How to Incorporate Mid Century Modern Art into Your Home Decor

I love the look of the clean, simple lines of Midcentury design! Incorporating  great Midcentury Modern furniture into your home decor is pretty straight forward but incorporating Midcentury wall art is a little trickier—you don’t want your home to look like a page out of 1955 catalog.

Example of Mid Century Modern Design from old Catalog

Image Source

How can you use midcentury modern art without looking too kitschy?

It is possible to use Midcentury wall art and look fresh and current! The number one rule to follow is to keep your touches of Midcentury art minimal. Unless you want to show off a collection you have amassed, limit the amount of Midcentury inspired wall art to one or two pieces per room. But what pieces will look good in your 21st century home? Here are some ideas…

Vintage Midcentury Modern Art

Scour the flea markets and thrift stores and find some actual vintage Mid Century Modern pieces (not just modern reproductions). Reproductions can be great, but there is a uniqueness that can only be captured in a truly vintage piece. Vintage finds often use color combinations or textiles that are vastly different than our modern interpretations.

Example of Vintage Mid Century Modern Art

Image Source

Nature Inspired Mid Century Modern Wall Art

One of the defining characteristic of Mid-Century Modern design is “integration with nature.” (Source) By focusing more on the natural elements of mid-century design and less on the modern amoeba shapes that have become almost caricatures of the style, you will present a more contemporary, and less overdone, version of midcentury modern. I love the gorgeous driftwood inspired pieces in this fabulous living room!

Great contemporary living room that showcases Mid Century Modern elements and nature inspired art.

Image Source

Modern Art Played a Big Role in Mid Century Design

The rich textures and organic shapes of abstract modern art, made it a cornerstone of the Mid-Century Modern style.

Modern Art played an important role in Mid-Century Modern Design.

Image Source

Vintage Commercial Art Posters Make for Great Mid-Century Modern Art

Nothing combines the era of Mad Men and Mid Century design quite as well as a vintage commercial art poster. These works of art were created to advertise everything from mineral water to exotic vacations. The vibrant colors and minimalist design make them great pieces of art to showcase in your home.

Commercial Art Posters are a great way to bring Mid Century Modern style into your home.

Image Source

Mid Century Modern Ceramics

During the heyday of the Midcentury Modern style, ceramics underwent a transformation. Everything from a humble teapot to a ceramic sculpture can be wonderful examples of Mid Century art. My favorite pieces of Mid Century ceramics incorporate the nature themes into their design. I love the simple modern lines of this ceramic bird.

Mid Century Modern Ceramics are often works of art.

Image Source

Create a Focal Wall Using Wall Decals

A focal wall can set the tone for the rest of your home’s decor. Done right, it can be the thing that ties all your disparate pieces together. One fun and easy way to create an accent wall is to use vinyl wall decals. You can use wall pattern decals to create a wall paper like pattern on a wall or you can use wall art decals to create a wall mural.

To Paint or Not to Paint

One decision you have to make first is paint: Do you want to paint your focal wall an accent color or leave it the color of the rest of your room? An accent color will certainly draw more attention to the wall.

Wall Decal on a Painted Accent Wall

<image source>

You might have assumed that to create a focal wall you have to paint it. But you can certainly create a focal wall without painting it a different color. Wall decals are a great way to bring color to a wall without the need for paint.

Polka Dot Focal Wall from Positively Splendid

<image source>

Bold Focal Wall

Bold colors are great for accent walls. A bold color as the base will draw visitors’ eyes to your wall immediately. Your bold color may be just the saturated version of your current wall color or you could select a complimentary or contrasting color for even more drama.

Bold Orange Accent Wall

<image source>

Subtle Accent Wall

Who says an accent wall has to be bold to make an impact? Even subtle patterns in a tone-on-tone color can draw the eye. Subtle patterns work particularly well in more traditional style homes.

Subtle Gray Accent Wall with Diamond Pattern

<image source>

Highlight a Special Feature

Does your room have an amazing fireplace or an interesting nook? Then you can easily highlight that feature with a focal wall. Create a pattern with wall decals to really make it pop.

