When creating a beautiful cooking space, some decorating trends have real staying power. Case in point: The mid-century modern-inspired kitchen. From colorful orange, yellow, and green on appliances and accessories to patterned countertops and flat front cabinetry to retro accessories, classic elements like these add warmth and personality to contemporary homes.
The best part is adding a little mid-century whimsy to your cooking space doesn't have to feel kitschy—unless that is your thing. The following ideas share how to add enduring mid-century style to your kitchen.
01 of 30
Bring a Casual Breakfast Nook to the Next Level
Beautifully crafted mid-century furniture is an investment in enduring style. In this gorgeous kitchen by Modtage Design in San Francisco, California, a vintage teak dining table and chairs set elevates a casual breakfast nook into an elegant eating space. The floor made of contemporary cork tiles features a mid-century-inspired tile pattern.Continue to 2 of 30 below.
02 of 30
Create a White Mid-Century-Inspired Kitchen
If you are not a fan of bold color, you should know that crisp, white mid-century-inspired kitchens are also a thing. Here is a simple and stylish example by Oregon-based interior design firm Sarah Phipps Design. The small space features clean lines and smooth surfaces, both characteristics of mid-century modern style.
The apartment-sized refrigerator by SMEG has a distinctive retro vibe. The flat front cabinetry is topped off with polished chrome hardware that is also in step with mid-century modern's minimalist aesthetic. The marble hexagon tile backsplash is a classic choice that brings a splash of interesting pattern. The white quartz countertop includes a drainboard sink, a chief feature in many authentic mid-century modern kitchens.Continue to 3 of 30 below.
03 of 30
Lean on Mid-Century Modern Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tile was a popular choice for countertops and backsplashes in kitchens and bathrooms in authentic mid-century homes. The trick to getting it right is pairing white or colorful tile with a black tile border, as shown in this sizable retro kitchen by Jackson Design and Remodeling out of San Diego, California.
Here a sunshine yellow tile countertop and backsplash are punctuated with jet black tile. The straight lines of the Shaker-style cabinetry enhance the kitchen's vintage charm. A mid-century-inspired range adds both function and style. While checkerboard floors like this one were made of sheets of ultrathin linoleum in the 1950s, which wore out quickly, this one is made of durable and modular Marmoleum tiles, a type of natural linoleum flooring free of volatile organic compounds.Continue to 4 of 30 below.
04 of 30
Bring in Laminate Countertops for Style and Function
Laminate countertops were super popular throughout the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and beyond. They provided home chefs with a durable work surface available in a broad range of colors and patterns. When Seattle, Washington-based construction firm Hammer and Hand renovated this kitchen, they selected a laminate countertop by Pionite in a particular style called Formal Mahogany. The countertop has a smooth aluminum edge, which helps to protect the laminate from scratches and dings.
The mid-century-inspired checkerboard floor is made of vinyl tiles by Armstrong Flooring in contrasting shades of Maraschino and Buttercream Yellow.Continue to 5 of 30 below.
05 of 30
Add Vintage Countertop Accessories and a Backsplash
Take your contemporary cooking space back in time with kitschy countertop accessories and a glass backsplash in retro pastel shades. This mid-century modern refresh by Susan Jablon Mosaics out of Binghamton, New York, does just that. The backsplash features a mosaic layout that alternates mini subway tile with colorful square tile. The set of vintage canisters is a prized flea market find.Continue to 6 of 30 below.
06 of 30
Select Flat Front Cabinetry and Porcelain Drainboard Sinks
The flat front cabinetry, which is original to the home, got a lick of new color in a retro shade of minty green. The retro cabinet knobs in polished chrome are from Rejuvenation. The Formica countertop, a mid-century staple, has a sturdy aluminum edge that prevents chipping and scratching. The vintage white base cabinets are powder-coated metal. Our favorite piece in this cooking space is the classic farmhouse drainboard sinks made of porcelain. Above is vintage task light.Continue to 7 of 30 below.
07 of 30Continue to 8 of 30 below.
