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Perfecting a mid-century modern interior design

Perfecting a Mid-Century Modern Interior Design (RV Decorating)

Published on September 19th, 2021
Updated on January 31st, 2024

Do you love the look of mid-century modern homes and decor and want to bring that aesthetic into your recreational vehicle?

Part of owning an RV is the ability to decorate it to your taste, and imparting a mid-century modern theme is not only possible but will set your camper apart from the crowd.

Decorating an RV, so the style looks cohesive means going step-by-step from flooring to walls to decor and nailing this era’s bold color scheme and sleek designs without it being overwhelming.

To help you bring this look to your camper, I put design inspiration and the best tips in this guide on how to create a mid-century modern RV theme.

When you follow some basic decorating rules, it’s easy to transform any bland RV decor into something exciting, no matter your budget, so let’s dive in!

Best RV Mid-Century Modern Decorating Ideas

Mid-century modern decorating ideas

The best way to streamline your design plans to create a stunning mid-century modern RV interior is to break the project into steps.

It’s also crucial to remember that space inside a recreational vehicle is valuable. This feature means you’ll want to add decor pieces that fit the theme but are also functional for use during camping trips.

While a vintage-looking RV is an excellent start for the mid-century decorating style, any travel trailer, motorhome, or fifth wheel can take on the design. So let’s use the tips below to transform your camper and make each new journey even more memorable!

Choose a Specific Mid-Century Modern Theme

Remember that no two people will interpret the mid-century modern theme the same way, so plot out which elements of the style appeal to you the most.

With the mid-century modern design style running from the 1940s through the 1960s, there are plenty of variations to suit your taste.

Creating a mood board with colors, furniture, flooring, walls, and lighting will help you formulate the best plan and help you visualize how your choices work together to bring your ideas to life.

Some mid-century modern decorating sub-themes to consider are focusing on a specific decade or years when the style was popular.

For instance, the 1940s used a more extensive mix of colors in both furniture and accent pieces, while in the early 1950s, the emphasis was on greens and oranges. The late 1950s and early 1960s showcased more wood and stone with yellow tones and teal upholstery.

Narrowing down which vibe of the mid-century modern look excites you most will help you finalize your RV design plan. Go online and scroll through different images of vintage photos and see what captures your attention and gather your color scheme and overall design clues from there.

One of the appealing aspects of mid-century modern design is the timeless look of the significant furniture pieces. The benefit of this theme is it allows you to keep most of the main components and transition them to a new theme if you decide to redo your RV in the future.

Choose Your Mid Century Modern Color Palette

A mid century modern color palette

Colors from the mid-century modern era consist of these main shades:

  • Yellow Gold
  • Mustard Yellow
  • Pumpkin Orange
  • Teal
  • Avocado Green
  • Apple Green
  • Olive Green
  • Browns
  • Earthy Reds
  • Light Pink
  • Baby Blue

Specific colors were more popular, say in the late 1940s versus the mid-1950s, so you can select colors to fit more precisely to the niche look you are going for, or you can choose the ones you find most appealing.

For the limited space inside a recreational vehicle, a great tip is to limit your colors to no more than three shades. Too many colors will make the interior feel too chaotic and detract from the simplistic mid-century look you are trying to achieve.

One thing to note is to select colors with the same intensity or vibrancy, so the look remains balanced.

While pops of pastel pinks or blues were fashionable with the mid-tone color shades, there wasn’t a mix of tones within a single color. So, for example, you wouldn’t find an olive couch with lighter or darker shades of olive cushions or throw pillows.

The last tip on selecting color is to consider your RVs lighting during day and night.

A brighter interior can work well for darker tones such as greens, reds, teal, and browns, but if your RV feels “dark,” you may opt for the yellow tones or pastel pink for the upholstery or cabinets to brighten the space.

Create a Mid Century Modern Accent Wall

Vertical wood slats in mid to dark stained brown tones are a classic mid-century look that you can easily bring into your RV’s interior.

The majority of your interior walls can be white or very light grey. Then you can choose a single wall or even your kitchen backsplash area to install a slat wall.

