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Midcentury Modern -- Creating a bathroom that Don Draper would be proud to use

Posted by Amy Siders on June 24, 2022 0 Comments

Waterhouse isn’t just a pretty face…

We’re also a wealth of knowledge and we LOVE to share that with you!

We’re going to pick a topic weekly and tell (and show!) you everything you need to know.

This week?

Midcentury Modern.

What is that??? Wood paneling? Black and white tile?  Color mixed in? Interesting lighting fixtures?


What does that mean?

How do I make it work in my space?

Waterhouse has answers to these questions….

What is Midcentury Modern?

Midcentury modern style originated during the middle of the 20th century and embodied the needs and wants of the population of that time. Midcentury modern design is rooted in functionality, clean lines, and simplicity, which reflected the world at that time. Homes were more linear, focused on maintaining a nuclear family unit and as such, the furniture design echoed this environment.

Unlike frillier pieces or those filled with ornate detailing, midcentury modern furniture and design is much more straightforward in nature. The need and desire for functional, simplistic furniture and decor in our homes was a rebellion against the ornate traditions from decades before, and a way for families to embrace a more modern, organic way of living.

Most authentic midcentury modern furniture is made from teak. Teak was preferred for its richness in color and durability. Rosewood and oak were the other commonly used woods, mostly in case pieces like tables, desks, and storage cabinets.

But wood was by no means the only material present in the creation of midcentury modern pieces. Materials were critical to midcentury design – there was a lot of wood, metal, glass, and vinyl, often used in tension with each other to create a unique look. These materials were often used to create furnishings in curved shapes. The famous Eames chair is a hallmark of this. Other unique shapes took hold through curved and almost round sofas, odd-shaped coffee tables, and even geometric shapes that felt angular and clean."

Color was also a major component of midcentury style, using color in ways we didn't see before, often either as a bold accent or to make a piece of furniture stand out singularly in a room.

So that’s what it is and what it means.

Now, how do you bring midcentury modern design into your home without feeling like you’re building a TV set or curating a museum?

Start small. Like a bathroom renovation. We can DEFINITELY help with that.

Embrace Wood Paneling

Wait…wood paneling? You want me to embrace wood paneling?!

Wood paneling is kind of like cottage cheese; you either love it or hate it, there’s no middle ground.

Some think it's far too reminiscent of what could be considered a design faux pas of years past, but when constructed to perfection it can be a stunning addition to any bathroom. Try using it to frame your shower or line the walls and it'll serve as an instant time portal (in a good way!) to mid-century modern style.

Focus on Lighting

You can infuse a good dose of mid-century modern flair through lighting alone. The oblong wall-mounted lights here are sleek and play beautifully off the sharp black hardware, mirror frame, and faucets. If you're going to spend money on one thing for refreshing a bathroom, lighting can do so much.

Don't Be Shy to Experiment with Color

Pink, teal, olive green, and orange are just a few of the fun shades that were seen during the decades that mid-century modern covered. If you have a particular shade, like this fun bubblegum pink, that you're too timid to try in another room, coat the walls of your bathroom in it. You'll be staying true to your style and incorporating some extra fun tones.

When it comes to picking a color scheme, choose a muted palette. Multiple muted greens and mustardy yellows together with warm-colored wood instantly evoke the midcentury modern look. A touch of turquoise, perhaps in an artwork, will provide the finishing touch.

Experiment With Shapes and Sizes

The different circumferences of circular shapes reflected in everything from the mirror to the cabinet pulls are a chic complement to the angles of the vanity and tiles used on the floor. This is a nice little added bit of detail that's reminiscent of mid-century modern design. The selection of neutral colors also means that this bathroom will stay timeless for decades.

 This focus on items being only as large as they need to be to function is a big part of why mid-century modern spaces feel so open and bright. Smaller, simpler pieces of furniture mean there's more negative space in a room, and that space becomes part of the decor.


For those who love the shades of midcentury modern but aren't interested in painting a whole bathroom in them, turn to your flooring. This powder room makes a convincing case for pink tile. If renovating your floors is completely out of the question, you can get a similar effect with stick-on backsplashes or an accent wall of tiles.

Cover Your Walls with Pops of Color


Get Groovy with Patterns

While this bathroom may not look like the others, its dark wood vanity and wild patterns make it a fit for being in a lineup of midcentury modern inspired bathrooms. Think of the groovy patterns and prints that received love in the '60s and '70s and soon enough you'll be considering pasting up some cool wallpaper of your own.

Make a Minimalist Mark

Many midcentury modern palettes include bright and bold tones, but muted color schemes are equally as popular. If you prefer quiet shades in your bathroom, stick with beiges, browns, grays, blacks, and metallics. A clean, simple bathroom like this is also reminiscent of Scandi-inspired spaces.

 Create a Warm and Cool-Toned Space

Normally, warm and cool tones are separated from one another to prevent clashing, but like every so-called style rule, it's meant to be broken. The colder gray on the walls works a treat with the warm toned wood. With the addition of the black cast iron fixtures, the space feels finished and pulled together.

Blend Classic with Trendy

The wood vanity and tessellating tile make this bathroom an ultra-chic nod to midcentury modern. This room spins towards Cali cool and shows how malleable this design look can be and how it can be updated over time.

 Keep It Fresh and Updated

A wooden vanity and sleek black accents create a pretty nod to midcentury modern. Although this bathroom features some characteristics from that time, it feels updated and fresh thanks to things like the subway tile and more!


There you have it.

Midcentury modern simplified.

Waterhouse wants to make everything easier for you.

Stop into our Perrysburg showroom to find out more.

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