Mid-century modern style is characterized by clean lines, geometric shapes, organic contours, natural materials, and neutral colors. This classic 1950s and 60s aesthetic is seeing a major revival lately, with mid-century modern furniture like sofas rising in popularity for 21st century homes.
Choosing the right mid-century modern sofa that complements your space can be an exciting yet challenging process. With so many styles, shapes, sizes and configurations to consider, it’s important to think through your needs and room layout to find that ideal centerpiece sofa.
This article will discuss the top 5 most popular mid-century modern sofa styles and provide tips on how to pick the perfect sofa for your home decor.
Top 5 Mid-Century Modern Sofa Styles
Mid-century modern sofas come in a range of styles, from ultra-simple daybeds to dramatically shaped statement chairs. Here are 5 of the most iconic and common mid-century sofa types to consider:
1. Daybed Sofa
The mid-century daybed sofa is characterized by its low profile, clean lines, and spartan design. Meant to resemble an actual daybed, this sofa style has a back and arms on only one side, allowing for versatile positioning within a room.
Daybed sofas are typically bare-bones in design – they have slim steel or wooden legs and very little excess ornamentation. The low seat and single-sided support are designed for multi-purpose use as a sofa, lounger or occasional bed. Many daybeds have trundle beds underneath that can roll out as needed.
Materials tend to be simple – wood frames, leather, hemp or fabric upholstery in solid, neutral colors. Their pared-down style makes daybed sofas ideal for smaller spaces. However, the minimal back and arm support does not make them the most comfortable seating for lounging or napping.
Popular examples of mid-century modern daybed sofas include the Novogratz Brittany Sofa Futon and the Furniture of America CM-SOF4629 Jessa Daybed Sofa.
2. Lawson-Style Sofa
The Lawson sofa is a classic mid-century modern style, first designed by American furniture designer Thomas Lawson in the 1930s. Identified by its low, straight back and square arms, Lawson sofas have a simple, versatile design that works well in many interiors.
Lawson sofas can have low or high backs, with or without arms, and feature wooden or metal legs in slim tapered shapes. With their unfussy design, Lawson sofas have a timeless feel and compact footprint that suits small spaces. However, some find the straight back and shallow seats less comfortable for long lounging sessions.
These sofas look great dressed up with colorful throw pillows and blankets or kept clean-lined with neutral upholstery. The IKEA Kivik series and Article’s Sven Tan Leather Sofa are popular Lawson-style options.
3. Tulip Chair Style
The distinctive mid-century tulip chair is identified by its futuristic pedestal base shaped like a tulip flower. Designed by Eero Saarinen in 1956, the pedestal chair’s sleek molded shape embodied the ultra modern, space-age aesthetic of the era.
The base of the tulip chair is made of reinforced plastic or fiberglass and features slim criss-crossed legs that flare out like a tulip. The single upholstered seat cushion has a smooth contoured shape that complements the base. These chairs often come in white bases with brightly colored seat cushions in hues like citron, azure and apple red.
The tulip chair’s unique sculptural shape makes it a statement piece in any room. However, the enveloping base does limit leg room, making it less functional for long stretches of seating. Contemporary versions like the Modernica Case Study Planar chair keep the space-age feel while improving comfort.
4. Womb Chair
Distinguished by its oversized, cocoon-like form, the womb chair is another iconic mid-century seat. Designed by Saarinen in 1946, the womb chair features a deep seat that curves around the occupant paired with a sloping, enveloping back that gives a comforting “womb” sensation.
The external shell of the womb chair is made of molded reinforced fiberglass. Internal cushioning is made of foam, and the chair is upholstered in various fabrics, though leather, wool and microfiber are common. Colors tend toward earthy neutrals like gray, black and white.
As a bold, enveloping statement piece, the womb chair takes up space, so likely won’t fit in compact areas. However, its plush, sink-in comfort makes it incredibly inviting as a standalone chair or complement to a sofa. Contemporary versions like the Modernica Womb Chair stay true to the original 1940s design.
5. Button-Tufted Sofa
Tufted sofas and chairs were hugely popular during the mid-century, featuring deep button detailing that creates dramatic indentations and cushions. The button-tufted look remains a hallmark style of mid-century modern furniture.
These sofas typically have a rounded arm shape and tapered wooden legs. The back cushions and armrests feature pronounced tufting, with buttons sunk deeply into the foam and fabric. This tufting adds visual interest and dimension.
Materials tend toward wood frames with foam cushions upholstered in fabric, often neutrals like beige, soft gray, or off-white. While the button tufting looks sensational, it does require more maintenance as it can collect dust and dirt in the crevices.
Overall, the button-tufted sofa makes a bold statement as a focal point and conversational piece. The CB2 Faculty Sofa has a retro look with the classic details of a button-tufted mid-century sofa.
How to Choose the Right Mid-Century Modern Sofa
With so many styles to pick from, deciding on a mid-century modern sofa can be tricky. Here are some tips to guide your selection:
- Assess your needs – Consider who will use the sofa and how much seating capacity you need. Decide the primary purpose it will serve – TV watching, casual lounging, reading, naptime etc. Placement in the room and traffic flow around furniture are factors too. This will help determine ideal size, shape and style.
