of Dwelling Envy Interiors.
Another element to pay attention to is the finish of the wood. While finish is typically in a medium to high gloss, adding a hint of variability creates the same visual interest that utilizing different woods does.
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11. Incorporate Accent Colors
Another way to introduce construct to your space is through the use of accent colors. Joan Kaufman of Interior Planning and Design advises “completing the design by incorporating a bright accent wall color and ‘pops of color’ in accessories.” Additionally, Kaufman suggests utilizing abstract patterns brought in through wallpaper, or adding bedding and art that features bright colors.
While designing bedrooms, interior designer Katie Simpon likes to add a yellow mustard chair, olive green curtains, or a teal bench to create contrast.
12. Focus on Natural Materials
Mid-century modern design places a focus on natural materials, which are both soothing and add interest and texture. Amy Youngblood recommends choosing a few pieces or accents made from natural teak wood, as it “makes the space feel organic and cohesive with its surroundings.”
Additionally, Youngblood suggests playing with the natural feel of the bedroom by adding greenery. This can be by introducing a few plants, or decorating using faux greenery if you lack a green thumb. Greenery complements the color of natural wood to create a soothing feel.
13. Embrace Natural Light
While natural light is appreciated in any space, how you interact with it is just as important. “When designing a bedroom, keep the windows clear of heavy patterns and bulky blinds,” says Kristin Patrician. “Instead, use shear, flowing drapery that allows light through, and creates a sense of airiness and movement.”
Drapery made from linens or a light cotton in a neutral color palette filter light through while creating a sense of privacy in the space.
14. Add Walnut Elements
While mixing light and dark woods, Katie Simpson recommends opting for one or two pieces made from Walnut. “Bring in some walnut wood in your headboard or bedside tables to warm up the space,” says Simpson.
The soothing shade of walnut is common in bedframes, nightstands, and dressers and is typical of mid-century style.
15. Soft Shapes and Accents
While mid-century modern design places an emphasis on clean lines, a few soft shapes add to the aesthetic as well. “Mid-century design introduced soft shapes that were carried into more modern styles like tulip chairs and rounded sofas,” says Lucy Small. “Having one or two accent pieces that mimic this flow will add a mid-century touch to any room.”
A chair with a curved back, Eames chair, or a curved pond mirror are simple ways to introduce soft shapes to the bedroom. Additionally, using paint to create curved shapes on the wall can add both a soft shape and area of interest.
16. Use Blues and Greens
While blues and greens are soft, calming colors, they also remind us of nature. Kristin Patrician says that “the use of blues and greens are typical in mid-century modern design, as they create a feeling of harmony and balance.”
Use blues in greens in accessories like lampshades and accent rugs, or even choose bedding that features soft shades of blue or green.
17. Metal Accents
Metal accents are a simple way to introduce contrast in your bedroom. “Whether using gold, brass, bronze or matte black, mid-century modern designs rely heavily on metal accents to create contrast,” says Lucy Small. Most people introduce metal accents to a space without even realizing it, in places like sconces, drawer pulls, or the base of a lamp.
Karen Rohr adds that in addition to contrast, metal accents add a touch of glamor and individuality to a space. It can feel quirky to mix matte black and gold metal accents, but in most cases, the combination creates a sense of personal style and uniqueness.
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18. Focus on Functionality
As previously mentioned, mid-century modern design prioritizes function over form. Karen Rohr says that functional pieces are “usually clean and low-key, integrating a lot of dual functionality as hidden storage.”
While clean lines and simple forms common in mid-century furniture are certainly beautiful, the focus on functionality ensures that your space will be both practical and stylish.
Additionally, hidden storage allows for knick-knacks commonly stored on the surface of furniture pieces to remain hidden, adding to the clean and simple mid-century modern style.
19. Add a Mid-Century Nightstand
Adding a modern nightstand is often thought of as a practical element of bedroom furniture. However, it can also serve as the key to creating mid-century modern design aesthetic. “You can achieve a mid-century styling by selecting a light stained nightstand in simple designs,” says Pamela O’Brien. She recommends choosing smaller nightstands that flank the bed to provide symmetry in the bedroom.
20. Incorporate Vintage Pieces
Vintage pieces can add individuality to any space. Karen Rohr says that “Mid-century modern style often incorporates vintage or retro elements, such as 1960s-inspired light fixtures or art from that era. Combining these key elements in your bedroom allows for you to create a chic and inviting space that is perfect for relaxing and unwinding.”
Shopping for vintage pieces is also a way for you to add individuality to your space. The act of shopping for the piece creates a memory forever associate with it, and the hunt to find the perfect piece creates a sense of pride and satisfaction.
Sasha Weilbaker is a freelance writer with bylines in Thrillist, Business Insider, and The Vegetarian Times. She's particularly interested in the intersection of sustainability and materials. In the wild, she can be found cycling around New England, scouting coffee shops, or obsessing over new podcasts.
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