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Design: Make it mod with midcentury furnishings

The Modrest Altair chair is $629 at overstock.com

The Modrest Altair chair is $629 at overstock.com Photo Credit: overstock.com

If you grew up in the 1960s and '70s, you saw a lot of TV families with midcentury Modern homes. The families seemed stylish, current and trendy in their cool, modern and clean settings, which have become popular again.

TV STYLE

There has been a recent resurgence in the popularity of midcentury Modern furnishings and architecture, no doubt helped by the popularity of AMC's show "Mad Men." midcentury Modern is classically defined as spanning the years from 1945 to 1965, but some stretch the period a bit, from the late '30s to the mid-70s.

Regardless of where you stand on the timing, the design sweet spot has to be the '50s and early '60s when the nation was rebuilding, the space race was beginning and the world was moving ahead with technology and innovation. The style reflected this forward movement by shifting away from fussy frills and embracing a new design aesthetic of clean, spare appeal.

ARCHETYPES

Some of the classic midcentury designs contained strong graphical elements and organic shapes. Wallpapers were more geometric and featured bold patterns. Wood was more prominent in furnishings, with a heavy focus on seating that was undressed of its heavy upholstery and had exposed the wooden bones of the chair.

Lighting fixtures were also very different from other eras by being more dramatic and prominent. Large and sculptural lighting fixtures often looked to the future, with a spacelike quality. Arcs also became a more important part of the design, with tables and lighting reflecting a more free-form quality.

DESIGN TIPS

If you love this cool, sophisticated style, you're not just relegated to searching your mother's attic to find a few select pieces. Collectors are now rediscovering the appeal and the value of midcentury pieces. Take the Modern Electra Coffee Table, featuring both the wood and kidney shape and is decidedly modern and perfect for the Mid-Century enthusiast ($299, dotandbo.com). Or dress up your office with a teal Franklin sofa that Don Draper would gladly have in his dapper office ($1,609, joybird.com). Of course, barn and tag sales, flea markets and online sites like eBay and Etsy all offer a treasure trove of midcentury items.

Don't forget shine, either. Midcentury Modern was also marked by clean windows, unfettered by draperies that let in lots of natural light. Unburden your windows and put in simple blinds or drapes that are unadorned and emphasize clean lines.

Add to the shine with bold, metallic accessories. These include such classics as the sunburst mirror or wall clock, metal bowls and vases, and metal accents on furnishings, such as chairs with metal frames like the Modrest Altair ($629, overstock.com). Focus on lighting with sculptural table lamps with large, plain shades. Look for bold colors, too, such as orange, red, lime and avocado. Or go futuristic with lots of white.

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