Imagine this: the guests arrive, you shepherd them into the dining room. Audible gasps. Wow – it’s the perfect mid-century dining room.
“How did you do it?!”
“It looks just like MadMen!”
If you’re ready to learn how to take your mid-century modern aesthetic and apply it to your eating space, read on for your guide to the furnishings you’ll need to do it.
Mid-Century Design is summed up as simple and elegant. The style spans from the 1930s to 1960s, first getting popular in design circles around the 1940s. Though it’s never been more in fashion than it is right now.
Mid-Century Modern is made up of clean, minimalists lines, muted colors, and fabrics with interesting textures. The organic materials and graphics patterns that define the mid-century period make even more of a design statement today.
Classic European designers had left Europe to the new world in the US. Scandinavian color, design, and textures fuse with new industrial possibilities to create stunning yet functional furnishings.
These furnishings became popular also because they were accessible – mass manufacturing and plastic injection technologies meant the middle-class had access to high design.
Top 12 Furnishings to Create a Perfect Mid-Century Dining Room
You can make a mid-century dining aesthetic using sculptural furnishings like globe lamps, metallic mirrors, tall-leg plant-stands, and pared-back furniture pieces. Let’s take a look at the key pieces for success.
1. Shale Bar Cabinet
A shale bar cabinet with full grain leather of warm wood gives you both practical storage and big mid-century design points. Fill it with dining accessories, and of course some whiskey. This impactful furnishing is really only for a dining room with space or higher ceilings, otherwise, it can leave the space feeling boxed-in or crowded.
2. Bertoia Side Chairs
Harry Bertoia showed the simple beauty that could be produced with industrial manufacturing with his Bertoia chair. It’s the product of his experiments bending metal rods into practical forms, designed between 1950 and 1951. The delicate-looking folded-metal stands and netted shell give guests a floating sensation.
These chairs are delicate and robust at once and are sure to be conversation starters at your next dinner party. They’re said to be “mainly made of air”. You can maximize their mid-century appeal by choosing strong orange cushions, or go for a more muted effect with silver or white cushions.
3. Saarinen Round Dining Table
What better way to inject a fun retro look into your dining space, than with the Saarinen round dining table. This dining table is a perfect example of how interior design marries beauty with function. It’s designer Eero Saarinen wanted to resolve the “ugly, confusing, unrestful world” under traditional dining tables.
The pedestal collection has dining, coffee, and side tables, so you can choose the best fit for your area or go the complete set. They give a minimalist, uncluttered look to any space.
4. Brandy Trolley
What mid-century dining space would be complete without a brandy trolley? If you think back to Mad Men home scenes, they model it’s design and purpose exquisitely. The piece projects a message to guests, of the importance of hosting to you.
Make sure you do your research on classic cocktails so you can complete the moment with one. You can find great brandy cocktail recipes online, or even search for a retro cocktail recipe book at your local flea market.
5. Svelto Storage Cabinet
The Svelto storage cabinet is a low and long cabinet with shifting geometric forms. It has a smooth finish reminiscent of earlier Ercol pieces. Eminently practical, storage spaces can be configured to your requirements.
It’s a stylish and practical addition to your dining room and the perfect base for a small globe lamp or modern-minimalist flower vase.
6. Eames Molded Plastic Side Chair with Dowel-Leg Base
Charles and Ray Eames created their single-shell form in 1950 in their Modern Fiberglass Chairs. Once the dangers of fiberglass became apparent, polypropylene came to be used to create the same classic, sleek design. These chairs are a salute to modernity through their celebration of new industrial possibilities.
These chairs are perfect as side chairs, dining chairs, and even armchairs. They can be fully upholstered for a more textured, relaxing feel.
Charles Eames was a big fan of designing with the needs of guests in mind. How better to accommodate the needs of your guests, than by using his dining area designs?
7. Pedestal Stool or Plant Stand
Sleek, long lines of the midcentury design period can be conveyed perfectly in a tall plant stand with tapered legs. Show off some Californian-chic with a fun cacti plant atop it.
Seek our a short pedestal stool as a base for some plant pots in room corners. Best of all, you can look for DIY projects online and make your own!
8. Sculpture Lamps
Lamps in the mid-century modern period are all about fun, globe-like statement pieces. Have a look at a local flea market or a modern design stop to find the perfect compliment to your dining area. Shop for artful design, sleek lines, something reminiscent of a sculpture.
9. Minimalist Coffee Table
Your mid-century modern coffee table will be low, long and fine. Be mindful to not leave it cluttered or you’ll take away from its stunning simplicity. We suggest placing some retro coasters and a minimalist sculpture or plant pot on it, nothing more.
10. Bookcase Stand with Hairpin Legs
Hairpin legs on tables and chairs were all about showing off the possibilities of the age’s industry with new metal forms. They defy belief by seeming delicate and breakable yet being robust.
Find long hairpin legs online and remodel an existing bookcase for that DIY satisfaction and to really impress your dinner guests.
11. The Statement Clock
A mid-century modern clock is another of these functional sculptural pieces that will bring your design to life. Look for triangular pointed sun styles, that take up wall space despite the actual clock face being small and simple.
A mirror is that perfect design piece for a smaller space, allowing light and views to reflect from other areas into your dining space. Here, look for metallic sculptured pieces that sum up the age.
Why stop the look at furnishings? When you wheel out your brandy tray, you’ll want to serve guests in glassware and with cocktail shakes of the mid-century modern era.
Decorate coffee tables with flower vases or plant pots decorated with geometric designs. Serve up dinner in ceramics with bright Scandinavian colors.
Complete the Feel
You’ve got the midcentury furnishings. You’ve complimented with matching ceramics, glassware, and other accessories. What’s left?
The soundscape, of course. Load your mid-century playlist with classics like Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney. The feel is relaxed, the dancing more sway than jitter.
And you? For this dinner party we need smartly ironed, clean-shaven men and women in sleek gowns from thrift stores that show off their curves.
Finger foods were a big deal in the 1960s. Serve canapes like cucumber and mayonnaise, caviar, and raw vegetables with a cream cheese dip.
Stuffed mushrooms were a crowd pleaser then and work just as well with your vegan hipster friends today. Gluten-free, vegetarian options make your guests’ life easier, and you can find a ton of recipes online.
To be a genuinely mid-century modern dinner party, the main focus of the party is booze. You’ll want to serve cocktails on arrival – consider making your own signature one for your next dinner party.
Get Inspired by Mid-Century Pop-Culture
MadMen is the perfect tv series for inspiration for your mid-century shopping list. It’s clean, streamlined and modern styles sum up the mid-century style.
For movies, check out the Fountainhead (1949), The Graduate (1967), and A Single Man (2009) as sources of inspiration.
Do It on a Budget
Buying mid-century pieces can be expensive. The good news is that the designs can be pretty easily copied without losing their authentic look. Your guests are unlikely to realize it isn’t the real thing.
As a compromise, you could splurge on a couple of authentic focus pieces, and furnish the rest with quality replicas. The wonderful thing about mid-century designs is that with even just a few pieces you flavor the whole feel of a room – so you don’t need to go overboard on every detail being authentic!
Get Mid-Century Shopping!
There you have it, the 12 mid-century dining room furnishings you’ll need to wow your dinner guests. If you’re ready to get shopping for other areas of the house too, start with an Eames lounge chair replica and go from there.
For more information on the best mid-century furniture replicas, check out the rest of our website!