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How To Style A Mid-Century Modern Kitchen

A kitchen renovation with a mid century modern colour palette of green and earthy tones and a strong use of timber cabinetry
Belmont Mid Century by Genevieve Wallis Studio and Studio 101 Architects – Image via The Design Files – photographed by Tony Evans

Sometimes nostalgia can be a superb source of inspiration. Harking back to a bygone era can initiate new and exciting ways to approach your contemporary interior design — opening your imagination to a world of possibilities.

Arguably one of the most influential is the retro-futuristic tendencies of mid-century modern interior design — which looks lovingly back to the period of post-war optimism, particularly from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s.

For the kitchen, this was an interior design style distinguished by minimalist form and functionality, where muted yet vibrant colours, natural materials, clean lines, and a wood-panelled theme dominated the scheme.

We speak to several interior design experts to discover what happens when you fuse vintage with contemporary to achieve a mid-century modern kitchen aesthetic and some creative ideas you can implement.  

What Characterises A Mid-Century Modern Kitchen?

Open shelving and a vintage look mid centruy modern dining table
House on the Hill by Billy Roy Stidio - Images via The Design Files - Photographed by Eve Wilson
A mid centruy modern kitchen renovation with functional floating shelves and a vintage kettle

While mid-century modern interior design is a relatively unpretentious style associated with peace, purpose, and practicality, it can easily be imbued with plenty of character with the right approach.

“Mid-century design is characterised by timber joinery like American oak or black bean, white stone bench tops and floors that are in keeping with the joinery. Herringbone floors look fantastic for this style,” says Michael Taylor, owner of Form Bathroom Renovations Mornington Peninsula.

“Splashbacks with small tiles and floating shelves above your stove top for salt and pepper shakers and spices [are] common too. Exposed stack bond brickwork and front doors painted in striking colours are synonymous with the mid-century modern aesthetic.”

To continue the mid-century theme, Michael suggests installing highlight windows above to allow light to penetrate throughout your home.

“The essence of mid-century modern design is thoughtfully planned and orientated homes to take advantage of natural light as it moves throughout the day,” he continues.

“Floor-to-ceiling fixed windows and fully glazed sliding doors separate the inside and outside but allow plenty of light to flood the interior.”

Mid-Century Modern Kitchen Ideas

Mid century modern kitchen ideas clean lines simple stypling
A mid century modern inspired kitchen with timber cabinetry and a breakfast bench

There’s no denying it: designing a new kitchen space is a significant enterprise. With so many components to consider, many of which are not easy to alter once installed, it can get overwhelming. Fortunately, less is more with mid-century modern kitchens.

“As we delve into the world of mid-century modern kitchen styling, it’s essential to keep in mind that simplicity is key,” says Ilia Mundut, founder of online home décor store HeftyBerry.

“The essence of this style lies in clean lines, organic shapes, and a minimalist approach. […] Avoid over-styling with decor items; instead, opt for functional pieces like simple pendant lighting or sleek cabinetry hardware.” 

Ilia suggests embracing bold colours like mustard yellow or teal as accents against a neutral backdrop of white walls and light-coloured cabinets. Playing with geometric patterns in your backsplashes or floor tiles would bring some retro charm to your vintage mid-century modern kitchen, for instance.

“[…] these details will ensure you create an authentic mid-century modern-inspired kitchen that feels timeless yet fresh all at once.”

To retain more of a vintage aesthetic, metal cabinetry can also be considered because it mimics the material utilised in mid-century interior design before they were replaced with panelled wood in the 1960s. 

And as greater emphasis is placed on the clear-cut functionality of breakfast benches and islands, other accompanying furniture pieces should be carefully considered for the design to remain seamless. For example, the seating needs to be simple and streamlined; however, it can employ geometric curves to provide pleasing consistency.

Mid-Century Modern Colour Palette

Mid century modern inspired kitchen with small mustard yellow tiles and timber cabinetry
Strathmore Avenue Apartment by Monocot Studio – Photography by Studio Periphery

While big, bold colour schemes once dominated yesteryear’s mid-century design, mid-century modern colours are about pairing warm shades with bright hues while retaining a neutral base.

To achieve a contemporary mid-century modern look for your kitchen, Kim Ray, an interiors expert at Victory Curtains And Blinds, suggests retaining this neutral tones strategy:

“[They] are key when creating mid-century styled interiors with a modern twist. Choose light and airy colours like beige or ivory for the kitchen walls, which will add height,” she says.

“If you don’t want the cooking space to seem so bland, you can add pops of colour, but try to keep it to a minimum if you want to stick to the style.”

Kim acknowledges that mid-century modern decor is notable for its fusion of organic and manufactured materials — resulting in a timeless interior style. Incorporating neutral colour bases into wood furniture is also key to creating mid-century-styled interiors with a modern twist.

Mid-Century Modern Kitchen Accessories

Introducing personality with a mid century modern inspired kitchen renovation
East Village Apartment by GRT Architects – Image via Est Living – Photographed by Nicole Franzen

While aesthetic sinks in bright colours may dominate other design styles, it becomes less of a focal point for mid-century kitchens. Large white farmhouse sinks would work well here due to their emphasis on practicality, while equally functional stainless steel sinks would blend in idealistically too.

Mid-century modern kitchen accessories should definitely get a look, however, as they can enhance the idiosyncrasies of the scheme. So, consider selecting a characterful vintage toaster and kettle in a bold colour to capture attention. For greater functionality, sink basket wastes, sink drainers, and magnetic knife holders shouldn’t be overlooked either. 

Get Help With Mid-Century Modern Kitchen Ideas 

To help spark some more mid-century modern kitchen ideas, book a complimentary design consultation with one of our friendly showroom staff.

For more kitchen design inspo, read our blogs on:

7 Open Shelving Kitchen Ideas

Easy Kitchen Makeovers For Renters

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