Style & Design

Mid-Century Modern Style

Background

Unique among design styles, mid-century modern design can be traced back to a specific person. The history begins with Joseph Eichler, a real estate developer in California during the 1940s through the 1960s, who advocated and built more modern-style housing. Whole suburban neighborhoods of homes (called “Eichlers”) from this movement still exist in California and beyond today. Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, Eichlers often feature flat or A-framed roofs, vertical wood siding, clean and geometric lines, few street-facing windows, and large windows or skylights that let in light and nature. Their interiors introduced the country to exposed beams, concrete floors, sliding doors and en suite bathrooms. While we may take many of these design features for granted today, in postwar America, when people were used to mass-produced homes, architecturally pleasing Eichlers were a breath of fresh air. See some examples of this style, and read more about it here.

Blue straight stack kitchen subway tile
Featured: Humboldt Glass Subway. Design by Glickman Design Build. Photography by John Cole Photo.

Why did this new style make such an impact that we’re still talking about it decades later? Many of the hallmarks of mid-century modern design still feel as fresh, clean and current today as they did in the 1950s:

Black and white bar tile
Featured: Boardwalk Charcoal Wood Look. Design by Splendor Styling. Photography by Laura Metzler Photo.

There are also some specific things you can look for to determine mid-century tiles:

Let’s look at how some real spaces use these mid-century modern elements. You’ll notice that a lot of the trends overlap from picture to picture which goes to show that these elements are true hallmarks of mid-century modern design!

Color

Who doesn’t love a pop of color?! Whether featured in tile, cabinetry, fabrics or accessories, have fun with your design and include something bold and bright (bonus points for rich colors like orange and green).

Orange geometric floor tile
Featured: Art Gaugin. Design by Morrissey Home Solutions. Photography by Jen Morley Burner.
Penny round kitchen backsplash tile
Featured: Penny Round Gloss White. Design by Jessica Brigham for the One Room Challenge.

Geometrics

Geometrics are another style that often appears in mid-century modern design. There are as many different ways to use geometric tiles as there are geometric tiles available. Use one color, mix and match or stick with neutrals for a more subtle approach to geometry.

Blue and white kitchen
Featured: Nova Hex GraphiteNova Hex Bianco and Nova Hex Smoke. Design by Pinnacle Interior Design. Photography by Lynsey Tjaden Photography.
White subway and black hexagon bathroom tile
Featured: Black Hex and Imperial Brite White. Design by Gathered Living. Renovation by Miller Team Renovations. Photography by Sarah E. Dunn.

Straight Stack

The most common and classic layout for subway tile is the brick-lay pattern. (Learn all about subway tile patterns on our blog post about the topic.) A more contemporary and mid-century modern way to install rectangular tiles is the straight stack. It features a clean layout and straight, even grout lines.

Straight stack blue subway kitchen tile
Featured: Humboldt Glass Subway. Design by Glickman Design Build. Photography by John Cole Photo.

Organic Shapes

Handmade-look tiles, an artisan feel and organic shapes all work well in mid-century modern style. A subway tile with a soft twist and a hexagon with a handmade-feel beveled edge fit the bill.

Featured: Nova Hex GraphiteNova Hex Bianco and Nova Hex Smoke. Design by Pinnacle Interior Design. Photography by Lynsey Tjaden Photography.

Explore more design styles on the blog or our website. Loving mid-century modern for your next project? Book a design appointment to get started today!

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