A variety of different decor styles emerged throughout the 20th century. While it’s common to conflate modern, mid-century modern, and contemporary decor with each other, these aesthetic styles are each, in fact, quite unique. Mid-century modern is one o·f the most challenging types of decor styles to nail down, which makes the thrill of pulling off a truly mid-century bathroom all the more alluring. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of the elements of mid-century modern decor and give you some clues regarding the materials you’ll need if you want to incorporate this style into your new bathroom design.
Keep It Functional
During the first few decades of the 20th century, a new form of philosophy came to the fore: modernism. This philosophical approach starkly separated itself from the romanticism of the past and embraced the recent achievements in the scientific sector with the maxim “form follows function.”
To the modernists, the true orienting meaning of each form was its underlying function; therefore, the meaning of a chair was “to sit,” the meaning of a bathtub was “to bathe,” and so on. Therefore, each type of modern decor sought to eliminate the seemingly meaningless frivolity of complex craftsmanship and iconography and replace these antiquated elements with the purely functional.
Mid-century modern decor differs somewhat from purely modern decor in that it seeks to incorporate older styles into this functional aesthetic. While obvious ornamentation and excessive, busy lines are still taboo in mid-century modern decor, this decoration style relies more on traditional materials than modern decor. In short, this type of decor strives for the future by transforming the elements of the past.
Aim for Sleek Lines
Purely modern and mid-century modern decor share an emphasis on sleek lines. For instance, it’s common to see heavy mid-century modern furniture that’s supported by tiny legs, and both the egg chair style and the skinny pedestal dining table came into style with the advent of the modern decor movement.
Where mid-century modern decor and purely modern decor differ, however, is in their incorporation of traditional materials in pursuit of these sleek and minimalist furniture silhouettes. Pure modern decor, for instance, relies almost entirely on synthetic materials, but mid-century home designers were content to adapt the English club chair into a more lightweight and curvaceous design that still incorporated many of the luxurious aspects of this type of seating.
However you choose to incorporate the teachings of mid-century modern decor into your bathroom, make sure that all of the elements in this space flow into each other. Your shower enclosure should blend seamlessly into the walls surrounding it, and you can achieve this effect by extending your shower tiles all the way to the backsplash of your vanity. The silvery shine of your frameless mirror should bring out the brightness of your chrome faucets and towel hooks, and so on.
Don’t Go Overboard with Accessories
Stark simplicity is the hallmark of purely modern decor, and mid-century modern decor also evokes this ideal to some extent. It’s certainly best to err on the side of being spartan than to go overboard with extra features and accessories in your bathroom, but evoking mid-century decor gives you a bit more freedom to integrate antiquated elements into your bathroom’s aesthetic.
For instance, you might want to set up a 19th-century razor stand, or you might also find a Victorian-era soap dish to be appropriate. Whatever you do, just make sure that your accessories don’t take away from the stark lines and flowing appearance of your bathroom; experiment with different accessories until you find the perfect balance between empty and overflowing.
Remember that absolute cleanliness is a vital aspect of modern decor. You’ll need to find adequate cubby holes for storing all of your toiletries out of sight, and you’ll need to clean any glass elements daily.
Mix the Traditional and the Modern
It’s a common misconception that mid-century modern style is entirely devoid of traditional elements. In fact, the modernist designers in Scandinavia did their best to integrate the traditional forms of chairmaking and furniture crafting that had been part of their lineage for hundreds of years.
However, mid-century modern decor is anything but strictly traditional. You’ll also need to incorporate plenty of fresh, contemporary forms into your newly-renovated bathroom if you want to truly capture this particular interior design style. For instance, you might want to truly evoke the mid-century modern style by installing a vanity that’s supported with a tiny pedestal but top it with a hammered copper vessel sink.
Use Contrasting Materials
Everywhere throughout your new bathroom, make sure to evoke the spirit of mid-century modern style by mixing different types of materials. The first few decades of the 20th century brought with them significant engineering and manufacturing achievements, and this overarching theme of the times incentivized interior designers to utilize these new materials to the fullest extent possible.
For instance, fiberglass, polyurethane foam, nylon-based plastics, and a number of innovative materials burst onto the scene during the 1940s and 1950s. For the first time, architects and interior designers were liberated from traditional materials, such as hardwood, stone, and porcelain, and they became able to craft entirely new looks.
Modernist interior designers who entirely abandoned the forms of the past, however, were few and far between. Instead, mid-century modern style is all about combining old and new materials to fully evoke the contrast between the past and the future. One of the best ways to evoke this aesthetic in your bathroom is to mix high-quality traditional materials, such as hardwood, with cheaper new substances, like fiberglass. You may even want to throw in a few chrome elements to make your bathroom truly shine with the wave of the future.