What Exactly Is Midcentury Modern Rustic?

midcentury modern

When midcentury modern home designers first laid out their plans in the 1930s, they probably did not imagine their designs could exist in a rustic space. But with so many homeowners artfully combining different styles to create the perfect décor, it was inevitable that the Midcentury Modern Rustic aesthetic would be born. The elements of the individual designs that make up midcentury modern rustic – midcentury modern and rustic – are a contradictory combo of less refined warm elements and sophisticated futuristic features. They blend together to add a chic, relaxed, and unpretentious feel to your home. Here is a closer look at the midcentury modern rustic design.

What Is Midcentury Modern Design?

Midcentury modern is a type of interior design theme that became popular in the United States in the middle of the 20th century. Elements of this design include vibrant colors, graphic shapes, a combination of artificial and natural materials, muted tones, and clean lines. According to designer Liza Kuhn, the design was conceived as a reaction to the post-WWII environment. It was a combination of the technological and mass production developments of the first half of the century and the futuristic approach of the second half.

History of Midcentury Modern Design

The primary elements of midcentury modern design are simplicity, clean lines, and functionality, which were all considered important at the time of conception. Because homes were more linear, homeowners focused on catering to their nuclear family, including through furniture. Thus, the aesthetic was born in America in the 20th century. The midcentury modern design contains strong influences from the German Bauhaus school of design and architecture.

The school’s curriculum emphasized a futuristic aesthetic, functionality, and clean lines. After WWII, many German architects and designers moved to the United States and brought new and inspired design ideas with them. The mid to late 1950s saw these retro-futuristic designs spread through the country even as mass production allowed the large quantity manufacture of furniture. Manufacturers were also able to produce furniture in a wide range of colors, which fit in perfectly with the midcentury modern design. Notable designers from this period include Eero Saarinen, Cara Greenberg, Isamu Noguchi, Arne Jacobsen, and Charles and Ray Eames.

Characteristics of Midcentury Modern Design

Most authentic material furniture from the midcentury modern era was made from teak. Designers preferred teak for its durability and rich color. When creating case pieces like storage cabinets, desks, and tables, the go-to materials were oak and rosewood. That said, wood was not the only material used to create pieces in these designs. Materials took center stage in this theme, and designers incorporated a lot of vinyl, glass, and metal into their pieces. These materials were often used in tension with each other to create unique designs.

Curved shapes were also a key feature of midcentury modern design. It was during this era that the famous Eames chair was born alongside other uniquely shaped tables, sofas, and more. Sometimes, sofas were curved and nearly round, and coffee tables had clean and angular geometric shapes. Another key feature of this style was color. Designers used color to make a statement and make a piece or group of furniture stand out. Today, most of these characteristics have remained intact and define midcentury modern design. Here is an overview of these features:

Combination of Natural Hues and Bright Colors

Midcentury modern designs often juxtapose bright accent colors against primary neutral wood, black, and white tones. The idea is to bring the outdoors inside, which is why this style’s color palette is based on nature. It features colors like deep clay red, teal, aquamarine, muddy browns, yellows, bright oranges, and earthy greens.

Minimalistic Designs

Furniture in midcentury modern design is about simplicity, uncluttered spaces, and functionality. Chairs and tables are often very simple pieces, with clean, sleek lines, and metal or wooden pin-style legs.

Indoor-Outdoor Fusion

Midcentury modern architecture focuses on combining natural and artificial structures. This means incorporating plants and other window treatments into a space while opening up the area for light.

Mixing Aesthetics and Materials

This style also mixes natural materials like marble, metal, and glass with artificial materials like fiberglass, Lucite, plastic, and vinyl.

What Is Rustic Design?

The term ‘rustic’ is very common and is often used when describing wedding themes, décor, and more. Still, most people do not know what it means as a style. Can you only achieve a rustic theme on a farmhouse or cabin in the woods? Or can you give your city apartment a rustic feel? The good news is you do not actually need to live in the woods to have a rustic home; you only need to emphasize organic and natural materials. Most pieces that fit into this style are made from real wood, which could be completely natural or lightly treated. Overall, you can expect to see elements and raw materials drawn directly from the earth. Reclaimed wood is also common.

Essentially, the rustic design is a natural theme that is organic, aged, and sometimes a little distressed. Simply put, rustic and contemporary designs are total opposites. Some design styles considered rustic include Coastal, Tuscan, and Farmhouse. The rustic style is completely free of stuffiness and pretentiousness. It is very relaxed and approachable, often feeling easy, warm, and welcoming. In terms of color, this décor leans on calming and traditional neutral tones like grays, browns, whites, and beiges. The colors are monochrome and muted but in warmer tints; bold paints are rare here.

