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Is navy a mid-century modern color?

Mid-century modern design refers to the style that was popular between the 1940s and 1960s. It’s characterized by clean, simple lines and often incorporates natural shapes and materials. When it comes to color, mid-century modern style tends to use muted, earthy tones like greens, browns, tans, and blues.

Navy blue specifically was a very popular color during the mid-century modern era. Its rich, deep shade fits right in with the muted color palette of the time. Navy blue was often seen in furniture, architecture, appliances, and home accessories during the mid-century.

The History of Navy Blue in Mid-Century Design

Navy blue has long been associated with style and sophistication. Its roots stem from the dark blue naval uniforms worn by officers in the British Royal Navy in the 18th century. The rich color became associated with authority and naval power.

As fashions changed over time, navy blue transitioned into a staple neutral shade. Both Coco Chanel and Balenciaga featured navy blue in their collections in the 1920s and 1930s. Its ubiquity grew after World War II when synthetics allowed more affordable mass production of navy blue clothing and home goods.

By the 1950s, navy blue was a quintessential mid-century modern color. Its versatility allowed it to work in both bold, graphic ways and as a muted neutral. Navy mixed well with other signature mid-century colors like orange, green, brown, and yellow.

Navy Blue in Mid-Century Modern Furniture

Navy blue showed up frequently in furniture during the mid-century era. Danish modern designs often featured navy blue fabrics or leather upholstery. Iconic creations like the Egg Chair and Swan Chair used navy blue to offset light woods and sculptural shapes.

American designers like Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson also used navy blue in their furniture collections. Its muted vibe provided the perfect counterpoint to both walnut and teak woods and more vibrant pops of color.

Mid-century modern furniture design Use of navy blue
Eames Lounge Chair Leather or fabric upholstery
Nelson Platform Bench Fabric or painted wood
Saarinen Womb Chair Fabric upholstery
Bertoia Diamond Chair Vinyl or leather pads
Panton Chair Molded plastic

Beyond furniture, navy blue was also popular in rug designs. Patterned area rugs often integrated navy with tans, whites, oranges, and pale yellows. The color anchored busier designs while still feeling modern and fresh.

Navy Blue Architecture in the Mid-Century

Beyond decor, navy blue also made its way into mid-century modern architecture. Many houses from or inspired by this era use navy blue accent colors on exterior details.

For example, the special shade Rex Blue developed by industrial designer Alexander Girard was popular on mid-century homes. Painting a front door or window accents navy immediately identified a house as modern.

Inside mid-century homes, navy blue walls continued the streamlined look in bedrooms, kitchens, and accent walls. Navy contrasted well with popular woody tones like teak and rosewood.

Navy Blue in Mid-Century Appliances and Housewares

The sleek, retro look of navy blue also made it ideal for appliances and housewares in the atomic age. It conveyed a bold, technologically advanced vibe on products.

Kitchen appliances commonly came in navy blue during the 1950s and 1960s. Refrigerators, ovens, and stand mixers all utilized navy to communicate both sophistication and modernity. The color also hid dirt and wear better than lighter shades.

Navy blue dinnerware was also popular mid-century for its versatility and style. Mixing navy plates and mugs with atomic starburst patterns completed the retro kitchen aesthetic.

Enamelware pots and pans in navy blue provided a pop of color in kitchens as well. Navy blue integrated seamlessly into the color stories of the time.

The Comeback of Navy Blue in Mid-Century Inspired Design

After falling out of favor in the 1970s and 1980s, navy blue is back in a big way in interior design today. The renewed popularity of mid-century modern and atomic ranch aesthetics has brought navy blue back into style.

Paint companies like Sherwin Williams and Behr have featured navy blue as a trending color for several years running. Navy offers a dash of retro flair while still feeling sophisticated and timeless.

Contemporary furniture and decor collections often integrate navy blue as well as a nod to the mid-century era. Using navy in moderation creates an elegant, pulled-together look.

Navy blue also remains a popular choice for kitchen appliances and accessories like stand mixers, bar carts, kettles and utensil holders. It brings together contemporary elements with retro flair.

Tips for Incorporating Navy Blue

Want to use navy blue to add a dash of mid-century style to your space? Here are some quick tips:

  • Use navy blue in moderation. Try it on one large piece of furniture or a few key accent pieces.
  • Pair navy with warm woods like walnut and teak to echo mid-century style.
  • Mix navy with retro pastel colors like mint green, pale yellow, or coral.
  • Use navy walls or accent walls to create an enveloping dark backdrop.
  • Choose navy blue appliances or kitchen accessories like stand mixers or bar carts.
  • Layer navy blue and white bedding and textiles for contrast.
  • Paint your front door navy blue for a fun retro statement.


With its rich, sophisticated tone and retro pedigree, navy blue remains a versatile go-to color for achieving a mid-century modern aesthetic. Integrating navy into your space through furniture, accent pieces, architecture details, or accessories can create a stylish and collected look.

Moderately using navy blue pays homage to the mid-century era while still feeling current. Just be careful not to overdo it. Navy works best when balanced with lighter neutrals and natural woods. With some thoughtful navy blue accents, you can master the quintessential mid-century vibe.