Mid-Century Modern Lighting

Sep 20, 2022

What is Mid-Century Modern Lighting?

Mid-century modern is the trend that just keeps trending. Since its inception in the 1950s, mid-century design has found life in every decade. The combination of classic furnishings with modern materials and finishes keeps this style fresh. It’s a perfect blend of traditional and contemporary, quirky and functional, and manages a clean, almost minimalist look without the fear of color and unique shapes. Lighting is a terrific way to dip your toe into the trendy mid-century modern water without saturating your space or your budget. It’s a smart approach to use in decorating new facilities because it’s clean and functional, but it’s also ideal for existing commercial facility updates because of the bold colors and geometric shapes available. In this lighting style guide, TCP 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.

One main difference from mid-century style is the lack of color contrast. Scandanavian design utilizes a lot of natural light with white walls to make a space feel bigger, especially during the long, harsh winters when people were stuck inside. Function trumps decor, so you’ll find more table lamps for specific task lighting. Overhead and floor lamps — if they exist — are simple and neutral. Another definite contrast between the two styles is the wood tones. Scandanavian designs call for light, muted wood where mid-century modern pieces lean toward richer tones. This is true of furniture and lighting elements as well as flooring.

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 extra illumination but don’t want conventional ceiling or track lighting, consider how a tree lamp (or floor lamp) might fit the bill. These lamps provide the task lighting you need in a more powerful and stylish way. Tree lamps make a statement because they originate from the floor rather than typical ceiling light fixtures, and they often include branches of multiple lights. Between the base, the branches, the shades, and the bulbs, tree lamps infuse plenty of personality — by mixing materials and bringing sheer volume — into your space. Choose a straight, tripod, or arched design based on the amount of space you have and the furniture you may have to work around.

Outdoor Lamps

There’s no shortage of stylish mid-century modern outdoor lamps to complement your new commercial building design or refresh the ambiance of an existing exterior.  Spread light across an entire facade using several wall sconces, or light up an entryway with just one or two sconces. Vertical sconces may shower light both up and down, while other designs include extended arms with lights pointing in just one direction. No matter what you choose, a sconce is the perfect avenue for sprinkling vintage or industrial flair into your design.

Mid-Century Modern Lighting Features & Fixtures

When you incorporate mid-century modern lighting features in your design, you bring an old-school style to a new space. Unlike minimalist interiors where fixtures are either absent or barely visible, mid-century modern lighting relies heavily on the fixture itself.  This is exactly where the TCP Light All Program specifically benefits architects. We offer start-to-finish solutions from prototype to installation, creating the bulbs, fixtures, and systems to match your specifications and demands. If you’re inspired by this lighting design style but can’t find the right fixture for your space, partner with us and we’ll create an incredible, custom piece.


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 lighting provides a decorative hanging focal point with concentrated light. Mid-century pendants distribute glare-free light downward and laterally, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors to match your vision for your space. Consider a trail of pendants across several restaurant booths or a bar counter for a sleek and widespread visual. For an even more modern lighting approach, call on TCP LED products. Our Energy Star rated energy efficient light bulbs last about 24 years longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, and use over 75% less energy. Your clients will notice and appreciate fewer bulb replacements, lower energy bills, and a positive move toward sustainability for the planet.


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.

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