Mid-Century Modern Living Room Elements

Mid-Century Modern living room

Sam Howzit / Flickr / CC By 2.0

If you want to remodel your home in the style of mid-century modern (MCM), incorporating the following style features will take you a long way towards your goal.

The quintessential MCM-style living room from the early to mid-Sixties period would have included things like double-tier coffee tables, wood wall paneling, linoleum, horse sculptures, and bullet-shaped sconce lights.

Pictured is not a true period living room but a stage set of sorts: the Tune-In Lounge, one of the many themed restaurants at Walt Disney World. While sipping your blue electric lemonade, you can watch authentic black-and-white clips on the period television set.

Vaulted Ceiling With Exposed Beams

The prototypical MCM low-vaulted ceiling had exposed natural wood beams. For the mid-century Jet Agers, a feeling of openness—of soaring to the sky—was always emphasized. Vaulted ceilings literally vaulted up to the sky yet remained grounded with wood in natural tones.

Wood Panel Accent Wall

The accent wall in the center of the room is paneled in dark, rich walnut. For your home, you'll want to panel sections of the room, not the entire room.

Go for real veneer wood panels rather than cheap plastic-laminated panels. Wood veneer panels can help with your home's resale value; cheap paneling will only drag it down.

Horse Sculptures

Depictions of horses were a feature in 1960s homes. Look no further than 1960s sitcoms for prancing faux Tang Dynasty horse sculptures. In this living room, you will count no less than six horses. For your MCM living room, one prancing horse will probably be enough.

Danish Modern Chairs and Coffee Table

Danish Modern furniture pieces found in common MCM homes were, on the whole, not expensive Drexel Declaration sideboards, coffee tables, and chairs. They were knock-off Danish Modern pieces purchased from local department stores such as Kmart or Sears Roebuck. Now, these pieces command top-dollar on auction sites.

Two-Tier Coffee Table

Fifties and Sixties double-level coffee tables are found today at many antique stores or on auction sites. They aren't all that expensive. They instantly add an MCM flair to your living room, and they're highly useful, as well.

Linoleum Floor

In the Sixties, the linoleum industry was heavily promoting the "durability" and "beauty" of linoleum floors all throughout the home. So, even though MCM homes are frequently depicted in movies as being heavily shagged, MCM homes in most of the United States often had hard floor coverings, like linoleum. By the Sixties and Seventies, linoleum has given way to vinyl flooring.

Sunburst Clock

Sunburst clocks are so Sixties-looking that you risk going over the top by putting one in your living room.

Retro TV Set

It doesn't have to work; it just has to sit there and look good. Pick up a vintage television site on an auction site and put it on a shelf to complete the look of your MCM living room.

Remnants of the Past Era

Except for homes of the wealthy few and in pictures in architectural magazines, most homes had mixed-era decor.

In the Sixties, it wasn't uncommon to have remnants of the 1930s to 1950s still lingering. A 1940s radio might still be laying around, along with sentimental items on the curio shelf and overly sweet floral wallpaper. 

Sconce Lights

Cone-shaped metal sconce lights, as well as metal cone pole lights, were a staple in MCM homes. These sconce lights evoked the shape of jets and rockets, a popular motif in the Sixties.

Sconce lights require new wiring, but for internal walls this is simple. Wiring can usually be brought a few feet upward from wall outlets. You'll just need to cut the hole for the sconce light, then fish the wire down to the outlet. Tap into the outlet and attach to the sconce light.

Exterior walls are more difficult for fishing wire due to insulation and fire-blocking. If possible, install sconces on interior walls.

Encyclopedias

Encyclopedia salespeople roamed North America in the mid 20th century, convincing millions of parents that their children wouldn't be able to compete with classmates if they didn't have a full set of encyclopedias. It was a brisk trade and one that produced a generation of rocket scientists, engineers, and after a decade later, the software geniuses who brought about our phones, computers, and tablets.