Fireplace Accent Wall from House of Fifty

<image source>

recreating the entryway

I love walking through the front door and seeing a beautiful entryway / foyer/ or vestibule. It just screams for me to come in, take off your jacket and stay a while.


It is the red carpet into the rest of your home, but not everybody has the space to do this. Many apartments enter right into the living room. Many smaller homes do the same. However, it’s never hopeless. You can still create that feeling of a foyer.


Elements to Consider when setting up your entryway:

  •     Personality: family photos, travel prints, souvenirs
  •     Reflection: mirrors, glass, mercury glass
  •     Life: plants, flowers, clocks with pendulums
  •     Softness: rugs, rug runners
  •     Seating: benches, chairs, ottomans, stools
  •     Storage: dressers, credenzas, stacked luggage, night stands, umbrella stands, armoires, large covered baskets







Barnaby’s bathroom needs a makeover

My highly impractical outhouse chic bathroom has finally found its calling!  Though it does function well as a powder room, it’s not pretty yet and powder rooms should be pretty.    But, the tiny vintage clawfoot tub it houses is perfectly Barnaby-sized and the sides are high enough that he can’t escape from our sudsy clutches.  Plus the hand-held shower head is very handy for dog baths.  Poor Barnaby.


A reader emailed me this yesterday: “I don’t mean to be rude, but what exactly is Barnaby?!”  Hah hah, thank you for asking Samantha.  A Flat Coated Retriever +  a Boykin Spaniel = a Barnaby.  He is the lovechild of two South Carolina hunting dogs and Dad adopted him after he was kicked off a South Carolina farm for chasing horses.   Bath time aside, Barnaby’s adjusting quite well to city life.


Enough about that squeaky clean dog, let’s get back to decor.  Even though I made a shower curtain for this room a while back out of grey and white Ikea fabric, I’m on the hunt for a more colorful fabric that will inform some paint colors for the walls and the tub exterior.  I saw this bathroom recently on HGTV’s Sarah’s House and it reminded me that I had initially intended for my powder room to have a similar graphite, yellow and white color scheme.


But, I had a minor nervous breakdown a few months back when the pale yellow I picked out from a chip was practically vibrating on the walls of our small room.  So, I immediately hoofed it to Lowe’s and repainted the walls a calming putty grey.  The putty did soothe my electric yellow nerves, but it was a boring overreaction to an irrationally exuberant paint choice.  Then, I doubled down on the boring with a neutral shower curtain.


So, alas, my outhouse bathroom needs another do-over.  This room was definitely the “problem child” of our renovation and six months later it still looks like a before picture- argh!  I’m on the hunt for some pretty fabric for the shower curtain and then I’ll paint the walls for the third time this year.  Stay tuned for Scott’s nervous breakdown.  The poor man just wants a bathroom he can actually use.  Barnaby, on the other hand, is hoping that his bathroom will be out of commission for a long while….


p.s.  Thank you all for your incredibly kind and supportive responses to my last post.  Revisiting each and every one of your delightful blogs has inspired me to keep going with my own silly projects.  xxxxxADD

Design Idea: Microwave Cubby

Whether you’re planning a big budget kitchen renovation or a small budget kitchen upgrade, it’s the little details that matter.  One detail we took into account was the microwave.  Since we hardly ever use it, and since microwaves aren’t sexy, we didn’t want it to be front and center in our kitchen.  We definitely didn’t want it sitting on a counter or hanging out right over our very sexy Bertazzoni range.


So, instead, we designed our cabinets with a slot for the microwave to slide in underneath the counter.  Below the microwave cubby is a tall pull-out drawer that houses microwave-friendly storage containers.  This makes for a convenient little “leftover” station. Above the microwave is nothing but uncluttered countertop, and that kind of real estate is priceless in our tiny New York kitchen.  I love that our microwave is out of sight and out of mind until we need to reheat last night’s mac & cheese.  You barely even notice it in these other pics of our renovated kitchen.



