Midcentury modern living room
A midcentury modern living room. Photo by Risa Boyer Architecture, original photo on Houzz

By Neila Deen Houzz

Since its debut almost 70 years ago, midcentury modern architecture and design have stood the test of time. This beautiful, streamlined aesthetic still has an allure today, as well as a strong presence in interior design. You find this style’s clean and simple lines, including furniture with tapered legs as well as curved, organic shapes, in many contemporary pieces.

But midcentury style is not just about shapes — its markers also include distinctive color palettes. If you’re drawn to midcentury style, you might consider decorating with one of these five quintessential midcentury modern palettes, ranging from vibrant hues to pretty pastels. These notable colors can be found in textiles and accessories, and you can always imbue your room with them by painting the walls. Do any of these five palettes strike your fancy? What Defines Midcentury Modern Style?

1. Orange and brown. Vibrant and earthy at the same time, orange and brown is a classic midcentury modern color combination. In the room above, the bold orange wall helps highlight the dramatic wood ceiling and glass windows, features that are both typical of this era. Brown — even in the form of wood — tones down the vibrancy of orange. Also, the pairing underscores the warm nature of each color, making this midcentury space (an addition to an original midcentury home, according to architect Risa Boyer) stylish and inviting.

Channel the look: If painting a wall or getting an orange sofa isn’t in your comfort zone, you can choose a more subtle approach. For example, this orange swan-type chair —an iconic midcentury silhouette — forms a lovely vignette with a streamlined wood credenza. The color and forms of just these two pieces set a decidedly midcentury mood for this room.

Note: While it’s easy to find pieces on the market in this and the other four color schemes highlighted, decorating with color alone won’t make a room feel midcentury. If your furniture shapes are, say British Colonial or traditional, your room will feel like those styles even with these color palettes. I recommend combining the colors with midcentury shapes to channel the cool style in your home.

2. Chartreuse and gray. This is a cool, fresh duo that will instantly add midcentury chic to your decor. In this photo, the bright yellowish-green sofa forms a cheerful counterpart to the serene gray wall. When brought together in a room with architectural details such as an angled ceiling and glass window walls, the style is unmistakably midcentury modern.

Channel the look: Not everyone wants to invest in a chartreuse sofa. Once again, look for smaller accents to make a big midcentury modern statement. Bright green accent furniture in organic shapes and accessories in this bright color can play well with gray furniture or a gray-painted wall.

3. Teal, brown and white. This sophisticated palette can impart a rich midcentury look in a room with the right furniture shapes. Here, teal throw pillows create a striking contrast on an ivory sofa. An accent chair with a more vibrant teal color adds another dose of blue, giving the room even more visual interest. Don’t be afraid to layer your accents by using different shades of the same color. Wood paneling rounds out the tri-color palette and amps up the room’s quintessential midcentury style. How to Use Teal Correctly in Your Home Decor.

Channel the look: Accessories can go a long way in pulling together a midcentury-inspired room. Look for simple lines in wood, black or gold. The Sputnik-style light fixture in the previous photo and the furniture legs here are good examples. You might also select organic shapes such as the kidney-shaped cowhide rug in the prior photo or the round mirror in this one.

4. Pink and brown. Midcentury decor often uses various shades of pink throughout the home, and this room follows that inspiration. Hues ranging from pastel to deep pink pop up in playful patterns or textured fabrics. These pinks tend to combine well with neutral brown or wood tones.

Channel the look: You might accent wooden or white midcentury furnishings with pink throw pillows. If you have just one or two pink accents on your brown furniture pieces, you can place vases of pink flowers to punctuate your pleasing pink accents. Add Pops of Color With These Gorgeous Throw Pillows.

5. Wood and white. As I mentioned earlier, wood is often a featured element in midcentury modern decor, reflecting this style’s simple, earthy flavor. Especially when combined with large glass windows, wood brings the feeling of the outside natural elements indoors. This stylish living room takes its cues from the midcentury era, with a harmonious, neutral palette of wood tones, brown leather and whites.

Channel the look: When pairing wood and white for a midcentury look, try to combine woods with similar undertones. Here, the brick wall features a dark, ashy brown color, which is complemented by the dark brown leather bench and the wood-and-black accent chair. In contrast, consider how disjointed the room might feel if a red-toned wood was added.