Midcentury modern living rooms that put retro back on the map

Design is always cyclical. Styles are revived in new ways. Midcentury modern design has not been the only one to experience a resurgence. But it is undoubtedly the most durable. Organic shapes, clean lines, less-is-more, and a high level of functionality characterize the modernist design. Think about Florence Knoll and Arne Jackson, who are all examples. The modernist aesthetic was popularized in the 1940s. Despite a second wave of interest in the 1990s, it has remained mainstream.

Designers have been debating the relevance of midcentury style for decades. Many designers believe we should eliminate midcentury design if we don’t make it ours. Others, however, are convinced by its timeless appeal. Piotr Paradowski is the head designer of Paradowski Studio. He says that midcentury modern design is not a style but an era. While it began in the second half 20th century, the type is still relevant to our modern world.

Regardless of your opinion, the midcentury aesthetic is a design trend that has influenced the world in countless ways. It’s a style and function we can all take inspiration from. To inspire you, we’ve gathered our favorite midcentury modern living rooms from ELLE DECOR’s pages. Here are 48 mid-century living rooms that will take you back to the past. You won’t be able to wait to return.

VELVET REVELRY

The living room in the Goldwyn House in Los Angeles, now home to the Future Perfect Gallery, is draped in velvet with a jewel-toned lounge. A handwoven rattan pendant by Chris Wolston is the focal point. This scheme easily mixes eras, but the clean lines and dark stained wood feel distinctly midcentury.

ETHEREAL DETAILS

This calming New York Apartment features subtle nods toward the vintage look. Lighting fixtures and seating arrangements punctuate this space with organic and geometric shapes. The parquet flooring and warm ivory (Baby Fawn Benjamin Moore) soften the space. Augusta Hoffman says that, in a small area, the designer puts form above function. She told ELLE DECO, “Every single surface must be usable, and every chair must be extremely comfortable.”

HUES OF HARMONIOUS CONCERT

This early Frank Gehry home is an excellent example of harmonious contrast. Gehry’s minimalist style, neutral palette, and rounded shapes work well with his signature Deconstructivist aesthetic. Consider the living room with its Mario Bellini Mohair sofa, an icon of 1970s style, the Scandinavian handwoven wool rug that balances out the concrete flooring, and the concrete fireplace complemented by a woodgrain pattern.

WARM PALETTE

This seating area is decorated with various vintage items, including a 1955 Pierre Jeanneret chair that reflects the modernist style. It also features lively additions, such as Robert Loughlin’s painting featuring his iconic, squared-chinned, smoking-cigarette figure, which he called “the brute.”

TRUE TO FORMAT

This Johannesburg jewel, built in the 1950s by Eyvind finsen, was designed by Richard Neutra-inspired architect Eyvind. Silvio Rech, a South African architect, and Lesley Carstens were the homeowners who created it. Rech says, “We asked ourselves, ‘What is the natural progression for a Palm Springs bungalow today?’ What is the answer? This living room features a Flexform leather sofa, a vintage Joe Colombo black leather chair at the bottom left, and a custom-made angular cocktail desk. Our favorite detail? A leaf chandelier designed by Xavier Clarisse. Now we’re going to take a wild walk.

MIXED MATERIALS

Pamela Shamshiri is not satisfied with a mid-century look. Shamshiri was inspired by the quirky yet functional furniture of Paul Laszlo to create several custom pieces in this Pacific Palisades Home designed in Los Angeles. Shamshir, Our favorite detail? Our favorite detail?

A Room with a View

Two seating areas flanked the original freestanding fireplace from the mid-century in the same Pacific Palisades. The floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Pacific, while tinted mirrors provide a garden view. This interplay of historic and contemporary design is an excellent example of how a style can change.

VERTICAL VIBES

Repurposed objects, like this vintage Eames screen and tall floor lamps, help draw the eye upward. Repurposed items, such as this vintage Eames-style screen and the tall floor lamps in Sophia Bush’s Hollywood home, draw attention upward.

Green with ENVY

Designer Pamela Shamshiri brings back the quintessential midcentury green vibes with this Pacific Palisades room, which features vintage furniture in a shapely arrangement alongside contemporary artwork and light.

NO-HOLDS-BARRED

Who said that the midcentury was only earth tones? The colorful Long Island dig features graphic pops in bright green and bold hues, creating a play between organic and splashy. Linda Rodin, the homeowner of the house, told ELLE DECO that it reminded her of a home Joni Mitchell might have had in Laurel Canyon during the 1970s. “And that was the fantasy.”

MODULAR FITTINGS

The crescent-shaped sofa is the jewel in the crown of the midcentury style. This Lejeune couch, covered in Dedar velvet and adorned with Scalamandre Maquis Tapestry Agave at the back, is as charming as it’s functional.

A SOOTHING SPACE

It’s not a new concept. This Malibu home’s formal family gathering area opens to the backyard through sliding doors. The wood accents and lush vegetation further soften and integrate the space.

Is it better to be indoors or outdoors?

This midcentury gem has excellent bones. We’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would criticize this 3-bedroom in Beverly Hills. The arched lighting fixture adds variation to the sleek architectural lines of the living room. It would not be easy to decide whether to eat breakfast in this light-filled room or move further out to get some vitamin D.

QUARTZITE QUALITY

The owner of this Beverly Hills house says that the midcentury architecture was way ahead of its time. He says that the proportions, which are low and hovering, were designed to be minimal. This is so important when we consider sustainability. This living room features a marble table designed by Antonio Citterio and B&B Italia, a quartzite-clad wall over the brass fireplace of the original home.