The key to achieving the look of the era is to install the slats in a vertical position.

If a wood wall isn’t an option, you can go instead with a stenciled or wallpapered accent wall.

Geometric patterns were common for wallpapers, so adding that touch to the kitchen backsplash or a living area, bedroom, or bathroom wall will bring your theme to life.

Mid Century Modern Cabinet and Furniture Details

Mid century modern cabinets

Mid-century modern furniture and decor focus on clean lines, simple shapes (often with curves), use of metal and wood in new ways, and organic elements.

Part of the appeal of mid-century design style is that furniture is built with care and quality, with most items having a decidedly artistic flair that adds interest to a space while being functional.

Most furniture will have no texture or patterns on the piece, and sofas and chairs use slim, cylindrical legs to elevate them off the floor.

While cushioned chairs of this time were often rounded or angular, sofas were rectangular with a lower back. The leather Eames lounge and ottoman and molded plastic chairs are classics that will pull the theme together.

Tables and dressers from this time were stained wood, with tapered legs that angled outward (often with brass caps on the feet) or metal hairpin legs.

A fantastic idea to add the retro look to your RV bedroom is to add two legs to the front of your typically floating side tables to help it fit the theme.

For an RV, installing a coffee or side table with doors for hidden storage is the best option because it allows you extra space to tuck away camping supplies or personal items. I like the look and versatility of the Ashley Store nightstand.

On the flip side, tables could also be sleek, with rounded tops and a single pedestal leg made with white laminated surfaces. This tulip-shaped table is another iconic mid-century piece you can find in a range of price points.

Swapping out your dinette for a tulip table and molded plastic chairs will instantly transform your RV interior.

Wood is the top material of choice in mid-century design, but combinations of wood with metal, plastic, leather, marble, and fiberglass were trendy as well.

Cabinetry from this era was typically a flat-panel door with a mid-tone wood stain finish that showcases the grain.

You can have flat panels cut from thin plywood to install over cabinet doors with routed detailing and stain them to match, or you can replace the doors with ones that have a flat surface.

Cabinet hardware should be simple, and the color should be soft brass or gold. A slim bar handle or circular knob was the style of the times, and it’s these little touches that will make your overall mid-century design feel more authentic.

If you want to reduce the wood tones inside your RV, you can also paint your kitchen cabinetry.

A bank of avocado or olive cabinets will give the interior a boost of color without being loud, or you can go bold with teal and let the kitchen area be a focal point.

Suppose you plan to repaint the RV cabinets. In that case, I highly recommend you clean them with TSP to remove grime and oils, sand the surfaces to remove the sheen, then apply Benjamin Moore/INSL-X Stix Water Primer before you finish with two coats of high-quality paint.

Look for paint made for kitchen or bathroom application, as it will have a more durable finish. For example, if you don’t want to sand your cabinets, buy a paint made specifically to adhere to varnished surfaces such as Beyond Paint’s All-in-One Refinishing.

Best RV Mid Century Modern Flooring Ideas

An RV mid century modern flooring

Current RVs tend to have laminate or vinyl wood-look flooring that may work perfectly for your mid-century theme, but swapping out (or covering) flooring that clashes with the design may be necessary.

The five most common flooring choices from this era are:

  • White and grey tone Terrazzo
  • Cork
  • Vinyl tiles
  • Hardwood
  • Polished concrete

The beauty of choosing a mid-century theme is the flooring looks spot on if you go with laminate stick-on tiles that are inexpensive and easier to install.

You can find a huge array of vinyl self-stick tiles at home improvement centers that look like the above materials and will suit your theme. However, please keep the entire floor simple and solid without an obvious pattern unless it copies the look of wood planks.

If your RV has carpet, you don’t have to remove it unless it clashes with your color scheme. Thankfully, most newer campers come with a tan carpet that can work well with the mid-century look and save you time and money.

Best Mid Century Modern Lighting

It’s incredible how switching out your RV lighting to mid-century modern designs can make the interior look more residential and less cookie-cutter camper.

