Define The Style: Mid-century Modern Design

by Drew Henry

Welcome to Mid-century Modern Design 101!  

Whether you are binge-watching Mad Men (finally) or relaxing poolside in sunny Palm Springs, California, you’ll probably see some mid-century modern designs. While the style was pioneered in the last century, the open-concept plans, large windows, and geometric patterns of the Modernist movement still resonate today. But, what is mid-century modern design, and how can you add mid-century modern style to your home? Don’t worry! The LiLi Team defines the style and answers all your questions. Sit down because it’s time for Mid-century Modern Design 101. Class is now in session! 

What is Mid-century Modern Style?  

The mid-century modern or Modernist movement is an American design style that originated during the post-World War II period, roughly from 1945 to 1969. Mid-century modern designs were influenced by Scandinavian designers, emphasizing minimalism, connections to nature, and function for the “modern” American family. Unlike other styles that rely on decorative embellishments to achieve the look, mid-century design focuses on the material, line, and shape. A mid-century home may feature an open-concept layout, post and beam construction, large panels of glass or sliding doors, private front courtyards, and casual living spaces rather than formal rooms. Many of these design elements remain popular today, which is why people are looking to recreate the mid-century style in their homes — almost one entire century later! 

Where to Find Mid-Century Style Inspiration

Mid-century modern architects brought new technological breakthroughs to American suburbs. Post and beam construction, steel, and stronger glass allowed designers to create open concept homes for the first time and frame views with amazing floor-to-ceiling and clerestory windows. Check out these pioneering designers to find mid-century style inspiration. 

Frank Lloyd Wright Homes in the Great Plains 

Frank Lloyd Wright developed the Prairie School style, a precursor to the mid-century movement which utilized horizontal lines to echo the landscape of the Great Plains. He also coined the term “organic architecture,” the idea that a structure should be at one with the environment and highlight natural connections. Homes like Fallingwater went on to inspire the early Modernist movement.  

Mies van der Rohe Homes in Chicago 

Mies van der Rohe is considered one of the original creators of the mid-century modern style. He embraced minimalist designs the style is known for, even originating the phrase “less is more.” During his career, he created open-concept homes with very few walls and large glass panels to bring the outside in. 

Joseph Eichler Homes in Los Angeles 

Joseph Eichler was a post-war real estate developer who brought mid-century modern style to the Los Angeles suburbs. His homes feature post and beam construction, open floor plans, and nods to the Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe aesthetics. Now regarded as “California Modern,” his designs feature A-frame roofs, geometric lines, skylights, and large sliding doors to spacious patios. 

Donald Wexler Homes in Palm Springs 

Palm Springs, California, has the largest concentration of mid-century modern homes in the world, in part to Donald Wexler. He pioneered the use of steel in residential design, which allowed beams to carry more weight with fewer walls. His open-concept homes feature sleek lines and plenty of windows perfect for framing the desert views.  

Charles and Ray Eames Furnishings 

Charles and Ray Eames set the standard of mid-century furnishings, creating the famous Eames Chair. Known as “the chair of the century,” the Eames Chair holds its value and fetches a price tag of over $5,000! The popularity of their piece rests on the perfect combination of form and function, which defines the Modernist movement. 

9 Ways to Add Mid-century Modern Style to Your Home

Now that you know more about mid-century modern design, it’s time to recreate the look for yourself. Here are 9 ways to add mid-century modern style to your home. 

1. Bring the Outside In  

Mid-century modern design connects to nature, so bring the outside in! If you are building or renovating, add floor-to-ceiling windows, clerestory windows, sliding glass doors, and outdoor living spaces to your design. Ready for a LiLi Pro Tip? Carry the same tile from your interior rooms to exterior patios to establish an unbroken sense of flow. LiLi Cement Tiles are durable and easy to maintain. Simply seal them, and your tiles will look gorgeous inside and out!

2. Take a Dip in the Pool 

Rumor has it that Marilyn Monroe was discovered by a Hollywood agent while lounging poolside in Palm Springs! Bring the California Modern vibe home no matter where you live with a shimmering pool. LiLi Glaze Tiles are safe for pool installation and come in a range of blues, perfect for that classic California look. 

3. Paint the Walls Crisp White 

Mid-century modern style is minimalist and streamlined. So, keep a crisp white color palette inside and out for a bright and airy feel. Save your vibrant colors for fun accents like furnishings, cabinets, and doors. 

4. But Add a Pop of Color to the Front Door

In Palm Springs, everyone has a bright, colorful door. Take some style advice from the “Mid-century Modern Capital of the World” and add a bold pop of color to your front door. Pink, yellow, teal, and orange are great options to add some curb appeal and really make an entrance. 

5. Add Decorative Wood Beams

Many mid-century modern homes were designed with post and beam construction, allowing for beautiful exposed beams that extend from the interior to the exterior roofline. If your home wasn’t built this way, don’t worry. You can add decorative beams to recreate the look and add some mid-century charm. 

6. Furnish With Mid-Century Pieces 

While we can’t all afford a $5,000 Eames Chair, there are many other ways to furnish your home with mid-century pieces. Consider going thrifting or antiquing at local stores and estate sales. You may be surprised what original mid-century furnishings you can restore with a bit of polish! If convenience is more your style, many stores like West Elm and Wayfair sell mid-century recreations with that new couch smell. 

7. Decorate With Geometric Designs 

Instead of frilly embellishments, mid-century style utilizes bold geometric designs with simple lines that make a significant impact. Our Valentina tile embraces a fun geometric pattern with classic mid-century colors, making it perfect for your Modernist-styled kitchen or bath. 

8. Keep Things Streamlined 

Use minimalism to create the maximum impact! The mid-century modern style keeps things streamlined but bold. Our Laila tile is the perfect example of how an uncomplicated pattern can deliver a daring look. 

9. Try Out Terrazzo 

Terrazzo was a commonly used material in mid-century modern homes that features shining flecks of embedded aggregate. Our Confetti tile is a modern take on retro terrazzo, offering five color variations. Let’s get the 50s house party started!   

Create Your Own Mid-century Modern Design Plan

While the mid-century style embraces the past, it still feels modern and relevant to how we live today. After all, who doesn’t love an open-concept floor plan with large windows and plenty of natural light? With the help of our design tips, you are now ready to renovate your mid-century diamond in the rough or build a brand new gem harking back to the classic style! 


Shop All the Collections

Make sure to follow us on Instagram for more tile trends and design tips. Need some extra help? Give us a call! We love sharing our thoughts on the latest trends and answering any cement tile questions you have.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.