Key Characteristics of Rustic Design

As mentioned, rustic materials come from the earth. Common elements of this décor include real brick, heavy stone, and real, unprocessed woods. Textiles feature canvas, burlap, and jute, often incorporated into accent pieces and rugs around the home. Here is a breakdown of rustic’s key features:

  • Simplistic Designs: Rustic pieces are based on the material and not design. Consequently, they are often simple and streamlined, with more emphasis on the material than shape.
  • Real Wood: Fake wood has no place in a rustic home, and real, unprocessed wood is almost synonymous with rustic décor. You can expect wide-planked wooden floors and farmhouse tables made from reclaimed wood. Here, there is little focus on perfection. Grittiness and imperfections make a rustic piece all the more authentic.
  • Handmade Pieces: Rustic pieces are often unique, handmade, and imaginative. There is nothing generic about this style, and big box store accents and accessories may feel out of place within this theme. Generally, the pieces in rustic homes have character – something unique that you will not see in ten other homes.
  • Texture Variety: Because it uses many natural materials, rustic décor features a rich variety of textures. Rugs are made from animal hide or jute; fireplaces feature raw stone; and furniture is made from rough woods with grain. Textures with an obvious sheen are out.
  • Heavy: Trendy contemporary styles like midcentury modern often have a light and functional feel to them. In contrast, rustic elements are heavy. Think deep dark leather chairs and thick wooden furniture with large square legs.
  • Exposed Beams: Whether you live in a cabin or home in the city, exposed beams are an undeniable feature of rustic homes.

Creating the Perfect Midcentury Modern Rustic Décor Blend

Thanks to extensive experimentation, designers have been able to balance the clean simplicity of midcentury modern design with the warmth and natural leanings of rustic décor. The result is the Midcentury Modern Rustic, which is both versatile, functional, and inviting. According to Flex Steel, you can create this look in your home through the following steps:

Pick Furniture with Straight Lines

Furniture is crucial to effectively balancing midcentury modern and rustic designs. The style features many organic textures and elements that you want to highlight without muting the functional feel of midcentury modern décor. Therefore, you should pick furniture with refined styling, straight lines, and natural fabric. Steer clear of overstuffed sofa upholstery and turned legs. You can try to add some furnishings with metal accents for a striking contrast. Lean more toward the industrial or midcentury look.

Expose Architectural Features

This is where the rustic style shines. Even as the simplistic furniture screams midcentury modern, you can throw in some rustic vibes by emphasizing and exposing the original architectural elements in your home. Think stone walls, exposed brick, and visible ceiling beams. These rustic elements will give your space an air of cozy nostalgia and complement the modern furniture.

Add Outdoor Elements

You will want to avoid heavy drapery and curtains; midcentury modern rustic thrives on lots of natural light. Use light and airy fabrics on the window and add natural treatments to the window areas. For example, you can add weathered wood or stone shelving and layer it with houseplants or accessories like woven baskets or wooden bowls. The goal is to bring the outdoors inside. For balance, paint your walls with light, modern colors, then contrast this with distressed wood flooring.

Highlight Varied Textures

Highlight different textures to create a virtual show in your décor. You can lay down seagrass, sisal, or jute rugs and juxtapose them with glazed ceramics. Alternatively, you can adorn your smooth leather sofas with rich sheepskin rugs. Since your furniture will have more modern and simplistic leanings, throw in some linen pillows, wool throws, and more for dimension.

Use Subdued Colors

Midcentury modern rustic is not heavy on bold and bright colors. This style leans more toward earth tones, warm neutrals, whites, and greys. That said, your color choices do not have to be boring; just muted. Choose solids over prints and focus on natural textures.

Throw in Industrial and Modern Accents

At its core, this décor style is eclectic as Masterclass describes. You need to be careful not to turn your home into a farmhouse by throwing in some modern accents for balance. You can hang sculptural or contemporary lighting fixtures and abstract artwork for sophistication. Additionally, incorporate some sleek metal designs to contrast with the rustic woods.

Tips for Mixing Midcentury Modern and Rustic Designs

Midcentury modern and rustic styles are very different, which is why it is so unexpected that they can look good together. But while you can combine them however you like, The Spruce offers some tips for marrying these styles perfectly: Keep the artwork modern – paint by numbers, string art, Brutalist art, metal, etc. – then tone down the industrial tones with rustic elements like a brick fireplace or cow skull. Rustic furniture can be very heavy and draw from the midcentury look. This is why it is advisable to keep the furniture midcentury modern in terms of design. Think sleek, clean, sharp lines that create a minimalistic impression. You can then throw in hints of rustic by picking natural wood.

Midcentury home features clean straight lines, metallic elements, and sleek furniture, which can strike some people as uncomfortable. Fortunately, you can strike a balance by adding rustic accents, which are known for being cozy. This means fur rugs, reclaimed wood, throw pillows, houseplants, and more. The midcentury modern rustic décor is a melting pot of the log-cabin aesthetic and the modern touch. Exposed beams on the ceiling and a fur rug will cover the rustic, while a midcentury fireplace and metal accented furniture bring out the modern. Use modern light fixtures, artwork, and furniture pieces to bring life to well-worn woods, which should appear on the bed frame, headboard, floors, tables, and shelves.

Maintain cohesion in the color scheme. Bringing two different décor styles together is tricky; if you are not careful, the elements could clash. Keeping a cohesive color scheme throughout the space will create a sense of cohesion between these very different design concepts. Combine rustic woods with sophisticated industrial lighting fixtures. Use natural wood on the floor and tables to create the ideal backdrop for a sleek modern chandelier, for example. Use a neutral color palette, which is more rustic-leaning and allows for better contrast. The colors; tans, grays, whites, etc; are muted but modern.


The Midcentury Modern Rustic is the genius combination of the midcentury modern and rustic décor designs. The goal is to create a warm, informal elegance by integrating natural outdoor elements, neutral tones, varied textures, and clean industrial-inspired lines. Whether you live in a cabin or condo, you can comfortably blend rustic design elements with sleek midcentury modern features to create an inviting and chic space that people will love coming to – the perfect midcentury modern rustic home.

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