What is Mid-Century Modern Lighting?

Mid-century modern is a trend that continues to be popular. Since its inception in the 1950s, mid-century design has been reinvigorated every decade. The combination of classic furniture with modern materials and finishes keeps this style fresh. It's the perfect blend of traditional and modern, quirky and practical, giving a clean, almost minimalist look without worrying about colors and unique shapes. Lighting is a great way to get involved in mid-century fashion trends without taking up your space or budget. It’s a smart way to decorate new facilities because it’s clean and functional, but it’s also ideal for updating existing commercial facilities thanks to the bold colors and geometric shapes available. In this lighting style guide, metavaya shows you how to incorporate mid-century modern lighting ideas into your next commercial space.

Mid-Century Modern Design

Origins of Mid-Century Modern Design Geometric forms and the clean-lined Bauhaus and Danish modernist movements arrived in America via the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. About a decade later, the new style was gaining serious traction.  Americans embraced the future with designs paying homage to space travel and the Jetsons. Advancements in mass production and innovative materials like plastics and molded plywood inspired designers to boldly experiment with function, color, and shape. The result was iconic and timeless designs we know today.

Mid-Century vs Scandinavian

Scandinavian design became popular after World War II. Northern European countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden pulled inspiration from nature. Mechanical mass production hadn’t spread to the northern countries yet, so fine workmanship and natural materials became extremely important. They wasted as little as possible, making no room for unnecessary ornaments. Scandinavian pieces are functional, practical pieces with wood and other natural elements. The style is more minimalistic than mid-century modern, but there is no denying the similarities of clean lines and interesting shapes.

Mid-Century Modern Lighting Lamps

Personality meets professionalism with mid-century modern lighting lamps. The options are endless and you can find mid-century lamps for any style and budget. Look no further than this timeless style for your next commercial design project.

Table Lamps

Table lamps are a fun way to add retro flair to your mid-century design scheme. A small pop of color or a geometric shade in any room adds personality without polluting the overall aesthetic. Illumination is obviously important to all architects, but with mid-century modern design, you don’t have to sacrifice fun for function. Versatile materials make this an easy style to utilize in several areas within a single design project — think hotel lobby and guest rooms, corporate office lobby and executive suites, and beyond.

Tree Lamps

When you need to add additional lighting but don't require traditional ceiling or track lighting, consider how a tree light (or floor lamp) might fit the bill. These lights provide the task lighting you need in a more powerful and stylish way. Tree lights are eye-catching because they originate from the floor rather than typical ceiling fixtures, and they often include branches with multiple lights. Between base, branches, lampshades and bulbs, tree lights inject rich character into your space by mixing materials and bringing sheer volume. Depending on the amount of space you have and the furniture you may need to use, choose a straight, tripod, or arch design.

Wall Lamps

In 2020, the sculptural lighting trend continues with a focus on geometric fixtures. Don’t miss the opportunity to sprinkle in flush-mount lights like sconces that double as art. Multiple sconces create balance and consistent lighting in rooms or hallways, or you can pair them with mid-century modern lamps to make a room feel more spacious.

Pendant Lighting

Pendant lights provide a decorative hanging focal point with concentrated light. Mid-century chandeliers radiate glare-free light downward and sideways, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors to match your vision for your space. Consider hanging a string of pendants over several restaurant booths or bar counters for a stylish and extensive visual impact.


Is a pendant not quite big enough? Upgrade to a chandelier and transform the atmosphere of your space. The possibilities are endless when it comes to finding these large lighting fixtures and shades with interesting angles and curves. One key piece that sums up mid-century modern style is the Sputnik chandelier. Designers found inspiration in the Sputnik space satellite when it became the first to circle the globe in the fall of 1957. The look features several antennas in varying sizes and metal finishes. To enlist some drama without the antenna look, select a statement shade like a large glass globe, saucer, or paper lantern. The oversized shade combined with a clean shape gives your space a bold yet balanced element. A reflective material inside your chandelier shade will help cast light back down toward the floor, while textured fabrics will add warmth and shadow to a room.

When you incorporate mid-century modern lighting features into your design, you bring old-school style into a new space. Unlike minimalist interiors where light fixtures are non-existent or barely visible, mid-century modern lighting relies heavily on the fixtures themselves.