Midcentury Modern Kitchens

Midcentury Modern Kitchens: An open, natural choice for your most important room

by John Linden

It is no secret that the 1950s and 60s produced some of the best design.

Technology enabled designers to experiment like never before. The result? Some of the most uniquely interesting design techniques the world has ever seen.

Today, designers often incorporate midcentury modern elements into homes in order to give them a quirky and elegant spin. When included in the kitchen, mid century modern themes provide a sense of organization, style & personality.  

If you are looking to capture some of that mid century charm, we will show you the tips and tricks to transform your space.

Working with a network of design professionals, this article walks you through the process for transforming your kitchen. 

Food For Thought

For over 50 years, mid century modern design has been a popular and reliable choice for home decorators. Like all things related to design, however, its important to remember that styles and tastes change over time. 

Alex Roth of Roth Architecture explains that 

"...always remember is that while the design movement has had longevity and is still popular, too much of it can outdate a contemporary home very quickly. When people over do the vibe it can result in a decrease in the resale value for the owners. This is incredibly important when it comes to kitchens as it is one of the most important rooms for a buyer."

This is an important point. Remember, one day you may want to sell your home, so err on the side on subtlety to avoid narrowing that pool of buyers too much. 

Open Floor Plans

Mid century modern design is about efficiency. As a result, many of its practitioners took to tearing down unnecessary walls in order to maximize the amount of space in a room.

Open Floor Plan By Almost Makes Perfect

As a result, mid century modern is a perfect design style for those with small apartments.  It often allows its users to have a high-quality kitchen and dining area without sacrificing space.

Also, you may want to consider the benefits of tearing down the walls that divide your kitchen from the rooms around it.

Walls take up space and create visual barriers, so less is certainly more when it comes to space and open area. 

We know tearing down walls can be an expensive proposition, so a more economical idea is to remove all visual clutter -- including excess furniture, bookshelves, and other visual obstructions from your space. 

A Mid Century Modern kitchen Utilizing Space by My Domaine

Multipurpose Furniture

Much of the furniture found in midcentury modern kitchens has more than one use.  A counter, for example, may also function as a cabinet, a series of shelves and a table.

It is no surprise the the “center island” concept we see in many mid century modern kitchens today comes from the midcentury modern movement.  

A classic example is when mid century modern kitchens include tables and chairs within them. This enables those with small apartments to have both a sleekly designed kitchen and a place to eat.  

This "multipurpose" design allows homeowners to consolidate their belongings in one spot, which maximizes space and reduces clutter elsewhere.

This counter captures the midcentury modern ideal, functioning as a shelf and a bar-style table.  It even has a sink built into it! by Life Creative Blog

Another example of multiple purpose furniture is open shelving. Having open shelf space allows for both storage of household items -- like dishes -- and also decorative objects -- like plants and ceramics.

Even more, have open shelves makes it harder to clutter your cabinets, as you are always reminded of is on your shelves at any moment.  

As Tennille Joy of Tennille Joy Interiors explains,

"Open shelving not only creates a Mad Men feel, it provides a breezy storage solution for plants, vases, or Mid Century ceramics."

In the photo below, the shelves built above this counter give the homeowner plenty of space to store bowls and other vessels.  With all of the storage above the counter, the rest of the room remains free of clutter.

 Shelves by  99 Architecture

Shelves by 99 Architecture

Muted & Natural Color

Many love the muted color schemes of mid century modern design. Mid century designers, after all, were influenced by the natural world, aiming reflect the serenity of nature.  

 Muted and Natural Color Schemes by  Kenna Stout

Muted and Natural Color Schemes by Kenna Stout

What's more, kitchens are perfect for pastels and earth tones, two types of colors that are frequently used in mid century modern design.

Specifically, when there are windows in the kitchen, midcentury modern design pairs perfectly with the organic shapes seen in the window outside.  

Pro tip flowers in handmade pots look fantastic in mid century modern kitchens. The organic shapes often pair well with the slick geometry of midcentury furniture and appliances.

 
 Use of natural colors by  Rachel Madden Interiors

Use of natural colors by Rachel Madden Interiors

 

Last, don't forget to add inflections of bright and vibrant colors throughout. Just like in nature, find places to a splash of color. As Jane Wilson of Modern Housewives points out, 

"One thing that will give your kitchen a mid century vibe, is the usage of bright colours like turquoise, golden yellow or orange in walls or furniture...the contrast will work miracles for the interior.

Wood & Other Natural Materials

Perhaps the best known tenet of mid century design is to use natural materials. (You can read all about it here.) All the experts we talked with for this article mentioned this point, and it's a simple and timeless way to give your space a mid century vibe. 

Gideon Lipnickas, President of New Concept 180

"Mid century kitchen is unimaginable without quality wood elements. So don't be afraid to bring the real wood back. High-quality furnishings of the 50's will create a unique feel to your kitchen." 

Tennille Joy of Tennille Joy Interiors explains,

"Mid-tone to dark timber creates warmth and depth. To avoid too many heavy tones, lift the cabinetry off the floor with open legs or keep the dark timber for the island bench and floating shelving only"

While Alex Roth of Roth Architecture mentioned

"Use veneer or woods to highlight certain aspects of the kitchen, this can be done on your joinery, island benches etc and will pay homage to the veneer and timber furniture that the movement is so well known for."

In any case, finding wood elements for your kitchen is a trusted way to give your space color, depth, and a mid century feel.


A case study Freddy Grant from bluethumb.com.au

Freddy finished a gorgeous interior remodel that shows off the ideas discussed above. Beneath each photo I'll give a little explanation and insight into the design choices.

 Side view of the Mid century kitchen

Side view of the Mid century kitchen

In the photo above, you have a few mid century choices. First, notice how the color palette is neutral and muted, with a few splashes of fun colors (notice the yellow and orange). This is a classic mix of mostly neutral and a few spots of bright color.

 Photo via bluethumb.com.au

Photo via bluethumb.com.au

Mid century cat

Notice how cool the accessories are - adorning your space with interesting, colorful, and chic accessories is a way to compliment the neutral and plainer elements of mid century design. 

 MidCentury Dining Table

MidCentury Dining Table

Natural elements abound in this vignette - notice how the oversized house plant literally brings the outdoors inside, while the natural wood paneling and table provide warm relief. 

Copy of Freddy--3.jpg

A full view of the kitchen reveals a wide open walk way, capturing the open space concept so central to mid century design. 


Have an idea or looking for some advice on how to design your kitchen? As always, I'm available by email at john@mirrorcoop.com.

This is part of our design school series. You can read the rest of the articles here. 

My best as always,

- John