When it comes to enduring design styles, none seem as powerful – or pervasive – as mid-century modern. Originally originating in the 1940s (then popularized by the likes of George Nelson, Eero Saarinen, Gio Ponte, Hans Wegener, and Charles Eames), mid-century modern design has grown to include decades, countries, and categories of decor, and has become the most influential design style in recent memory. They work well in kitchens.
While contemporary designers continue to iterate on the aesthetic, some defining features of the look—think: clean lines, simple shapes, and an emphasis on form—constantly prevail. The key to bringing out the ambiance of MCM without feeling like you’re in a specific time slot? Blending iconic mid-century shapes and finishes with a modern spirit for a timeless, fresh look Currently. Case in point: these are 12 mid-century modern-inspired kitchens that easily prove one for the ages.
Play up to the boards
All-wood paneling is often one of the first things to indicate a mid-century modern residence—And the One of the first things to go when homeowners decide to renovate. However, if you are looking to preserve the history of your home, then all these goodness should be kept completely natural. Take it from Kate Arends, who chose to embrace, not destroy, the white oak planks in her mid-century modern rambling home in Minnesota. She made the standout feature sing by accentuating it with a ramshackle marble floor (another MCM staple), calacatta viola marble tables, and plump violet cabinets in Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room Pink.
Skip the upper lockers
Mid-century modern kitchens often light up upper cabinets — or forego them entirely — in favor of a more visually streamlined look. Designed by the duo behind Studio Shamshiri, this kitchen relied on California walnut counters (inspired by the surrounding hills in Los Angeles) and concrete countertops for a simple yet stunning look. A pair of antique Hans-Agne Jakobsson pendants above the island add the perfect nod to MCM history.
Enjoy the furniture
Often thought of as the golden age of furniture design, the mid-century modern design movement gave us many of the familiar features and silhouettes we love today. Make a nod to some of the greats by incorporating a distinctive set of island stools, like the trio from Patricia Urquiola by Moroso seen here in a kitchen designed by Kureck Jones. When paired with other MCM staples (like Fireclay stacked tiles and simple wood cabinetry), they make for a scene that is both retro and revolutionary.
Keep the board tight
Warm wood tones (a hallmark of MCM style) pair seamlessly with iridescent stone backsplashes and moody black worktops. This mid-century-inspired kitchen, designed by Elena Frampton, originally ran House Beautiful in 2014—though you’d never know it, thanks to its timeless appeal.
Choosing a Backsplash Stack
Emphasize the geometric flair commonly seen in mid-century modern design by choosing to install your backsplash tiles in a stacked form, rather than the classic offset layout. This Los Angeles kitchen, designed by Jaqui Seerman, takes a hint of the popular mid-century color combination, pairing pale pink Waterworks backsplash tiles with palm green cabinets (Calke Green by Farrow & Ball) and original mid-century wood paneling.
Merge primary shapes
A concise home palette full of primary colors, this mid-century modern-inspired home overlooks Puget Sound outside of Seattle. Designed by Ore Studios, walnut-and-laminate headboard cabinets allow for an occasional pop of color (peep in cherry red!) and boast open shelves to highlight the home’s mid-century stoneware collection.
Work in open shelves
During the heyday of MCM design, open or floating shelving was seen as a way to separate a space from the home while maintaining the open flow for increased entertainment and socializing. In this well-preserved rambling mid-century farmhouse, designer Victoria Sass of Prospect Refuge leaned back to the MCM roots of the home with walnut surround cabinets, antique accessories, and an era floating shelf above the island.
Seen at the end of the MCM movement, steam terrazzo finishes quickly picked up as a popular choice for countertops, floors, and more. These days, the unique material (often made of cement mixed with colorful chips of marble, quartz, granite, and glass) offers endless opportunities for customization, like the bespoke mix that designer Penelope August developed for this Manhattan kitchen. Soft purple cabinets (Calluna by Farrow & Ball) and a sunny yellow fireplace add a funky touch to the room.
Embrace Galley Layout
Mid-century modern homes were not known for their square footage, which often resulted in small kitchens that had to use every square inch. Instead of renovating to create a more open floor plan, embrace the warm form and incorporate finishes that make things feel light. In this mid-century home in Palm Springs, designed by Formarch Architecture, the original concrete walls are decked out with terrazzo floors and warm wood cabinets.
Squeeze in an orange bob
It’s not often you see us defending c0lor this is Bold in the kitchen, yet this juicy color is a mid-century classic. Shades of orange and rust were prevalent during the heyday of MCM and were used as a way to liven up furniture, decor, and even wallpaper. Looking for a subtle yet surprising way to work with color? Take a hint from this kitchen designed by Patrick Sutton and cover the interior of classic wood cabinets with a standout shade like Electric Orange from Benjamin Moore.
mix in metal
Metallic design touches came to play big with mid-century modern décor and are a great way to add bygone era glamor to your kitchen. In this Los Angeles home designed by Joy Cho and Cleo Murnane, adjoining architecture informs the space’s mid-century modern flair, including a Tabarka-studded copper backsplash and inviting Mitzi lighting.
Think long and soft
Linear formations were everywhere during the heyday of mid-century modern design, from the clean lines of some of our favorite pieces of furniture (like the famous Florence Knoll sofa) to the rooftop lines of classic MCM apartment architecture. Add the same spirit to your kitchen with cabinets and lighting that incorporate this linear effect, as in this Hamptons home designed by Amy Lau. In it, a pair of bleached walnut and snowy worktops (Caesarstone’s Blizzard quartz) with large-scale custom lighting fixtures from Bone Simple Design—in a highly saturated blue, very MCM, of course.
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