08 of 30
Use Genuine Mid-Century Pieces
Pam Kueber, the mid-century modest décor enthusiast behind Retro Renovation, created this pitch-perfect mid-century modern kitchen when renovating her 1951 colonial ranch house located in Lenox, Massachusetts. Many of the items in the kitchen are authentic to the period, from the round Saarinen "tulip" dining table set to the metal turquoise cabinetry. The latter took years to find. The set finally popped up on eBay. Another eBay find in this kitchen is the pull-down light over the table. It is a piece from 1959 called the Imperialite by Emerson-Imperial. How much did it cost? A mere $12.Continue to 9 of 30 below.
09 of 30
Go Wild With Wood Grain
Shaker handiwork had a major influence on mid-century modern design. Woodgrains were incorporated as a design element; some grain lines give a room or its focal point movement. Popular woods used to craft furniture during the mid-century modern era included teak and American black walnut. Wood paneling was a big, beautiful exclamation point for many mid-century homes, and incorporating wood grain is an homage to that familiar throwback.Continue to 10 of 30 below.
10 of 30
Reminiscence of the Space Race
The space race and moon landing significantly influenced the hearts, minds, and design aesthetics of mid-century modern homemakers. Sputnik-inspired chandeliers, starburst clocks, and globe-looking hanging pendant lights are design motifs woven into the modern mid-century look, still translating nicely in kitchens today.Continue to 11 of 30 below.
11 of 30
Opt for Loud, Patterned Wallpaper
Patterns with bright colors and large shapes on the wallpaper are a common staple of mid-century modern kitchens. Search out big monotone floral images or shapes like chevrons and herringbone to draw out the personality in any room. To keep these design elements from overpowering the room, use subdued neutrals or a monotone color palette.Continue to 12 of 30 below.
12 of 30
Incorporate Earthy, Rustic Color Choices
Earthy, moody tones are a must when bringing a natural twist to your kitchen. Think of colors like slate blue, avocado green, and chocolate brown. The three do wonders together; other colors that play well include orange, quartz or woodblock countertops, and tropical plants.Continue to 13 of 30 below.
13 of 30
Mix Art Deco With Mid-Century Modern
The refined metallics, polish, black leather, and sharp angles of art deco dominated the designs of the 1920s and 30s. Mid-century modern became more popular at the end of the 1940s, with lines developing curves and more patterns and contrasting colors dropping into designs. Brassy and goldish tones turned into colors used on floors, counters, and upholstery. Leather crossed over both styles, remaining a popular material for furniture.Continue to 14 of 30 below.
14 of 30
Give an Open Concept Kitchen a Modern Twist
The most significant difference between kitchens from the middle of the 20th century and today is that open concept design was not en vogue. Back then, guests were seated in the sitting room while the hosts prepared the meal behind closed doors. The irony now is guests are invited to sit at the kitchen island and watch as the kitchen magic occurs before their eyes. Bucket seats at a well-placed kitchen island allow hosts to entertain guests comfortably as the meal prepares.Continue to 15 of 30 below.
15 of 30
Make a Statement With Wooden Beams
Wood is king in mid-century modern design, and wooden ceiling beams draw your eye upward and carry it to the next thing you point it to. Tie in exposed natural wooden joists or rafters in your kitchen to give you the much-loved wooden look in a mid-century-inspired kitchen.Continue to 16 of 30 below.
16 of 30
Pay Homage to Frank Lloyd Wright
Many homes designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright look like they were meant to be in a natural setting. Homes designed in that fashion are very decidedly mid-century modern by today's standards. He made use of textile concrete blocks, one of his hallmarks. Rock, stone, and unadorned wood were some of his favorite building materials. Natural, stacked stone in a horizontal pattern was another signature look of his.Continue to 17 of 30 below.
17 of 30
Blend Mid-Century With Modern
The wishbone chairs, matte finishes, and mod lighting fixtures throughout make this feel mid-century modern. On the other hand, the black walls and cupboards as well as the light wooden waterfall countertop lean more modern. This blending of styles can be done for the color palette, too, which will be seen further along in another kitchen.Continue to 18 of 30 below.
18 of 30
Install Wood Cabinets
This sleek and chic kitchen is very reminiscent of mid-century modern features, primarily thanks to the wood panels covering the upper and lower cabinets. Though it's gorgeous on its own, it ended up seeing several other renovations, all of which were mid-century modern at heart.Continue to 19 of 30 below.
