Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
As the years change, so too does the world of kitchen design; transforming to reflect evolving lifestyles, style preferences, and technological advancements.
Some styles, however, have tremendous staying power that turns a trendy fad into a timeless classic.
One of the more unique and iconic styles of interior design is mid-century modern.
At Deslaurier, we have over 40 years of experience providing our clients with custom cabinets and kitchen design services. In that time, we’ve helped handcraft thousands of kitchens to cultivate the perfect design for our clients.
With so many moving parts, it can be challenging to know where one design style ends and the other begins.
With the help of Markie Plunkett, a design specialist and the owner of Timber+Plumb in Windsor, Ontario, this article details mid-century modern design, highlighting the unique features that encompass such a distinctive kitchen style.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What is Mid-Century Modern Design?
When discussing mid-century modern kitchen design, it’s important to touch on where it originates from.
It stems from a larger mid-century modern design movement encompassing architecture, furniture, and interior design that emerged in a post-WWII world and continued throughout the 1950s and ‘60s.
Mid-century modern kitchens are known for their sleek and minimalist aesthetic, with an emphasis on functionality and innovation; sensibilities that are also found in conventional modern design.
However, as you’ll soon see, mid-century modern separates itself in a way that renders the style of design entirely distinctive.
They have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, appealing to homeowners who appreciate the blend of retro charm and contemporary allure that is prevalent today.
Let’s take a look at the unique features that set the foundation for such a distinct style!
As the name entails, it's no surprise that mid-century modern kitchens borrow features from modern design. The most notable being the streamlined appearance of flat, slab door-style cabinets.
However, you’ll also find these cabinets feature far more wood tones than you would see in a modern kitchen. Oak, birch, and walnut are all great woods that are popularly utilized in midcentury kitchens.
The example below, from Markie Plunkett’s project, Mid-Century Modern Dream, highlights this beautifully.
This kitchen design utilized birch cabinets in a slab door style, adorned with our “Toasted Sesame” stained finish.
The addition of such a subtle, gentle stain enhances the unique characteristics of natural wood and allows those features to emerge triumphantly.
Cabinet hardware, such as handles and pulls, also tends to be simple and understated, including the use of square or rectangular designs often in warm brassy tones. This contributes to the clean and uncluttered look of the kitchen.
Or, the hardware can be integrated out of sight, as is often done in conventional modern design. Enhancing the aspect of clean lines while leaving the cabinet door itself fully on display.
Neutral Palette with a Pop of Colour
A “neutral” colour scheme might sound bland, but it is anything but boring.
As we mentioned, warm wood-tone cabinets are a staple of MCM kitchens. Particularly when integrating a wood species like walnut, with a prominent grain and distinctive natural colour, its warmth and stunning beauty can captivate the entire room.
Flooring often features hardwood or large stone, typically in medium tones, neither too dark nor too light.
As Markie mentions, view the way these neutral tones interact as layering.
“Think warm layers over warm layers” - Markie Plunkett
Of course, timeless whites or taupes for kitchen cabinets will always hold universal appeal, but there are a lot of bolder shades and colours that can be integrated as well.
Something like dark, moody greens bring an organic and natural warmth to an overall neutral palette. They’re also a great way to update an older design style with contemporary elements, as dark greens claim a place as one of the top cabinet colour trends of 2023.
A product of the times, shades of “rust” also play a role. Oranges and yellows can inject a lively dash of pigment into the space.
Similarly to conventional modern design, mid-century modern kitchens don’t include much decorative trim or crown mouldings.
Rather, they have a penchant for far less detail and more flat surfaces, similar to the slab-door cabinet style.
“more flat surfaces, especially if you want to bring your cabinets to the ceiling” - Plunkett
Instead, the additional mouldings typically feature more of the layering previously mentioned.
In this kitchen in particular, the flat trim is brought to the ceiling, with a smaller, additional piece added on top, creating more dimension to the design rather than detailing found in traditional or transitional kitchens.
Avoid Heavy Countertop Veining
Something you won’t see in most kitchen designs is a predominant use of solid-colour countertop aesthetics. It certainly veers away from contemporary trends of increased countertop patterns.
Marble veining has made a wide resurgence, and so too has the visual flexibility available to engineered quartz manufacturing.
MCM kitchens, however, tend to have almost completely solid colour surfaces.
Whether it’s solid white or black surfaces, you won’t find too much patterning or veining in the countertop aesthetic.
Get Unique with the Backsplash
While the countertops might sound a bit subdued, the backsplash is often a location that can be equipped with the flair and ingenuity more aligned with standard modern design.
The backsplash is a great place for accentuated style, and MCM has it in spades, commonly using geometric shapes or unique installation designs.
“Something like a grid-style backsplash tile” - Plunkett
This project features a vertically stacked white tile backsplash, for example.
Openness, in more ways than one, is a key feature of the style.
The ingenuity of the post-war boom led to expanding kitchens and living spaces, alike. With that, more layouts reduced traditional walls separating the kitchen from the dining and living areas.
“Mid-century design is not typically done with a closed kitchen” - Plunkett
In fact, most are utilized in semi-open or fully open-concept spaces.
Further, open and floating shelving is a common feature in mid-century kitchens. They allow for easy access to frequently used items and add a sense of visual openness to the perimeter walls.
They’re also a great way to incorporate more wood tones into an accent piece.
Mid-century modern kitchens often feature large windows that bring in ample natural light, while simultaneously connecting the indoor space with the outdoor surroundings.
Not only do they provide enhanced lighting, but they can also function as a captivating design statement.
The striking window frames in this project were crafted entirely out of reclaimed wood and matched harmoniously with the birch wall and island cabinetry, creating a unified space with an authentic touch of natural charm.
Keeping with the simple and sharp theme is tapered legs.
Cabinets, tables, chairs and even hutches often feature slender legs with tapered ends, adding an elegant and light look to the kitchen furniture.
Particularly done with the kitchen table or island chairs, tapered legs provide a slender silhouette that perfectly embraces the slender sensibilities of mid-century modern design.
Design with Deslaurier Custom Cabinets
With such a distinct stylistic aesthetic, it’s no wonder that the allure of mid-century modern kitchens remains in present-day design!
Ultimately, choosing a kitchen design will always come down to your lifestyle, style preferences, and budget. Consider these accordingly and you’ll be able to craft the perfect kitchen design to fit your home!
If you’re looking to install the perfect custom cabinets in your dream kitchen, Deslaurier Custom Cabinets has everything you need! With over 40 years of experience in our name, we provide our clients with a fully customized design process with our talented team of designers.