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This Is Everything You Need to Know About Mid-Century Modernism

Mid-century modernism. Even if you’re only vaguely across this interiors trend, you can be sure it’s been following you everywhere you go. From the tapered wooden leg of the leather lounge positioned in that hip wine bar you sunk into recently, to the minimalist interiors dominating the little squares of your Instagram feed, our collective love affair with mid-century modernism shows no signs of abating. Not properly acquainted with the trend? Consider this your guide.

So... what is it, exactly?

Do you smile, nod and tune out when you hear people talking about mid-century modernism? Don’t stress, we’ll get you up to speed. Mid-century modernism refers to the period between around 1945 to 1965 when the interiors movement changed dramatically. Post-World War II, the world was ripe with new technology and a steep shift towards urbanisation was occurring. As cities evolved, living spaces shrunk and a new, minimalist aesthetic was born.

The trend exploded in Sweden and Denmark, with Finn Juhl, Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen championing the aesthetic. In the US, interior designers like Ray and Charles Eames (you guessed it, they created the “Eames” lounge chair) and Florence Knoll had a huge impact. But don’t forget about little old Australia, we caught onto the trend in a big way with pioneers like Lester Bunbury and Clement Meadmore leading the charge. The Aussie movement was recently immortalised by The National Gallery of Victoria. Their extensive exhibition resulted in the drool-worthy book, Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design, which you should most definitely track down.

What does mid-century modernism look like?

Seen Mad Men? If you were able to tear your eyes away from the magic Don Draper and Peggy Olson were creating and instead focus on the furniture they were sitting on, you might have a good idea. The cornerstone of mid-century modernism? Functionality. The focus is on furniture that is adaptable and easy to use first and foremost. Simple, sleek forms with organic influences reign supreme.

Over the top embellishments? They’ve got no place in the mid-century modernism aesthetic. Furniture is crafted from materials like steel and wood. Teak table tops, tapered peg-legs and leather mixed with timber define the look that was “minimalist” before the word had its own Urban Dictionary entry.

Why do we love mid-century modernism?

The best aspect of the mid-century modernism interiors trend is that it can fit in seamlessly with your existing furniture set. Thanks to its sleek, simple, minimalist design, decor from this era has a timeless, always-on-trend look about it. Yep, that means you can slowly add pieces into every room without having to completely overhaul your entire set-up (and re-mortgage the house while you’re at it). Our suggestion? Try adding a simple mid-century modernism-inspired wooden chair to your bedroom and build up from there.

If you’re keen to completely refresh your space with the mid-century modernism look, there are a couple of things to be wary off. To avoid your space looking a little too utilitarian, Architectural Digest says playing with levels is key, they recommend “incorporating furniture of different heights.” Hint: a low couch will work best paired with a towering lamp.

Choosing pops of colour for your upholstery is going to add some warmth and personality to your space and will balance the uniformity and simplicity of the look. Go bold with fiery reds and rich olives or choose something a little subtler like muted pink, blue or a blend of buttery, neutral hues that are never going to go out of style.

Where can you track it down?

After some authentic mid-century modernism decor but aren’t sure where to look? For starters, many of the key pieces of the movement are still being reimagined (hello Eames chairs, we’re looking at you). For pre-loved originals, get creative and start searching antique stores, op shops and auction houses. No luck or finding it’s just too damn expensive for your budget? Never fear, most quality furniture retailers have been creating decor inspired by the mid-century modernism movement. Happy hunting!

Now that we’re on the topic,  these are six of the trends heading to an interior near you this season.

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