19 of 30
Don't Be Scared to Go Bold
For the second update of this kitchen, funkier elements came into play but it still maintained a retro feel. The deep teal color on the lower cabinets is a smart choice for adhering to a mid-century modern palette. What really ties the space together is the Tulip-style table and dining chairs with tapered legs.Continue to 20 of 30 below.
20 of 30
Incorporate Multiple Wood Features
This is yet another example of how quickly wood turns a stylish kitchen into a mid-century modern haven. Covering the island, cabinets, and refrigerator, it's a staple texture in this cooking space that instantly reflects the look in an elevated and updated way. The addition of slightly darker wooden chairs makes it all the more interesting.Continue to 21 of 30 below.
21 of 30
Nail Down the Color Palette
Greens and browns make up a majority of this kitchen's palette, which helps it feel majorly mid-century modern, especially with the help of the tile, furniture, and light fixtures. Colors that typically arise in mid-century modern homes are earthy green, mustard yellow, deep teal, brown, burnt orange, and navy.Continue to 22 of 30 below.
22 of 30
Or Update Your Color Palette
Though this kitchen feels mid-century modern, its palette leans flat out modern. This is a fun blend to play with as everything works flawlessly together but it has a unique finish in comparison to a cooking space that sways towards the former or latter style. Blending dark gray and mint are great as is, but the statement wallpaper and stone countertops take it to another level.Continue to 23 of 30 below.
23 of 30
Pick Out Mid-Century Silhouettes
Modern and mid-century modern go hand-in-hand when it comes to interior styles. This kitchen has influences of both thanks to the chosen chairs, bar seating, and materials. You don't need to select exclusively original items or real vintage pieces to emulate a mid-century modern vibe. Sometimes it just comes down to getting the right colors, silhouettes, and shapes.Continue to 24 of 30 below.
24 of 30
Go for Iconic Pieces
Eero Saarinen invented the Tulip table and chairs (among other feats), which are the epitome of mid-century modern style. To keep the look alive and well in your own kitchen, opt for styles that look like these original designs, but don't be scared to put your own touch on them. The choice of black seating is a fun decision.Continue to 25 of 30 below.
25 of 30
Infuse Avocado Green
Of the many colors that showed face during the decades of mid century modern design, avocado green was a popular one. You can add a few splashes of the earthy tone to a kitchen or take a page out of this cooking space's book and go all out with green cabinetry. It's a great color that makes a statement but doesn't feel too extreme.Continue to 26 of 30 below.
26 of 30
Consider the Light Fixtures
Don't forget adding a good light to the mid-century modern equation. Do you need to invest in a Sputnik chandelier or something extremely out there? Definitely not. Instead, think about the distinct design features that stood out from the era. Modern, simple design also reigned supreme and sleek, modern pendants like this serve that purpose perfectly.Continue to 27 of 30 below.
27 of 30
Mattify the Space
This was the final iteration of the kitchen seen above and it still holds true to its mid-century modern roots, just in a more colorful way. The mint green cabinets have a matte finish and simple hardware, which really convey the mid-century modern look.Continue to 28 of 30 below.
28 of 30
Work in Small Features
Every inch of your kitchen can fully embrace mid-century modern or you can choose a small selection of details you'd like to focus on. In the case of this kitchen, glass paneled windows reminiscent of the era is just the touch it needed to make it stand out from other primarily white cooking spaces.Continue to 29 of 30 below.
29 of 30
Say Yes to Wood Paneling
Wood panels were a defining feature of the mid-century modern era. Installing these in a modern day kitchen is a smart move if you're after an authentic nod to the style and really want to make your kitchen shine in a unique way. This kitchen was brilliantly planned as there is plenty of wood texture, but the blue backsplash is a much needed pop of color and functional design idea.Continue to 30 of 30 below.
30 of 30
Give a Slight Nod to Mid-Century Modern
Sometimes the tiniest touches make all the difference. The light fixtures feel like simplified, modernized versions of the classic Sputnik chandeliers. The simple wood accents and matte cabinets also give a slight air of mid-century modern without allowing the style to fully take over.