- Measure available space – Carefully factor in room dimensions, layout, existing furniture pieces and allowances for walkways. This will indicate the sofa size and shape that can fit comfortably in the space without overwhelming. Allow about 36-40 inches for main walking areas in front of the sofa.
- Match style to room decor – Some mid-century sofa styles seamlessly blend into a room, like simple and unfussy Lawson sofas. Others are meant to stand out as bold statements, like the womb chair. Choose a sofa that enhances your overall room decor and design aesthetic.
- Decide on features – Figure out what features matter most, like tufted vs non-tufted cushions, attached cushions vs loose pillows, arms vs armless, chrome legs vs wooden etc. This will narrow the field of choices.
- Select suitable materials – Mid-century sofas use natural materials like wood, leather, linen, cotton, wool and microfibers. Consider maintenance, durability, pets and kids when choosing fabrics. Leather and slipcovers are good for heavy use.
- Determine needed comfort level – Some mid-century styles favor form over function. If plush comfort is essential, test options in person rather than ordering online unseen.
- Find the right size – Carefully measure the room and map out sofa placement before finalizing size. Standard mid-century sofas range from 60-96 inches wide. Ensure it fits the space without overwhelming.
- Mind the proportions – Mid-century sofas tend to have relatively low, close-to-floor profiles. Make sure seat height, arm height and cushion thickness complement the room’s proportions. An overstuffed sofa will look boxy.
- Choose suitable colors – Stick to muted, neutral and earthy color palettes that align with mid-century style – light tans, soft grays, subdued blues and greens. That said, some bolder colors can liven up the right space.
- Audition options in person – To evaluate size, proportions, style and comfort, visit furniture stores to view potential sofas in person. Take time sitting, lounging and testing different sofas before deciding.
- Assess quality and durability – Carefully examine frames, cushion fillings, upholstery fabric and construction details in person. A sofa is a sizable investment, so ensure it is well-built with a durable frame and quality materials.
FAQs and Answers About Mid-Century Modern Sofas
What’s the average price range for mid-century style sofas?
Prices can vary quite a bit based on materials, construction quality and brand notoriety. More affordable IKEA-style mid-century sofas start around $800 on the low end. Big name designer brands can run $4,000+. Custom-made mid-century sofas with high quality construction tend to fall between $1,500 – $3,000.
How do I clean and care for a mid-century modern sofa?
- Vacuum frequently using the upholstery attachment to remove dust and debris from crevices.
- Immediately spot clean spills and stains with a damp cloth and mild detergent.
- Check manufacturer’s instructions – some fabrics can be machine washed but others require professional cleaning only.
- Steam clean as needed to refresh upholstery and deep clean.
- Avoid placing in direct sunlight, which can cause fading.
- Turn and rotate the cushions periodically to evenly distribute wear.
How much seating space do I need to accommodate guests?
As a general rule, allot 20-30 inches of seating space per person. A 60-inch sofa will seat 2 people comfortably, 72-inches fits 3 guests, 84-inches seats 4, and so on. Keep in mind mid-century sofas tend to have shallower, less deep seats than traditional styles, so don’t squeeze sections too tight. Carefully measure available room space before deciding on sofa size.
Are mid-century modern sofas good for families with kids and pets?
The low profile and minimal arms/back of some mid-century sofas make them less ideal for lounging or napping than higher, deeper seated sofas. However, styles made from durable leathers, wools and slipcovers wear well under heavy family use. Use furniture covers to protect from pet fur and accidents. For kid-friendly lounging, avoid a very low seat – aim for at least 15-16 inches high. You can add loose cushions for play and naps. Supervise young kids who may want to jump on the sofa.
How can I decorate the rest of the room around my new mid-century modern sofa?
Use decor in clean-lined, natural materials like wood, cotton, linen, wool and ceramic to complement a mid-century sofa. Incorporate other mid-century modern furniture like open leg chairs, splat back dining chairs etc. Add warmth with cozy layered rugs, blankets and pillows. Use geometric patterns and textures sparingly – try them on pillows, table lamps, wall art.potted plants like succulents and snake plants lend an organic vibe. Overall keep furnishings simple and accent decor minimalist. Let the sofa be the visual highlight.
With their clean lines, organic shapes, and neutral earthy tones, mid-century modern sofas have a timeless appeal that fits right in with 21st century home interiors. But with so many styles to pick from, it can be daunting to choose the just-right sofa for your space and needs.
By understanding the most popular mid-century sofa types, carefully assessing your room layout, and keeping key considerations like size, materials and color in mind, you’re sure to find a mid-century sofa that becomes the focal point of your room.
Mid-century modern furniture and decor has a nostalgic appeal tied to the Mad Men era of cocktails, tailfins and TV dinners. But thoughtfully chosen, a new mid-century sofa won’t just tap into retro nostalgia, but become a centerpiece that enhances the decor of any contemporary home for decades to come.