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Kitchen decor

12 timeless Midcentury modern kitchens from designers

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Jess Isaac

When it comes to enduring design styles, none seem as powerful—or as pervasive—as mid-century modern. Originally originating in the 1940s (when it was popularized by the likes of George Nelson, Eero Saarinen, Gio Ponti, Hans Wegner and Charles Eames), mid-century modern design has grown to span decades, countries and interior design categories and has become the most influential design style in recent times. And it works particularly well in kitchens.

While modern designers continue to iterate on the aesthetic, some hallmarks of the look—think: clean lines, simple shapes, and an emphasis on form—reign consistently. The key to achieving the MCM vibe without feeling like you’re in a time warp? Blends iconic midcentury shapes and finishes with a modern ethos for a look that’s both timeless and versatile now. Case in point: These 12 mid-century modern-inspired kitchens that effortlessly prove they’re one for the ages.

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Overall wood paneling is often one of the first things that indicate a mid-century modern home –and one of the first things to go when the homeowners inevitably decide to renovate. But if you want to preserve the history of your home, all that natural goodness should definitely stay. Take it from Kate Arends, who chose to embrace, not decimate, the white oak paneling in her mid-century modern rambler in Minnesota. She made the eye-catching feature sing by accenting it with tumbled marble flooring (another MCM staple), calacatta viola marble countertops, and purple cabinetry swathed in Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room Pink.

Often, mid-century modern kitchens would go easy on the upper cabinets—or forgo them altogether—in favor of a more visually streamlined look. This kitchen, designed by the duo behind Studio Shamshiri, relied on California walnut counters (inspired by the surrounding Los Angeles hillside) and concrete countertops for a simple yet stunning look. A pair of vintage Hans-Agne Jakobsson pendants above the island add the perfect nod to MCM’s history.

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Have fun with furniture

Often thought of as the golden era of furniture design, the mid-century modern design movement gave us many of the familiar profiles and silhouettes we love today. Nod to some of the greats by incorporating an eye-catching set of island stools, like the trio from Patricia Urquiola for Moroso, seen here in a kitchen designed by Kureck Jones. When paired with other MCM staples (like stacked tiles from Fireclay and simple wood cabinets), they create a scene that’s at once retro and revolutionary.

Warm wood tones (a hallmark of MCM style) marry seamlessly with an iridescent stone backsplash and moody black countertops. This midcentury-inspired kitchen, designed by Elena Frampton, originally ran in House Beautiful in 2014—though you’d never know it, thanks to its timeless appeal.

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Choose a Stacked Backsplash

Emphasize the geometric flair commonly seen in mid-century modern design by choosing to install your backsplash tile in a stacked motif instead of the classic offset layout. This Los Angeles kitchen, designed by Jaqui Seerman, takes a cue from a popular midcentury color combination, pairing a pink tile backsplash from Waterworks with palm green cabinetry (Calke Green from Farrow & Ball) and the home’s original midcentury wood paneling.

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Incorporate primary shades

A concise palette of primary hues colors this mid-century modern-inspired abode overlooking the Puget Sound outside of Seattle. Designed by Ore Studios, slab-front walnut and laminate cabinets allow for the occasional pop of color (cue the cherry red!) and boast open shelving to highlight the homeowner’s midcentury stoneware collection.

In the heyday of MCM design, open or floating shelving was seen as a way to separate an area of ​​the home while maintaining the open flow for increased entertaining and socializing. In this well-preserved mid-century rambling ranch, designer Victoria Sass of Prospect Refuge Studio leaned into the home’s MCM roots with walnut cabinetry, vintage accessories, and a floating shelf above the island.

Emerging toward the tail end of the MCM movement, terrazzo finishes quickly picked up steam as a popular choice for countertops, floors, and more. These days, the unique material (often made of cement mixed with colorful chips of marble, quartz, granite and glass) offers endless possibilities for customization, like the custom mix developed by designer Penelope August for this Manhattan kitchen. Soft purple cabinets (Calluna from Farrow & Ball) and a sunny yellow stove finish the room with funky appeal.

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Embrace the column layout

Midcentury modern homes weren’t known for their square footage, often resulting in petite kitchens that needed to use every square inch. Instead of renovating to create a more open floor plan, embrace the snug shape and incorporate airy finishes that keep things light. In this mid-century Palm Springs home, designed by Formarch Architecture, original concrete walls are accented by terrazzo floors and warm wood cabinetry.

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Squeeze in a pop of orange

It’s not often you see us speaking for a c0lor this bold in the kitchen, but this juicy shade is a mid-century classic. Shades of orange and rust were all the rage during MCM’s heyday and were used as a way to inject vibrant flair into furniture, decor and even wallpaper. Looking for a subtle yet surprising way to work in color? Take a cue from this kitchen designed by Patrick Sutton, and dress the interior of otherwise classic wood cabinets with an eye-catching shade like Electric Orange by Benjamin Moore.

Metallic design accents came into play in a big way with mid-century modern decor, and they’re a great way to add the glamor of a bygone era to your kitchen. In this Los Angeles home designed by Joy Cho and Cleo Murnane, the surrounding neighborhood architecture informed the space’s mid-century modern flair, including the brass-inlaid backsplash from Tabarka and sparkling Mitzi lighting.

Linear profiles were everywhere during the peak of mid-century modern design, from the clean lines of some of our favorite pieces of furniture (like the iconic Florence Knoll sofa) to the roof lines of classic MCM residential architecture. Bring that same ethos into your kitchen with cabinetry and lighting that incorporates the linear effect of this Hamptons home designed by Amy Lau. In it, bleached walnut furniture and snowy countertops (Caesarstone’s Blizzard quartz) paired with an expansive custom light fixture from Bone Simple Design—in very saturated, very MCM blue, of course.

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