Midcentury modern style design is still alive and well in 2022, but there are right and wrong ways to decorate with MCM pieces, according to the pros. We've asked three experts to weigh in on commonly made mid-century modern design mistakes, as well as how to fix them. So before you buy that fifth Eames-style chair, keep reading!
Meet the Expert
- Renee Eurdolian is an interior design expert and buyer at Fernish.
- Alessandra Wood is the VP of Style at Modsy.
- Linda Mauck Smith is the co-founder and interior designer at BLDC Design.
1. Using Only Dark Woods and Muted Neutrals
According to Renee Eurdolian, Interior Design Expert and Buyer at rental furniture service Fernish, one common mistake that people make is "thinking midcentury modern only means dark wood and muted neutrals." Rather, Eurdolian notes, it's more than ok to incorporate a bit of vibrance into one's design. "Although brown, gray, and white tones are a big part of the MCM style, equally important are colorful accents such as orange, mustard yellow, red, shades of green, etc.," she explains.
2. Incorporating Pieces That Are Too Small
"As being space-friendly is core to midcentury style, it’s not uncommon to find pieces designed on a smaller scale," shares Alessandra Wood, the VP of Style at Modsy. However, such furniture pieces aren't meant for each and every space. "These pieces are great for small spaces, but can look out of place and tiny in larger rooms," Wood adds.
To help mitigate error, Wood offers two important tips. "First, make sure the scale of the piece fits the scale of the room; if you have a large space, a petite button-tufted sofa will look much too small," she says. "Second, consider the scale of one piece of furniture compared to the rest of the pieces in the room. While you may be dying to have an Eames Molded Plywood chair, this piece is much smaller in scale than other loungey pieces of furniture and can look dwarfed next to large pieces of furniture." As a happy medium, feel free to feature smaller pieces in nooks within a space, Wood suggests.
3. Buying Something Just Because It's MCM
Even if you love a particular style, that doesn't mean that you need to purchase every related piece you come across. "We’ve all had that moment of thinking we found the perfect midcentury modern furniture, and likely made an impulse purchase because it just felt right," designer Linda Mauck Smith says. "Purchasing furniture simply because it is mid-century modern can sometimes create remorse if the purchase is not well considered. Take time to think about any new item, and how it can be added to your existing furnishings in a unique and useful way." You'll end up saving time and money in the long run with such a tactic, too!
4. Not Realizing How Versatile MCM Is
But, while you certainly don't want to purchase every midcentury modern style item you see, you'll want to be aware of the multitude of options available, Eurdolian explains. "MCM is defined by simple, timeless, and functional silhouettes. It mixes organic shapes, clean lines, finished edges, and is not overly ornate, allowing it to pair well and complement so many other styles."
5. Not Repairing Dated Items
Authentic mid-century modern pieces may need a little bit of love—take the time to treat them right, Smith says. "With classic pieces, it’s fun to imagine the life of the piece and its story. That said, some of the charm may be lost if the piece looks worn or dated," she explains. "Take time to repair and re-upholster items to create a piece that is unique to you."
6. Too Much Brass
We love brass, too, but it isn't the only option when decorating in midcentury style, designer Hattie Collins explains. She notes, "Small accents here and there or a light fixture or two are fine, but mix up the metals! Throw in some chrome or copper."
7. Too Much of One Wood Tone or Color
Don't forget to explore a variety of finishes when shopping for furniture, Collins advises. "Walnut is beautiful, but look for other wood tones to help the space feel less matchy."
8. Forgetting to Incorporate Current Pieces
There's no need to focus solely on MCM finds in your space, and you definitely don't want your home to resemble a store display! "Midcentury furniture has a very distinguished look, and a little bit of this style goes a long way," Smith notes. "A good design includes a mix of objects to make the space personal. Consider missing a few classic pieces with some newer items to balance the space."
9. Going Overboard
And on a related note: while midcentury modern style is definitely ultra versatile and popular, Eurdolian stresses that there certainly can be too much of a good thing. "As with anything in design, balance is important," she says. "Don’t assume that the entire room needs to be mid-century, or that just because all of the furniture is MCM that it works together." You're have to use your best judgment, too, after all. Eurdolian adds, "The key is to know your space, and add balance—it doesn't have to be a time capsule, make it your own."