How To Decorate Your Home Like Mad Men

The show "Mad Men" was, without a doubt, an epic undertaking not just in storytelling but in creating a period drama that drew viewers in by the millions, week after week. And while the drama-driven plotlines and characters you loved (or loved to hate) were all part of it, there's no denying that the mid-century style, both in clothing and decor, was a huge draw as well. 

And a lot of work went into getting the sets of "Mad Men" just right. According to MidCentury, the show has triggered widespread excitement for mid-century design, and that's in no small part to the talented set designers who devoted themselves to making sure every detail was just right. Set designer Amy Wells said she wanted to make the sets look "imperfect." "I want to make 'Mad Men' look real, as if the people really have those pieces. It's important that they be imperfect, not iconic," she explained. A wonderful bonus to her set design is that we can easily re-create those looks in our own homes, thanks to the inspiration she brought to the show. 

Look for brass accents and accessories

Brass lamps have that classic vintage look, and one with modern lines would be perfectly at home in any "Mad Men" inspired room, according to Style at Home. Consider a brass desk lamp, or look for brass wall sconces, which add a touch of mid-century modern style anywhere you need it. According to HomeLight, brass was a popular material in mid-century modern design because its warm, golden tone contrasted so well with the often sleek furniture at that time.

If you buy a table lamp that requires a lampshade, you'll want to make sure that you get a shade that fits the period look. According to Foter Magazine, you can't go wrong with a classic drum-style shade. These perfect cylinder shapes scream mid-century modern, and you can find them in plenty of different fabrics and colors to fit the rest of your decor. To make sure your shade is in proportion with your lamp, make sure it's double as wide as the lamp base, and makes up 1/3 of the total height of the light (via Architectural Digest.)

Decorate with touches of period color

Browns, burnt oranges, bright teal. Even if you don't want to go all-out and paint entire walls in these colors, adding them via an upholstered piece, a rug, or a painted piece of furniture will give you that mid-century modern touch, according to Better Homes and Gardens. Some other colors to add to your mid-century palette include bright yellow and flamingo pink. Seafoam green is also a good option here.

The best thing is, you can use as much color as you feel comfortable with and still get that "Mad Men" look. Maybe you tend to prefer more neutral decor; not a problem. A throw pillow in vintage burnt orange or teal, or even a few vases or decorative trays in those colors, can give you that touch of that retro '50s aesthetic. And if you love color, you can absolutely go all out and have a riot of vintage hues in your home. It's completely up to you.

One great piece can give you that 'Mad Men' feel

You don't need to start from scratch to start giving your home that 'Mad Men' look, according to Hirschfield's. A period-inspired lamp, a vintage clock, or a side chair will skew your room's design in a more mid-century modern direction, even if the rest of your home has a contemporary look. The point here is to choose pieces that will draw the eye and place them in prominent spots.

Choose retro pieces you love to make the room feel unique. As far as placement, think about which spots in your home your eye is naturally drawn to. A few ideas include mantels, coffee tables, shelves, kitchen islands, or any wall opposite the entrance of a room. That's the first thing you see when you walk into a room. Giving those high-visibility areas a touch of mid-century modern can make the whole space feel like a place Betty Draper would have called home.

Add a Saarinen-style table

Saarinen is a classic mid-century modern name, and whether you want a glass-topped tulip table or a sleek white version of it, one of these tables can give your living or family room just the "Mad Men" touch you've been hoping for, according to Decoist. The great news is that you don't have to hope a vintage treasure falls into your lap. Saarinen tables are still being made, and while they're not the least expensive decor option, they will undoubtedly make it feel like Don Draper could walk through the door at any moment.

If a Saarinen table isn't exactly your style (or doesn't fit your budget), you can find items with a similar look without the hefty price tag. You can also consider something in a modern Danish style, which has clean lines that work perfectly for re-creating the "Mad Men" aesthetic in your home (via Apartment Therapy).

Danish-style upholstered pieces are a must

The clean lines of a Danish-style sofa or loveseat will immediately give your room the feel of something right out of the show, according to House & Garden. They have a clean-lined, contemporary look that works perfectly in any mid-century modern setting. This style of upholstered furniture had its heyday in the 1940s through the 1960s, and is known for its clean lines, strong architectural look, and often highlighted wood accents, such as in the arms or legs of chairs or sofas. 

The upholstery itself would work in any color, either a more neutral tone to use as a backdrop for the rest of your decor, or in a vibrant fabric to be a centerpiece. However, steer clear of fussy patterns here. Solid colors are best for items like this. According to Organic Modernism, the overall silhouette of a piece of Danish-style furniture is a large part of its appeal, adding a sense of playfulness and innovation to a room.

Consider a rotary-style phone, with a modern twist

Something about those old rotary phones just brings up a strong sense of nostalgia, and now you can get that look with the modern features we're used to, namely touch-tone dialing, according to Woman's Day. Part of the appeal of retro-inspired shows like "Mad Men" is that they take us back to a time that was, in some ways, less hectic and scattered. 

Take the telephone. Back in the day, when we had landline phones, you went to one spot in your home to take a phone call. Sure, maybe you still washed dishes or sorted the mail while on the phone, but you were restricted by cord length and which room you were in. And once you were done with your phone call ... you were done. There was no scrolling through other apps afterward. In a time when people are striving for more mindfulness and less screen time, this could be a great vintage touch to add to your home.

