The charm, functionality, and enduring appeal of a mid-century modern kitchen seamlessly blends nostalgia with contemporary living in a way that no other era quite manages it.
Characterized by a unique combination of functionality, simplicity, and a focus on bringing the outdoors in, MCM kitchen ideas effortlessly promote a sense of flow and connectivity in your home.
The clean lines, organic shapes, and minimalist approach of this design style create a timeless aesthetic that transcends kitchen trends. The retro appeal lies in the simplicity and sophistication of the design, making it a classic choice that remains relevant to this day.
So how do we take such an inspiring era for kitchen design, and make that work in our homes in 2024?
What are the hallmarks of a Mid-century modern kitchen?
Mid-century modern kitchens are a visual feast - with sleek cabinetry, minimal-to-no hardware, and an injection of bold geometric prints. The timeless appeal of these kitchens lies in their ability to be uber-adaptable, in a way that always creates a space that hits top marks for both effortless style and a feeling of nostalgic comfort.
Think open floor plans, plenty of teak, organic shapes, and a harmonious marriage of form and function. And in terms of the kitchen color palette, it's all about earthy tones like olive green and mustard yellow sitting alongside more daring choices like turquoise and orange to bring a playful element to the design (and a welcome break from all the wood).
But, how do you bring those elements into the 21st century in a way that works for interior design trends and lifestyles today? We've asked the experts.
1. Bring back natural wood
You may recognize a mid-century kitchen by one of three main traits: wide, horizontal cabinet spans that contribute to the expansive, visual continuity of a MCM kitchen, a lack of ornamental or elaborate details, and lots of warm wood tones such as teak, walnut, or oak.
Embracing these signature elements allows you to pay homage to the design movement while infusing your kitchens with a sense of individuality. 'The onset of this style was based on form following function, integrating nature with natural materials such as wood and stone to provide appeal through texture, as well as clean and simple lines,' says Caroline Thomas, Director of Special Projects at Christopher Architecture & Interiors.
'Consider using wood cabinets finished in natural tones like walnut or teak for an authentic mid-century feel, or opt for a contemporary touch with matte black,' adds Jennifer Davis of Davis Interiors.
Big news for 2024, this seemingly dated kitchen trend is staging a comeback, and the natural beauty of the wood is being celebrated across contemporary spaces to bring a touch of warmth to the heart of your home.
Jennifer fell in love with design at a young age and has been working in the industry for over 25 years. She has developed an eye for detail and a talent for creating timeless designs. Jennifer offers a balance of creativity and forward-thinking with a structured, organized, and detailed mentality. Jennifer is driven by her deep passion for design while curating an exceptional client journey, ensuring pure delight from the very beginning to the end.
2. Consider retro-meets-modern solutions
While the design style dates back a mere 80 years, it has always had a contemporary priority for functionality at its heart, with well-thought-out kitchen storage ideas like sliding doors and efficient use of space reflecting the practical design philosophy of the era to this day. 'Remember, achieving an authentic mid-century modern kitchen entails striking a balance between functionality and aesthetics,' notes Jennifer Davis.
A lesson in combining the style of the era with more current practicalities, this rich walnut pantry design by Naked Kitchens perfectly blends mid-century style with modern ingenuity. Featuring all the hallmarks of an original mid-century kitchen but boasting the benefits of modern kitchen functionality, the result is a fusion of nostalgia and innovation to seamlessly integrate this design into 2024.
As well as incorporating nifty hidden storage like appliance garages, deep pan drawers, and pull-out racks, open shelving is a popular feature in mid-century modern kitchens. It provides an opportunity to display your carefully curated decorative items, or practical kitchenware while contributing to the overall openness of the space.
3. Rethink the color palette
While wood tones are dominant, some mid-century modern kitchens embrace bold and vibrant colors for kitchen cabinetry and walls. Retro hues were all used to infuse the space with a playful and lively atmosphere 'back in the day', but 2024 calls for a new palette du jour.
Whether you're working with original mid-century modern cabinetry or are looking to create something new with influences from the era, your color scheme is going to err on the side of warmth.
'Curate a color palette that combines warm, earthy tones with vibrant accents,' advises Jennifer Davis. 'Think of incorporating shades like burnt orange, mustard yellow, muted greens, or deep blues alongside classic neutral tones like white and black and introduce splashes of colors like avocado green, mustard yellow, or teal to add personality.'
