If you love the midcentury modern look, add some retro style to your room with our easy projects.


Lamp and table projects

Midcentury modern style isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. After all, no one wants to live in a room best suited to a museum and who can afford it anyway? Instead, go the economical route and combine our easy painted projects with simple furnishings in a neutral palette that share a clean-lined aesthetic. The style is all about being bold and having fun. So grab a paintbrush and enjoy!


Kidney shape table

Martinis, anyone? Recreate a 1950s party vibe with a kidney shape coffee table made from painted medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Create starbursts with painted circles and paint-pen details, then outfit your coffee table with vintage or 60s-inspired accessories.

Gather your materials

Trace a kidney shape onto MDF or furniture grade plywood. Cut out the shape with a jigsaw. Sand the edges smooth.

Paint the plywood with one coat of primer, let dry.

Base coat the top and sides with antique or off white latex paint, let dry and apply a second coat.


Tracing shapes on tabletop

When thoroughly dry, trace three different-sized circles in a random pattern onto the tabletop. We used a jar, bottle, and can, but any circular household item will do. You can also use a stencil or stamp.


Painted retro table
When you are satisfied with number and placement of circles, using an artist’s brush, fill in shapes with blue or green acrylic craft paint.

Let dry and apply a second coat if needed.

Using a black paint pen, draw lines through the circles in starburst patterns. If you’re lousy at drawing straight lines, like me, use a ruler to guide you.


Detail of painted table
With a metallic gold paint pen, add dots to both ends of each line. Let dry.
Apply a coat of poly acrylic sealer.

When thoroughly dry, attach hairpin legs to the underside of the tabletop according to manufacturer’s directions.


Painted lamp and shade

For this retro look, paint abstract dandelion shapes in colors straight from the 1950s and add details with a paint pen.


lamp before

Our lamp was a $5 find at a surplus store. Midcentury modern lamps tended to be tall and slim to balance the characteristically low-slung furniture of the era. Curvy bases with tall lampshades were common.


Final painted shade

Gather your materials:




Painted lamp base

Wrap all brass parts and the cord near the base with blue painter’s tape. Spray lamp base with aqua paint, let dry thoroughly.


Spray painted lamp base

Spray a second coat of paint on the base. When dry, remove tape carefully. Looks like we had a couple of “oops” moments.


Kraft paper patterns on shade

Using the photo as a guide, cut out dandelion shapes from kraft paper and tape to lampshade with painter’s tape. Move the shapes around until you get a configuration that you like.


Shapes drawn on shade

Trace shapes and note color choices with fabric marker. Scatter your three colors around the shade evenly.


Painting shapes on shade

Paint shapes by outlining with artist’s brush dipped in base color, then filling in with angled brush. Let dry.


Adding details with black paint pen

With black paint pen, add detail from bottom center of each shape and let dry.


Finished painted shade

Add straight black stems with paint pen and let dry. A chiseled tip lets you draw either thin or thick lines.


Dandelion Clocks in Chaffinch

Our lampshade design was inspired by Sanderson’s Dandelion Clocks pattern in Chaffinch, available in wallpaper (shown, DOPWDA104) and fabric (DOPNDA204). Available to trade only. Sanderson; 212/319-7220; sanderson-uk.com.


Lamp and table projects

Supplement your 1950s finery with simple furnishings: a contemporary linen sofa, striped carpet squares, and color-coordinated ceramics.


Projects by Ginny Randall
Photos by Cameron Sadeghpour

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