Am I The Only One Over Mid-Century Modern Design?

published Oct 27, 2018
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

You don’t need to be an interiors expert to be familiar with mid-century modern design. Even if you can’t spot its signature clean lines and minimal details from a mile away, most stores have products that are blatantly labeled “mid-century inspired.”

The mid-century modern movement first broke onto the design scene over 50 years ago and is showing no signs of slowing down. Every store—from Target to West Elm, and everything in between—has aisles chock-full of mid-century decor. Plus, there’s a good chance you have a piece or two in your home. I mean, didn’t you check off “mid-century modern couch” on your Millennial Apartment Bingo board?

“The design is not only easy to understand, it’s very versatile,” explains Janice Barta of Barta Interiors Inc. “A lot of mid-century modern to an untrained eye can be easily mixed and matched without much thought of scale or the ‘big picture’ in a room.”

Everyone knows mid-century modern is the biggest trend in the design world. So why I am so ready for this fad to fade? If I’m being honest, the trend is so ubiquitous that it’s becoming boring

You see, once upon a time, mid-century modern was the pinnacle of innovative design. Legendary designers like Eero Saarinen, Florence Knoll, and Charles and Ray Eames ditched the ornate frills of yesteryear for a pared-down, simpler, and indisputably cooler alternative. They made iconic pieces that were a far cry away from the norm.

(Image credit: Samara Vise)

“It evokes a time period that was booming post war,” says Barta. “It appealed to many families to have this open-living concept and furniture that was easier to build and buy due to its less ornate silhouettes.”

Some people loved it, while others hated it. Either way, it sparked major conversation amongst consumers and insiders alike.

However, in 2018, mid-century modern feels more like a staple than a statement. Don’t get me wrong, I love how the greatest hits are being recreated at a more affordable price point. After all, very few of us are willing to shell out over a thousand dollars for Saarinen’s Tulip Table. The problem is that there’s too many options. Now that we see mid-century modern in every store (and ultimately every home), it’s easy to overlook the impact these pieces once had.

And, of course, there’s a glaring lack of originality. Shouldn’t your home feel like an extension of your personal style? Not just like every other modern home out there?

I’ll admit I have a Knoll-inspired sofa in my apartment. After growing up in my parents’ rustic-styled home, I wanted cool, modern, and more metropolitan pieces. But four years later, I look at my couch with a tinge of disdain. It’s no longer the cool, modern, metropolitan piece I once thought it was; it feels sterile, stale, and, well, basic.

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

Sure, mid-century modern design makes it possible for the masses to have a well-designed home. But for those who love design and keep up with trends, it makes them feel like they’re just like everyone else. After all, how can a space feel special when it’s filled with the same table, chairs, and sofas as every other home?

To make matters worse, so many of us style our homes the exact same way. Though Barta doesn’t think mid-century modern pieces are overrated, she thinks the way we’re using them is.

“I think it’s the way a designer or homeowner uses them that feels so utilitarian,” argues Barta. “It feels less tired and overrated when it’s a conversation piece verses when a whole room is filled with mid-century furniture and design.”

The mid-century phenomenon isn’t fizzling anytime soon, but Barta says she’s noticing more people integrating their MCM pieces with an eclectic array of styles.

“I’m seeing so much more variety and excitement over finding something unique,” she says. “It doesn’t necessarily leave out mid-century design, but has a more eclectic vibe that really nods toward artisanal and away from mass-produced goods.”

How much mid-century modern is too much? That’s up to you. It’s your home. But what if we juxtaposed our MCM decor with traditional, ornate, or wildly maximalist pieces? Call me crazy, but that may be the happy medium we need.