Mid-century modern and Scandinavian designs are two emerging trends in the world of interior architecture. Although they share a few specific principles, their overall appearances can look vastly different when all the pieces come together.
Mid-Century Modern Design Features
Mid-century modern design — also known as mid-mod or MCM — first became popular in the years after World War II when families started sprouting up all over the United States. As new neighborhoods developed, mid-century modern became the prevailing suburban design style. Some features remain relevant to this day, as you will see.
Bright and Pastel Colors
Mid-century modern features a wide range of bright and pastel colors. You won’t find much black or gray here. Vibrant shades like yellow, pink, lime, and turquoise were all the craze when MCM first hit the mainstream — think of the houses from Edward Scissorhands — but the color palette is a little tamer today.
As MCM has evolved, earthier tones like olive green, mustard yellow and burnt orange have taken center stage. These shades still provide lots of eye-popping colors but aren’t as overbearing as the earlier color schemes.
Mid-century modern was the first style to implement non-traditional materials like fiberglass, plastic, and tubular metals into interior design. These materials are common in households today, but they had never been seen before in 1950. It also started using a wider range of woods, from mahogany to walnut to rosewood.
MCM utilizes many fabrics to create a complex interior texture. Vinyl, polyester, wool, and velvet are all viable options. This kind of versatility is one of the reasons why MCM has remained popular through the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Functionality is the top priority for mid-century modern furniture. The color and texture are obviously important, but the user’s comfort trumps both. Furniture items with ergonomic features and easy accessibility reign supreme. Lounge chairs and tulip tables are two popular examples — they look nice and provide the owner with the best experience possible.
Emphasis on the outdoors has been a hallmark of MCM since day one. Parents wanted complete visibility of their backyards so they could supervise their children, which led to expansive window walls, glass doors, and other open design features. Natural elements like brick and stone are also more prominent on the home’s exterior than the interior.
Scandinavian Design Features
Scandinavian design first became popular around the same time as mid-century modern in the 1950s. Countries in this region are known for their democratic ideals, which you can see in some of the design features. Simplicity and harmony with the surrounding environment are the two defining characteristics.
Neutral and Monochromatic Colors
In stark contrast to mid-century modern, Scandinavian design heavily emphasizes neutral and monochromatic color schemes. Bright whites, brooding blacks, gray-blues, sage greens, and other colors with natural qualities are standard. These colors invoke feelings of comfort and stability, which are high on the list of priorities for homeowners in the post-COVID era.
It makes sense that neutral colors would dominate in Scandinavian design, as northern European countries experience long, harsh winters and have learned to embrace them. Architecture tends to reflect its surroundings.
Unlike mid-century modern, Scandinavian design solely utilizes natural materials. Wood, cotton, and wool are the three prevailing materials because they provide warmth in the otherwise freezing environment of northern Europe. You might find some metal or plastic here and there, but organic materials are critical for achieving a complete Scandinavian interior.
Scandinavia’s emphasis on natural materials is an excellent example of the region’s democratic ideals on display. Instead of overpowering the environment with artificial items, people compromise and use the materials the Earth provides.
Since most of the furniture is wooden, it often takes on a minimalist appearance. There’s nothing fancy about Scandinavian furniture at first glance, but upon closer inspection, the craftsmanship and attention to detail should become apparent. These traits define Scandinavian architecture. It’s not as flashy or ergonomic as the furniture you might find in a mid-century modern home, but the quality of work is unmatched.
Lighting Reigns Supreme
If there’s one thing that sets Scandinavian design apart from other styles, it’s lighting. Winter is the darkest season of the year, so houses must maximize their sunlight exposure. Large windows and multiple light fixtures in every room are typical details. They work in unison with the colors and materials to keep the house warm and bright.
It’s All In The Details
Mid-century modern and Scandinavian design differ in many ways, from color to texture to lighting. However, it’s important to emphasize that residential design is all in the details. You can’t add a few overarching features and expect the whole style to come together — your home’s interior design depends on many small decisions. The categories here are just the tip of the iceberg.