Mid-century living room ideas to steal that effortlessly retro style

Create the perfect vibe in your lounge by taking inspiration from some seriously chic decades

Mid-century styled living room with open coffee table, movie poster and rounded orange armchair
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Trends come and go in the interiors world, just as they do in fashion and beauty, but there are some styles which are ever-popular. After all, when are mid-century living room ideas not desirable?

The modern take on 20th century design sits nicely in all rooms, but is especially at home with living room ideas. The muted but enlivening shades, the most lounge-worthy chairs and a generous slant towards storage makes it ideal in this space for relaxing and entertaining,

'A mid-century modern aesthetic consists of a number of elements such as graphic shapes, natural materials and vibrant colours,' says Rebecca Drury, Co-Founder, MissPrint. 'For mid-century modern living room ideas, style a bold backdrop with natural wood furnishings such as a console table or a wooden frame to a chair. This retro style is easy to recreate and can be styled well with wallpapers of different patterns and colours.'

Mid-century living room ideas

For authentic mid-century living room ideas, seek out design classics. Whether it's a beautiful leather Eames chair, an original Ercol sofa or a sleek sideboard, this statement piece will become your focal point. 

If your budget won't stretch to these investment pieces, never fret, as high street stores are just as consistently into this style as we are.

1. Put wood at the centre

Green living room with low mid-century sideboard, artwork and floor lamp

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

“The key ingredient to creating mid-century living room ideas really is simple - it's wood,' explains,' Ross Taylor, Co-Founder, The Curious Department. 'Wood furniture and or wood cladding and strip work. Of course there are other key ingredients like low rise furniture, leather seats and oversized pictures. But wood really is the key to midcentury.'

Warmer woods work best for this style, so steer clear of very blonde shades. The best woods for mid-century simple living room ideas will have a slight orange or red hint to them.

2. Choose a retro colour combo

White living room with grey and yellow sofa, armchair, accessories and rug

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Of all the colour combinations out there, few shout mid-century quite like yellow and grey living room ideas. This classic pairing immediately offers up a retro feel, but your choice of the tones can adjust what type of mid-century modern living room ideas you achieve. 

Paler greys with bright yellows will offer a feeling of replicating this era. For as more nuanced approach, head to mustards and charcoals. This will provide a more contemporary version of the traditional mid-century colours.

3. Add touches of bronze

Living room with green patterned wallpaper, grey sofa, bronze edged coffee table and open storage

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

For that extra hit of contemporary style, make sure you're mixing materials - and not just fabrics and woods. Touches of metallics, particularly bronze or burnished gold, will add a feeling of light to the space, while also elevating it with a sprinkle of luxury.

You don't need to go overboard - modern living room ideas are all about finding the perfect balance between glitz and simplicity. Frames, furniture edging and maybe a lamp will do the trick.

4. Use original pieces

Mid-century styled living room with open coffee table, movie poster and rounded orange armchair

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'Decorating for mid-century starts with sourcing the right furniture,' advises Ross from The Curious Department. 'We often find ourselves at second hand furniture stores, or on online marketplaces to find the real deal.'

'Many stores recreate some of the timeless pieces but there's nothing more mid-century than the real thing. So measure up and carefully source your furniture to fit even small living room ideas.  Remember that nothing says mid century modern living room ideas like a low rise wood frame armchair or even a sideboard.'

5. Keep it simple

White living room with linear sofa and graphic side table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Paul Raeside)

Lean into the modern element of mid-century modern living room ideas by integrating in touches of Scandi chic. When learning how to design a living room, remember that you don't have to subscribe unilaterally to one theme.

'Scandi combines well with modern and mid-century design as its visual language is minimalistic,' explains Mariana Ugarte, Co-Founder, Interior Fox. 'Too much of one genre is never a good thing so aim to create balance by mixing pieces from different eras'

6. Include a retro print

Living room with retro printed wallpaper and mid-century bureau

(Image credit: Future PLC)

For one of the bolder mid-century living room ideas, don't stop with vintage furniture or colourways. Make a statement with either a whole room of, or feature wall showcasing a retro print.

To make your living room wallpaper ideas link seamlessly in with the rest of your design, use the main colours from the print in the rest of your decorating scheme. 

7. Include wall panelling

Living room with grey sofa in front of wooden wall panelling

(Image credit: Interior Fox/Veronica Rodriguez)

Add depth to your space with wall panelling ideas in your living room. They have a retro feel and will tie in beautifully to the wood you're using elsewhere.

To keep things contemporary, opt for a section of panelling rather than a full wall. This will also help things appear cleaner and sleeker.

8. Embrace the curves

Living room with two retro yellow chairs and open storage bookcase

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

A lot of mid-century lounge furniture showcases exaggerated, round shapes. Seats and sofas will appear so low and louche - and incredibly comfy. 

Choose rounded, armless designs for the softest retro seating imaginable that aligns with mid-century modern living room ideas.

9. Look for statement lighting

Living room with vintage chandelier pendant reflected in mirror above fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Rather helpfully if you're into the trend, but mid-century style living room lighting ideas are having a serious moment. Curved floor lamps are key to this look, but nothing quite sets off a space like a statement ceiling light. 

Go for a retro chandelier or striking starburst pendant to become the focal point of your space. You can, of course, still buy the originals, but be careful to have them rewired and assessed by a qualified electrician before installation.

10. Make your furniture float

Floating wooden sideboard topped with bottles and below three vintage film posters

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Seemingly effortlessly floating furniture just screams mid-century. Keep these floating living room storage ideas low to the floor for an authentic feel. 

Make sure you keep the space underneath clear at all times, as a cluttered floor space goes against the chic simplicity you're aiming for.

How do you make a mid century living room?

'It can be easier than you think to achieve mid-century living room ideas, sometimes it's just about the accessories,' says Ross from The Curious Department. 'A simple sofa transformation can have a big impact, blankets and soft furnishing.'

'Be brave with colour choices, oranges, mustards, browns, blacks and muted greens radiate but harmonise with any wood furniture that you might have.'

How do you make furniture look mid-century modern?

Buying vintage, from second hand stores, car boot sales, auctions and even eBay, is the simplest way to make sure your furniture gives off mid-century living room ideas. 

However, you can play with new and existing pieces, too. 'Switch sofa legs for wooden ones or ebonised ones,' suggests Ross from The Curious Department.

Thea Babington-Stitt
Managing Editor

Thea Babington-Stitt is the Managing Editor for Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for around 10 years.

She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.