Please note that certain lights wired for 12-volt operation may not work off-grid if you switch the fixture for common 110-volt wiring. Luckily, there are retailers, such as Viluxy lights that can work for RV installation.

The shape of the light is critical. Round or curved shapes in both ceiling mount and pendant lighting evoke the mid-century retro vibe.

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Shapes that look futuristic or resemble UFOs are an ideal choice, but even changing out the boring dual light standard RV fixture to a plain round one will do wonders.

Best Mid Century Modern RV Window Treatments

A comfortable RV

While the residential mid-century modern design did away with fussy curtains and blinds and instead went with the clean look of bare windows, doing this in an RV will be next to impossible if you want any privacy.

I suggest leaving or installing day/night shades but removing the bulky valances and side curtains.

If you want to hide the shade brackets and hardware, you can mount a 1″ x 4″ piece of wood over the top portion of the window frame and stain it the same shade as the wood tones in your furniture.

You can go a step further by using wood trim around the perimeter of the entire window frame to emulate the classic wood and glass look found in mid-century homes.

Mid Century Modern Decor Must-Haves

Certain elements of mid-century design stand out, such as:

While you won’t have room in most RVs for all these features, choosing several will solidify the theme.

Mid-century modern wall art is abstract, with either bold and bright lines and colors such as those by Andy Warhol or softer, more muted splatters or blobs made famous by Jackson Pollock.

We all know that wall space is at a premium inside any RV, but finding a spot to place one statement artwork piece you purchase or DIY will make an impact.

If you have space, a round mirror trimmed in gold-tone metal rods that emanates in a starburst is one accent piece that is both functional and stunning. You can find the perfect size to hang in the bathroom or in the living space to check on your look before you head out for the day.

Don’t forget the little details that complete the mid-century theming, such as a wire and marble or wood magazine rack. I like the dual-use of the End Table by Furinno that stores books and magazines yet has a compact size perfect for an RV.

If you own a large Class A or Class C motorhome or camping trailer, adding a bar cart that can double as extra counter space for meal prep or for entertaining on your campsite patio is a great touch. A perfect choice will have doors, like this one from Heritage Furniture, so you can secure your items inside for safe transport on travel days.

Bring the Mid Century Vibe to the RV Exterior

If you want to complete your RV redecoration by bringing elements of the mid-century design to the exterior, you can do so in several ways.

If you want to repaint your RV, which is a project in and of itself, you can emphasize the theme by painting the exterior a white or light grey with an angular streak of silver or navy blue on each side.

You can then add retro vinyl decals like these atomic dandelion starbursts or Jester diamonds or other cool designs to finish off the look.

Simple globe string lights in glass or wicker are the perfect element to decorate your awning and light up your patio area at night while staying on point with the mid-century theme.

Where to Find Mid Century Modern Furniture and Decor

A mid century modern furniture

To find remakes of mid-century modern designs, you can shop online through retailers like Amazon, CB2, Article, West Elm, Allmodern, or Rejuvenation, or shop in person at Ikea and Target.

You can also find vintage pieces through eBay, regional online marketplaces like Facebook, Nextdoor, or Craigslist, and my favorite – scouring local flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and thrift stores for that unique find.

You can also DIY many decor items by refinishing old furniture and stencil patterns on your walls.

Budget and long-term decorating goals play a role in whether or not you want to go with authentic period pieces or quality remakes. I find one or two vintage items add to the realism of the look, as they have a patina and feeling modern remakes just can’t capture.

Final Thoughts

The best RV mid-century modern interiors blend your unique style with the classic furniture and decorating themes of the times.

What I like most about this decorating theme is the clean lines that make your RV interior feel open and airy and that it’s uncommon, so your camper will be fun to show off to friends and family.

When you follow the guidelines above and curate your selection of colors and decor, you can expect your mid-century modern final design to be stunning, so give it a try!

Check out more RV decorating ideas in our articles: Minimalist RV Decorating Ideas and best RV Decorating tips for country vibe.

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