This post was inspired by Leila over at In The Tweeds who just posted about the microwave cubby that was built into her kitchen renovation.  She has a spacious kitchen (I’m jealous) and her microwave will be tucked above a convenient work station.  Leila’s kitchen design looks so smart; I can’t wait to see how it turns out. What clever solutions did you incorporate in your kitchen renovation?  I’d love to post your ideas…


Best, ADD

Emily Henderson, Design Star

I’m just thrilled that Emily Henderson is HGTV’s new design star.  Finally, there’s something I’ll want to watch on TV!  I love Emily’s vintage, midcentury, eclectic style.  Here are a few more peeks at her home by the equally talented photographer Teri Lyn Fisher.  You can see the rest of Emily’s design style on her ApartmentTherapy house tour and on her blog.  Congratulations Emily!

Design Star: Team Emily

If you’ve been following Design Star this season, then you know that tonight’s show is the big finale.  I generally loathe reality tv, but I’ve been hooked on HGTV’s Design Star all season.


I was so excited when I heard that one of the contestants would be a prop stylist that I’ve worked with on editorial projects.  Emily Henderson is an amazingly talented prop stylist with a beautiful eye and she’s just an all-around nice person.  So, of course, I’m thrilled that she has made it to the final two.  And I hope she kicks Michael’s butt tonight.


Emily also has a wonderful blog called The Brass Petal, which you should check out asap to get your design fix, regardless of tonight’s results.   Below is a photo of Emily’s own blue velvet sofa.  I wish she would come over and style mine, but I think she’s a tad too busy these days. Go Emily!!

Kitchen Cabinet Inspiration

This lovely kitchen from Domino by photographer Melanie Acevedo reminds me that kitchen cabinets don’t have to be white.  I wasn’t interested in stained wood or laminate cabinets for our kitchen renovation.  I ultimately decided that we needed white painted cabinets to open up our tiny space, but I love these dark, matte, painted cabinets.  Especially with the natural plank floor and the creamy stone counter.


I also love the cabinet hardware (we have the same Aubrey pulls from Restoration Hardware in our kitchen) and the inset doors.  Inset doors are an expensive cabinet option that Scott and I had to forgo.  As inexperienced renovators, we didn’t realize that they were out of our budget until after the first set of bids came in.  I will admit that I was a little misty at the time because it also meant that we had to forgo the delightful cabinet latches that you see in the photo above.  I had my little heart set on them.  But, alas, the latches wouldn’t work with our budget-friendly “frameless” cabinets.


I’d gotten over these missing little touches in our kitchen until I came across this picture again today (sniffle).  We made a lot of aesthetic compromises in our renovation to keep the budget under control and most of them really don’t matter.   The fact is, we’re just happy to have a functioning kitchen after living for the first 18 months in our home without one.


I know we ALL have our renovation regrets and I thank you for indulging one of mine today.  Now, please tell me about your kitchen renovation regrets.  What did you have to compromise on and was it worth it?  If you could do it all over again (with a bigger budget!), what would you do differently?

The Hunt: Junkyard Chic

I don’t have any pretty photos today, so I’m just going to show you some quick pix of my latest junkyard find.  I bought this solid wood vintage medicine cabinet with original beveled mirror ($60) on a recent Brooklyn thrift store junket and quickly sprayed it white so that I could hang it over my junkyard sink ($40) in the outhouse bath.  You get the idea.  Cue theme song from Sanford and Son.


I plan to strip all of the lead paint off the cabinet & hinges, wallpaper the inside and repaint the outside something purty.  Just as soon as I figure out what color this little outhouse bathroom wants to be (something other than Kaopectate gray, I hope).  Ideas welcome.  As always.  Just consider this a “before” picture.  This room is probably worthy of a “renovation disasters” blog, but I still kind of love it.  I’m sure I’ll be ready to post the “after” pictures in about 5 years.  So, um, stay tuned, add me to your blog roll, subscribe to my RSS, and we can grow old together, decorating my house in vintage junkyard style.  Thanks for your eternal patience, ADD