7 Mid-Century Modern Decor Trends You Might Regret, According to Designers

published Jun 13, 2020
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Mid-Century Dining Room
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When an interior design style is trending and you love it, it’s easy to want to go all in, even though its longevity is never guaranteed. Such is the case with mid-century modern decor, a relatively minimal aesthetic characterized by angular structures and clean lines—think “Mad Men” style interiors, plywood, and brilliant shades like avocado and orange. “Mid-century modern once broke the mold on furnishings with its unique style and was the pinnacle of innovative design,” explains interior decorator Kimberly Horton of KH Home Design. “[Now] it’s everywhere, and the unique factor is now gone.”

From lucite furniture to wood paneling and more, here are a few of the mid-century modern decor trends some interior designers say may not have the most staying power going forward. Should you love any of these things (or even already have them in your home), I hear you! Ultimately, your home is yours—so you do you. That said, the pros have also offered their advice on how to decorate with these design elements in a way that feels fresh for today and should hold up in the future.

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Saturated Colors 

Vibrant shades of orange, teal, and mustard are just a few of the bold colors that make up a classic mid-century modern palette. While these shades are often paired with warm wood tones, designer Liza Kuhn of Liza Kuhn Interiors explains that even then, saturated colors can often leave a space feeling dated. “Instead, we suggest pairing woods with black or white tones, as both provide great contrast and let it shine as the star of the space,” she says. 

Designer Danielle Fennoy, owner of Revamp Interior Design, tends to agree with Kuhn. “These colors would be great as accents,” Fenoy says of the typical mid-century modern colors. “Think vintage pottery, bold shapely lamps, or even an iconic mid-century chair.”

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Lucite Furnishings  

Lucite furnishings can often help create the illusion of a larger space, but according to designer Sarah Barnard of Sarah Barnard Design, these see-through styles may not be worth the hassle. For her, it comes down to matters of maintenance and durability. “While vintage lucite certainly has an aesthetic allure, it can require special handling and protection from sunlight to prevent deterioration, yellowing, clouding, and scratching,” she says. If you want pieces with this look still, don’t worry. Barnard recommends smaller scale elements like table lamps and decorative trays because they are easier to take care of than things like coffee or side tables, which tend to get a lot more use.  

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Overdoing Iconic Designs 

Mid-century modern decor certainly has its famous pieces, silhouettes, and designers—you probably know these items well from seeing them in stores like Design Within Reach and Knoll. When picking which elements to incorporate in a single room, however, less is more. “If you have a Saarinen dining table, Wegner wishbone chairs, an Eames lounge, and a Barcelona sofa, you’ve gone too far,” designer Courtney McLeod, principal of Right Meets Left Interior Design, explains. “Be selective in choosing your mid-century moments and mix them with pieces from other time periods for a more personal look and feel.”

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Wood Paneling

Perhaps one of the most prominent mid-century modern materials is wood, and for many, that means wall and ceiling wood panelling. “Going full-blown wood can be really overwhelming if the rest of the space is going to have mid-century modern decor as well,” says architect and interior designer Angie Lane of A. Lane Architecture. Wood wall coverings, in particular, can also be tricky if your home doesn’t get a lot of natural light. To achieve that same warmth and texture that wood paneling can bring to a space though, Lane suggests less permanent furnishings like larger wood furniture pieces or wood decorative screens.

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Cut Block Walls 

In addition to an added level of privacy, cut block walls often were used to add a decorative element to mid-century modern homes’ exteriors. These features even pop up in living rooms and entryways from homes from that period, too. Designer Erin Shakoor, principal of Shakoor Interiors, thinks they can be sometimes tricky to work with at present, especially if  in disrepair. She often suggests some kind of alteration to them to make them a little more modern, when possible. “After removal, the concept can be reintroduced into parts of the general façade or as the outer wall of a carport,” she explains. 

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Angular Shapes 

Angular furniture is a quintessential part of mid-century modern design, and according to designer Elaine Burns of Pistachio Designs, the clean look these pieces can give a room is what makes them so appealing. That said, she also thinks overdoing the same silhouette can make a room seem one-dimensional. Not to worry—all you have to do is balance out those straight lines with a few curves. “Balance in scale and shape is critical,” she says. Have a boxy sofa? Try pairing it with a round table, for example. 

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Retro Fabrics 

1960s style geometric shapes and vibrant hues are just a few of the key elements you’ll find on mid-century modern fabrics. But according to designer Bella Mancini of Bella Mancini Design, these retro textiles may look a bit dated if combining both of those characteristics and used on a piece with a quintessentially mid-century modern silhouette. 

What should you do if you have an old piece that’s starting to look dated for this very reason? “For a look that will last another century, take the time to reupholster a piece in something more contemporary,” she suggests. Solids are always a good bet. You can always try a slipcover, too, or just freshening the piece up with a more current pillow and throw combination.