Mid Century Modern Done Right

When I first started reading design blogs back in 2008, my design style really wasn't all that set yet -- though I was immediately obsessed. I devoured design blogs with gusto, hoping from one blog to the next, reading through all the archives of my favorites. During this nascent period in my design education, I vacillated wildly among various styles until I began to settle into certain styles that felt the most "me". One of the styles that I was initially drawn to, but have subsequently abandoned (at least for the most part), is Mid Century Modern. And no wonder really: some of the best design blogs out there (e.g., Making it Lovely, Door Sixteen, Decor8, Design*Sponge) have a distinctly MCM tilt. In any case, the long and the short of it is that, while I completely respect MCM style, it's not really a look I'm strongly attracted to right now.
At least that was the case before I got a load of this house decorated by Palmer Weiss. Now this is MCM at its best. Plenty of color and pattern and the classic, streamlined furniture that are the hallmarks of MCM. But there's also a number of traditional and trendy touches here that shake things up just enough so that you know that you're not looking at a home decorated in the 1950s. 

I love the classic lines of this sofa (and the yummy cotton velvet upholstery) paired with the vintage coffee table and the Raindrops Sculpture by popular mid century artist Curtis Jere (recently reissued and available through Jonathan Adler). The cheetah print ottoman is a bold touch, especially next to the psychedelic orange print accent chair (pictured in the first image).

The dining room is perhaps my favorite room. I'm really loving the comeback that grasscloth has made in the past year or so and this chocolate-y brown version is a great bold stroke. By keeping the wainscoting and trim in the same color, the walls are able to provide a great textural contrast between the glossy trim and the grasscloth, without the bold color dichotomy. This allows the white latticed chairs to really take center stage. The pops of soft turquoise in the lamps are a nice addition of color in an otherwise brown, gold and white room, and also reference the soft grey-blues of sofa in the adjacent living room.

I like how Palmer kept the wood floors bare in the dining room. The contrast between the dark wood and the glossy white of the buffet (which I covet) is fantastic. The brown and white print on the dining chairs is a nice addition of pattern in the room. I'm a firm believer in the notion that all rooms need at least one print (however subtle) to create some real interest. The ceiling is painted a muted beige, a much softer statement against the chocolate walls than a standard white ceiling would have been.

Sunny yellow in a kitchen or breakfast room/nook just makes me happy. The ikat print is a great, on-trend update to this very retro breakfast room and looks great against the green apple velvet pillows and Adler's lemon pillow (which perfectly picks up both the yellow and the green in the other fabrics). The large, happy photograph introduces some other equally bold colors into the room and keep the vignette from feeling too static and "decorated" (often a danger with tight color palettes). I love that Palmer had a rectangular top put on a tulip base, which fits the space better than the usual round or oval top would. The meringue pendant is a fun and inexpensive alternative to the ubiquitous Nelson bubble lamps.

In the kitchen, the Bertoia bar stools coordinate with the Bertoia side chairs in the breakfast nook, right down to the matching cushions. Other than the yellow ikat print, the palette in the kitchen is kept pretty neutral, with the focus on the gleaming, modern stainless steel appliances, large slab of marble (which matches the marble on the kitchen table) and the warm walnut island, all classics that could work with any decor should the existing owner decide to sell or decide to redecorate.

I always love to see a "budget" item featured in a designer's work and this zigzag rug from West Elm is perfect for this hallway. The mix of high and low continues with the gorgeous sputnik light fixture in brass.

I'll be honest, this wallpaper isn't my favorite -- the metallic foil backdrop and the yellowish green are just a bit too retro for my taste. But I'm a firm believer in taking bold chances when it comes to kitting out a powder room, so I applaud Palmer for taking the risk here. And of course the yellow and green palette work nicely with the nearby kitchen. The floating vanity is a great touch, especially in a tight space.

The den is just off the kitchen and brings together the yellow in the kitchen/breakfast area, the pops of orange in the living room, and the rich browns of the dining room. The style here is also more traditionally MCM, with the oval Saarinen coffee table and Adler rug (the Peter Rug) and pillow (the Mother Child pillow). There are just enough modern choices (like the clean lines of the sofa and the ikat print pillow) to keep it from veering off into retro.

Palmer tucked an area dedicated to children into this den and I think this is a great and practical solution for most families. The segregation of adult and kid spaces is a luxury many of us don't have -- and, since younger children require more constant supervision, ultimately, is not a particularly workable solution unless parents want to spend all their free time in a room catering exclusively to children. A much better path is to incorporate your children into the design of all the major rooms in your home. The addition of this mini-craft table and cushy rug ensure that your children have a spot all their own right in the heart of the action. I'm not sure this top is anything other than gray laminate, but how cute would it be if it were made up in chalkboard paint?

The oval shaped tiles on the fireplace are '50s and '60s modern at its best, but the textural quality they give the fireplace is very today. There are a number of manufacturers of this type of tile, but if you're in the market, Heath Ceramics' version is a great option. I love how Palmer paired a traditional Chinese garden stool with the Knoll Womb chair. The tension created between the two styles creates a lot more visual interest than pairing the Womb chair with, say, a small tulip table would have been. And, I think, this sort of mixing it up is precisely what MCM really needs to make it translate to 21st century style, the hallmark of which is eclecticism. Staying married to a single type of design style is a guaranteed way to get a room that feels both staid and dated.