For Glidden color expert, Ashley McCollum, the key to nailing a mid-century kitchen design is with pops of color.
'Pops of color make all the difference on cabinets, whether it’s on the upper or lower cabinets,' says Ashley. 'Georgian Leather is the perfect pop of orange to add a sense of warmth and vibrancy to spaces filled with mixed patterns, textiles, and unique décor items. Oranges were very popular in mid-century modern design. They pair well with the clean lines and natural materials often found in this style.'
Ashley McCollum is a Marketing Manager and color expert for PPG’s Architectural Coatings business in the U.S. and Canada. Prior to joining PPG in 2017, Ashley's career was heavily focused on color and visual merchandising for retail environments. Ashley earned her MBA in Marketing/Management from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
4. Embrace contemporary countertops and flooring
Sometimes, the best way to pay homage to an era is to take small influences and introduce them in a more subtle way. Case in point: The Haberdasher's Kitchen by leading kitchen designer, deVOL.
'It is the first time we have divided our love so readily to a new and completely different deVOL style and it seems it has captured many people with its nostalgic look and un-kitcheny visual,' says Helen Parker, Creative Director of deVOL. 'It is a mid-century styled kitchen range and has completely won the hearts of those looking for really beautiful craftsmanship, and authenticity.'
To put this kitchen firmly in the modern day, interior designer Good Bonesstyled the Haberdasher's Kitchen with a pink-hued marble countertop, geometric checkerboard floor tiles, and a soft, muted color scheme for the walls for a nostalgic look that is full of personality and character.
'Experiment with kitchen countertop materials such as concrete, stainless steel, or quartz to enhance the overall aesthetic,' advises Jennifer Davis. 'For flooring, opt for lighter-toned hardwood or go for a retro twist with geometric tile flooring. Embrace hexagonal tiles for that quintessential mid-century look and consider integrating open wood shelving.'
Helen is the Creative Director at deVOL, a leading kitchen design company that mixes classic and contemporary. Helen has been creative director at the company since 2011, passionate about the signature understated approach deVOL takes to designing kitchens.
5. Add personality with vintage touches
Curious about dipping your toe into mid-century modern charm? Start by incorporating furniture pieces and experimenting with decor pieces that embody the era's spirit.
Anthony Barzilay Freund from 1stDibs, says 'a mid-century vibe is easy to achieve in a kitchen with just a few bold strokes rather than a complete and costly overhaul. To my mind, no piece of furniture better exemplifies the simple beauty of mid-century design than a Tulip table by Eero Saarinen. A pair of Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs or Gio Ponti Superleggeras add more period warmth and allure.'
'I love the idea of choosing mid-century inspired dishware and glassware with the same clean lines and modern panache as mid-century modern furniture,' says designer Kathy Kuo. 'If you have space in your kitchen, mid-century bar stools or a bar cart are also fun ways to add this versatile design style to your kitchen.'
Include a nod to the iconic elements that define the era in order to infuse your kitchen with a sense of individuality. 'Illuminate the space with globe pendant kitchen lighting and look for furnite pieces featuring tapered legs and geometric shapes, like chairs and tables with slender, angled legs,' says Jennifer Davis.
'Even a small, galley-like space can be upgraded with mid-century-modern lighting by Poul Henningsen or Isamu Noguchi and any countertop would benefit from some vintage silver by Georg Jensen,' adds Anthony.
There's an instantly recognizable sense of nostalgia and retro charm associated with mid-century modern kitchen design. If you're feeling drawn to the idea of blending the best of the past with the present, creating spaces injected with this style will evoke a sense of familiarity while still feeling contemporary. Whatever your style, this timeless look can be adapted to suit your home for an air of fun and comfort.
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Charlotte is content editor at Homes and Gardens, having joined the team the week before Christmas 2023. Following a 5 year career in Fashion, she found herself working at many women's glossy magazines including: Grazia, Stylist and Hello and most recently working as Interiors Editor for British heritage department store Liberty. Her role at H&G fuses her love of style with Charlotte's passion for interior design, and she is currently undergoing her second home renovation in Surrey - you can follow her journey over on @olbyhome
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