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My Favorite Ways to Update and Add Comfort to Midcentury Modern

Who doesn’t love a great transformation, especially when it involves redesigning a home!

My workers and I recently completed an apartment remodel/refurnish outside San Francisco. The home is mid-century, and is a second home for returning clients.

Via Visual Vamp

The challenge of this particular project was finding ways to warm up the typically “cool” mid-century modern style of the architecture and make it more comfortable. I spent a few hours at the San Francisco Design Center sitting on furniture, looking at woods and pulling fabric samples that would bring the scheme together with current colors and motifs. From those fabrics, I came up with four or five strong design schemes, presented the best two to the clients, and they chose the one that best represented their personal preferences.

We reupholstered an existing sofa and purchased new armchairs, an area rug, dining room set and dining room ceiling fixture. We did new window coverings and throw pillows; painted; added crown molding; designed and built a new mantel; and redesigned two pony walls.

The home has spectacular views. We took that into account when designing the window shades. When the shades are raised, the whole expanse of glass is exposed. The fabrics consist of soft textures; subtle graphic prints. There is an amazingly soft, light mousy taupe colored “silk chenille” with a subtle damask imprint; a “MIssoni-esque” zigzag in taupes, grays, corals and terra cottas; a cream colored, faux reptile skin; a dark taupe “silk chenille” with a small, “wavy” imprint; a crisp linen with a graphic patterned, coral colored embroidery, and a black and cream “Ikat dot”. The area rug is Williamsburg design in caramel wool that has a repeating, scallop motif. In the living room we chose a beautiful, modern bookcase to act as a visual anchor to the room. Even small spaces such as these need some kind of anchoring piece to make the room feel complete. The petite, gold leaf chandelier we chose is tailored and modern. In place of a chain, it hangs from unique, linked rods.

One of my favorite pieces is a sexy, modern cross leg bench covered in cream colored faux reptile. The wood finish coordinates nicely with the finish of the bookcase.

Midcentury interiors are not known for being cozy but adding livability and warmth isn’t as difficult as it seems. The main elements you want to add to your midcentury schemes are texture and scale.


Texture can be added via rugs in solid colors; heavy textures; and subtle, classic graphic prints. Midcentury florals are too busy for today’s home, with the exception of kids’ bedrooms. Moroccan style rugs are wonderful. Even faded, vintage Indian rugs work and imbue a bohemian style.

Fabrics add warmth and comfort and if correctly chosen will stay in keeping with the midcentury style. Like rugs, choose fabrics that are textured solids or subtle, classic prints. I love a great zigzag print too.


Though midcentury homes weren’t known for having scale and by scale I mean large pieces of furniture, I love to use the design element to add stability to all my projects including midcentury, and adding a large scale piece is a great way to give the era a more up to date feel.

When choosing large scale pieces for midcentury modern homes choose pieces with straight, clean lines like Danish or French Modern. I also love adding scale with oversized mirrors and large pieces of modern art.


Classic midcentury colors are burnt orange and brown of course but avocado green works well too, as do some golds. Brass is a great metal finish with these colors. Typical woods used were teak and walnut.