What Is Mid Century Modern?

What is the Definition of Mid Century Modern?

Mid Century Modern is often abbreviated as MCM, and no it does not have anything to do with #ManCrushMonday. It refers to the time period during the middle of the 20th century, roughly the 1940s through 1970s, in which products and buildings were designed in line with the Modernist movement of the time. The Mid Century Modern aesthetic is defined by clean lines, simple shapes, and a focus on the materials used. It often placed a high emphasis on function in addition to form, and it took into account the lifestyle needs of the decades. A Mid Century Modern home may include features like post and beam construction to allow for large walls of glass, open floor plans for informal living, and front facing privacy walls for secluded courtyards.

mid century home
Example of Breeze Blocks

What Are The Key Features Of Mid Century Design?

Mid Century design is iconic, and there are a few architectural elements to know if you are looking to spot this style out in the wild. Get ready to brush up on your Mid Century vocab, because we are going to define some key terms.

1. Butterfly Roof – a roof plane where the high points occur at the outside edges and the low point occurs in the middle, creating a V-shape or butterfly wings.

2. Cantilever – a beam that projects past its supporting wall or column.

3. Clerestory Windows – Windows located at the top of the wall immediately below the roof plane. These would be above the standard sight line and allow for light while maintaining privacy.

4. Folded Plate Roof – A roof plane that creates repetitive angles or ridges, as if it were a series of paper folds.

mid century modern roofline
Example of Long Gable Roof and Clerestory Windows

5. Long Gable Roof – A roof plane where the pitched portion occurs perpendicular to the shortest end of the structure, creating an elongated profile

6. Breeze Block – decorative cast blocks with open spaces to allow light and wind to pass through, used for accents and privacy around patio areas.

7. Swiss Miss – A roof style characterized by a steeply pitched gable that extends to the ground

mid century modern swiss miss roof
Example of Swiss Miss

If you keep an eye out for these features, you will spot Mid Century inspired design in more places than you expected!

Why is Mid Century Modern Still Popular?

Obviously Mid Century Modern was a popular style during the greater part of the mid-20th century, but why are we still seeing it around today? I think there are a few key reasons why we embraced the look again in the early 21st century.

1. Functionality

The Mid Century style places a high emphasis on function, making it an easy choice when you want your space to work for you. In a time of automation, same-day delivery, and instant information, I think it only makes sense that we would embrace a decor style that also works for us, rather than the other way around.

2. Smaller Urban Living

Over the 2000s and 2010s, urban city centers around the United States experienced a resurgence, gentrification, and influx of young professionals repopulating smaller spaces again. Rather than the suburban dream of yard space and 3,000 square feet, people were choosing 700 square feet apartments and balconies. Mid Century furniture is typically low profile, sleek, and has clean lines that don’t look cluttered. This makes it the perfect choice for furnishing smaller spaces.

mad men gif peggy
This is my favorite scene from Mad Men

3. The Popularity of Mad Men

Mad Men ran from 2007 through 2015 and was hailed as one of the most popular shows of the “Golden Age” of television. It is pretty clear to me that the detailed period sets of this drama series had a huge effect on how we decided to furnish our living rooms. Furthermore, this show was embraced by young adults who were starting to furnish their very first apartments. Who better to sell you a style than Don Draper?

4. Range of Accessibility

Mid Century Modern is also one of few style choices that has such a wide range of accessibility and price points. When it comes to original period pieces, you could take some hand-me-downs from your grandparents for free, grab estate sale furniture for a bargain, or pay top dollar for restored and authenticated antiques.

The same goes for reproductions. You could shop basic and affordable items from IKEA, Wayfair, World Market, and even Target. Or, you could splurge on more expensive recreations from West Elm, Design Within Reach, and Article. The number of options gave almost every budget access to the look, which is not always the case when it comes to other styles.

mid century modern furniture
Sofa by West Elm, Pillows by Target

So, there you have it!

Now you know the definition and key features of the Mid Century Modern style and a few of my takes on why it is so popular in our current decade.

Hope you dudes enjoyed!

If you have additional questions on Mid Century style, email me at heydesigndudes@gmail.com.

Need help pulling together your own Mid Century inspired space? Check out my design services.

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