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6 Ways to Design a Mid Century Modern Kitchen That Works for You

The mid century modern style's enduring influence is as far-reaching as its history. Chances are that your own kitchen contains at least one object- if not more- that was directly inspired by this exciting era. From 1940 to 1960, the innovations of European furniture and lighting designers became a huge craze in North America. The simple, playful shapes of its designs are all very clean-lined and efficient, making this style well suited to modern kitchens.

Small kitchens in which the goal is to maximize space can benefit from its design elements. Simple, uncluttered forms leave more space for daily living. This style is definitely uncluttered, and using this as your inspiration you can easily perform a style overhaul in favor of midcentury decor, and rid yourself of unnecessary items in the process.

Who needs a hundred unused gadgets and trinkets when you can have one beautifully and thoughtfully designed object? That's what this style is all about, and today I'll show you just how easy and affordable it is to streamline your kitchen with this friendly and efficient style. Read on for six unique ways to design a practical kitchen you'll enjoy spending time in.

1. Orange and Dark Gray Bring a Mid Century Kitchen into the '00s

Bright, basic orange was a staple of this era's color palette. It's simple and unassuming, yet it packs a punch, and is most effective in small doses. This room offers a well-balanced mix of dark, modern gray and retro orange. Silver appliances and crystal vases give this space a high-end bachelor pad aesthetic, and its sparse color palette helps to simplify this small space and make it feel larger.

Orange chairs and orange lights, a round white table, and white cabinets above dark cabinets

The sleek orange glass light fixtures with brushed silver fixtures compliment the geometric design of the silver backsplash. White cupboards without handles continue this clean modern look. They are echoed by the natural looking blend of silver and taupe in the large area rug which adds warmth and texture to this otherwise clean-lined room.

The A-list stars of the show here are the orange plastic chairs. They are reproductions of a classic design circa 1950 by Charles Eames, as is the round wooden legged table. These chairs are widely available today, and quite affordable. Their ergonomic design and cheerful color are a hit with children and adults. This space shows how well they blend into a modern urban setting, but they can just as easily blend into an older home.

2. Playfully Rounded Forms Create a Comfortable Breakfast Nook

Another hallmark of this style is the use of lyrically curving shapes. These forms are often inspired by nature, and appeal to human ergonomics. There's just something visually pleasing about a rounded shape, and it's naturally very comfortable to use, as well!

Wooden cabinets and floors, a silver bar fridge, and an orange chair set with wooden table

This stunning chrome pendant light designates a separate dining area in this mid century inspired kitchen. Its bare glass bulbs are oversized and have an elongated shape with a large filament, typical of the 1960s. Its tones are carried through in silver drawer pulls, a silver bar fridge, and a silver table top sculpture. A small piece of wall art and a colorful collection of vases on the counter bring the warm orange color of the stools into the sparse white workspace.

Warm toned teak decorates the rest of the room, from the cabinets to the round table and chairs. These chairs are a special find, with their cut-out back design and faded orange upholstery. If you have a set of vintage chairs you're not in love with, consider having them reupholstered with a solid color such as this soft orange wool material to give them new life. Extra cushioning in their seats makes the solid wood frame more inviting.

3. Be Bold with Bright Yellow Accents in Your Mid Century Kitchen Design

This mid century kitchen design is a great example of how to add charming retro quirks to your home.

Bold yellow is spaced out between graphic black and white areas. The appliances here are modern, yet the cabinets have a charming vertically slatted design. If your home doesn't have the retro charm of these details, they can be added inexpensively as an overlay on your existing hum-drum cabinets. Hardware is easy to swap out as well, and these round white knobs are a charming detail that could make all the difference in your space.

If your floors are lacking character, these aged-looking wood floors can also be installed relatively inexpensively in the form of pre-made laminate panels. Their warm tone compliments the warm yellow decor beautifully.

White wooden cabinets, yellow plastic chairs around a round black table, and a yellow backsplash

I just love these lemon yellow chairs, which are reproductions of famous 1950s chair designs. These remakes are widely available today, and are still popular because of the comfort and style they offer. Paired with a round black-topped table, this dining set is high on contrast and character. A black and white printed runner rug is the perfect touch for this high-contrast color palette and makes the wood floors more comfortable. A large black metallic light above the table mirrors its shape and color perfectly. Rectangular yellow tiles, and a finishing touch of yellow baseboard completes the look.

4. For Sleek Sophistication, Pair Natural Wood with Cool Silver Accents

This kitchen and dining space contrast the sleek, cool tones of silver with the rich texture of wood. This is a great way to incorporate a mid century modern kitchen without going overboard on bright colors, and let the beauty of the wood grain speak for itself.

Teak cabinets and kitchen island, gray chairs around a wooden table, and an abstract painting

All of the woods used in this design are teak, from the cabinets to the table and chairs. Teak is the type of wood most commonly used in this style, and it still looks great today. It's strong, waterproof, and has a natural oil which gives it a lustrous sheen. The custom built-in wine holder adds a sophisticated touch and maximizes counter space, as does the recessed lighting in the ceiling.

To contrast the warmth of this wood, I added silver accents. Brushed chrome pendant lights, a light gray tiled backsplash, and gray woven upholstery all work like a charm to offset those rich teak tones. A colorful painting and thick, multicolored area rug add a variety of interesting textures which make this sophisticated space feel more lived-in.

5. Pay Tribute to the '60s with a Colorful Patchwork Style

Here's a fun idea for those who love to incorporate color in a style consistent with the 1950s and '60s. I started with a simple open concept kitchen decorated with light wood tones, and added a burst of quirky colors.

The custom cabinets above the sink are sleek and modern glass, with a retro touch. Their color palette of burnt orange, mint green, dark red, and black is very much in keeping with the style of the time period this room references, yet it's also a palette that works with today's decor. Light honey tones in the birch cabinets elsewhere in the kitchen offset these funky colors.

White pendant lights, light wooden cabinets, and a funky set of upholstered bar stools

The bar stools, with their simple rounded profile and Eames-style wooden legs, are straight out of the modern furniture craze of the early 1950s. A unique patchwork upholstery material with hot pink, gray, blue, pink, and plaid makes them truly special. Add one nostalgic item like this to your existing kitchen and the room receives and instant style overhaul. What a conversation piece! Guests are sure to feel comfortable spending time at this light-filled, open concept breakfast bar area.

6. Give Your Design Natural Harmony with Warm Wood and Cool Blue Marble

This wooden cabinet kitchen is a vintage lover's dream. Filled with large-grain, solid teak, it's warm and inviting. Teak was popular for many reasons: it produces its own natural oil, allowing it to look slick even when it's unfinished. There's no need for heavy shellac which other woods require. The character of its large, high-contrast grain gives it a relaxed, tropical look. It's naturally waterproof and quite durable, making it a great choice for family homes with small children.

A teak kitchen with blue marble counters, a blue marble backsplash, and retro bar stools

Once again, I chose a retro, industrial style light fixture as a statement piece which establishes the era we are referencing. Its glass jar style exposed light bulbs have an appealingly simple shape, and cast a lovely indirect light rather than a harsh modern fluorescent glare. They are complimented by a silver starburst wall clock. High ceilings help to bring in natural light and make a small space feel more open.

These teak stools, with a cut-out back design and white upholstery are sure to be an industrial designer's favorite piece in this room. A faithful reproduction of the original, they are simple and sophisticated, not to mention comfortable. Complimented by blue marble countertops and a matching backsplash, the warm, cozy atmosphere of this space has a completely harmonious color balance. Add a textile with a retro art design such as this high-pile mat, and the room comes alive with soft texture to offset the hard lines of the wooden furniture.