Keep it light

Above all, the mid-century modern style that inspired the sets of "Mad Men" is all about clean, open spaces and form over function, according to Decorilla. Furniture and other items from this period tend to take up as little space as possible. Think straight, streamlined sofa arms rather than ornate, scrolled ones, or table and chair legs that are purely functional, rather than large and decorative. Even in decorative items, there's a sense of simple silhouettes being more important than flashy designs. Vases, dinnerware, and even appliances from this period have clean, simple lines, according to The Family Handyman.

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.

You don't have to go full 'Mad Men' all at once

If you know this is a look you want in your home, it pays to scout out good quality pieces, adding them one at a time until you have exactly the look and feel you want. According to Architectural Digest, part of the allure of mid-century modern is that it works so well with other furniture styles because of its clean, straightforward design. So you can add a piece at a time and stop adding elements once you get the look you want.

This is good news for both those on a budget and for people who have a sentimental attachment to items in their home that might not necessarily fit into a full-fledged "Mad Men" style interior. You don't need to change everything in your home to get that mid-century modern look. Changing a key piece or two and adding a few well-chosen accessories will provide that "Mad Men" aesthetic, and you can add more over time if you wish.

Nothing says 'Mad Men' like a credenza

When you watch the show, nearly every room features a credenza, whether in an office or the characters' homes. This adds an immediate mid-century modern touch, according to HGTV. A clean-lined credenza in a natural wood tone ties a room together. It can bridge the more contemporary elements in your room with your vintage finds. As a functional piece of furniture, a credenza can anchor the space and allow you to build the rest of the room around it.

A credenza brings in that sense of vintage style and can be adapted to our modern needs. Consider using the drawers or cabinets to hold your electronics or charging stations for your devices. But for optimal mid-century modern style, try to keep the top of the credenza as clear of clutter as possible, or, if you must have items on it, consider a vintage bar set, some plants in classic mid-century style pots, or a vintage lamp.

Look for period barware and dinnerware

Keep your eye out for mid-century or vintage-inspired glassware, dishes, teapots, and other utensils. These details can give your home an instant vintage touch. According to House Beautiful, these seemingly-small touches, with items you'll use every day or at least most days, can up that sense of living on the set of "Mad Men."

What items can you consider adding? Cocktail glasses, period-inspired coffee and teacups, vintage plates (or those with a mid-century modern-inspired design), and serving ware such as platters and bowls are all good places to start. In addition to binging the show again (as if anyone needed another reason to re-watch it), you can also look online for inspiration. If you can get your hands on some period cookbooks or magazines, that's a bonus, but checking online retailers for mid-century or 1950s/1960s dinnerware will help point you in the right direction.

Embrace wood paneled walls

According to Better Homes and Gardens, wood paneling had its heyday in the mid-century, and the sets of "Mad Men" feature it often. It can make a room dark if it's everywhere but consider adding an accent wall of high-polished wood paneling for that "Mad Men" flair. If you already have wood paneling, consider yourself lucky and do not paint over it, which often happens in homes with the rustic accent.

If you can go all-out with actual wood paneling and you're sure you'll love living with it for a long time, that's a great way to go. But there are also high-quality wallpapers that can mimic the look for a fraction of the cost and a lot less work. If you're a crafty type, you can even paint your wall to look like wood paneling, according to SFGate. This might be the ideal solution for renters since it can easily be taken down if you decide to move.

Luxurious drapes add to the decadent feel

One of the features of Don and Betty Draper's living room are windows dressed in elegant Dupioni drapes. You can give your room that mid-century feel by considering adding a bit of extra style with your window treatments, according to Decoist. In many modern homes, the window treatments tend to be more functional than anything else. Blinds, shades, or curtains are generally almost an afterthought; a means to ensure privacy. But in vintage decor, including mid-century modern, the window treatments are a highlight of the room.

Valences, pleated drapes, and fabric roller shades were all popular window treatments in the mid-century home, according to Retro Renovation, and you can easily add this touch to your interior as well. Take your cues from the rest of your furnishings; if you already have a lot of bright colors, consider a more neutral tone. Or, if your room needs color and pattern, this is an excellent opportunity to add it.

Add comfort and style to the bedroom with an upholstered headboard

Several of the bedrooms in "Mad Men" feature upholstered headboards, and they provide yet another way to add both mid-century style and a pop of period color to your room, according to Woman's Day. In truth, this is a trend that's never entirely gone away; upholstered headboards are still popular, and with good reason. They provide a comfortable backdrop if you're the type who enjoys reading in bed, they add softness to the spot in the house that should be all about comfort, and they provide yet another opportunity to add color and pattern.

Tufted headboards, in particular, have the crisp, pulled-together style that's so common in mid-century modern design. And the good news is that if you're handy, you can easily make a tufted headboard yourself with just a few inexpensive materials (via Better Homes and Gardens). By doing it yourself, you can choose exactly the shape, size, and fabric that will work best in your space.

Contrast is the name of the game

A mix of clean-lined pieces, free-flowing nature-inspired elements, and a mix of neutrals and bright colors give that balance that so often makes a mid-century modern setting pop. According to MidCentury, consider juxtaposing detailed, carved, curved chairs with very stark, boxy furniture. This is more interesting than having an entire room of boxy furniture, and by juxtaposing the two, you draw more attention to each of their individual styles. The same is true for color: think contrast. Light and dark are obviously good contrasts, of course, but also keep the color wheel in mind. According to Ballard Designs, complementary colors add plenty of drama and contrast, and these are the colors opposite of one another on the color wheel.

That's quite possibly why mid-century modern style is so intriguing: By contrasting shape, form, and color, each piece takes on even more importance in the room, giving the eye a place to stop, which somehow makes even the smallest space feel bigger and more dramatic.