Mid Century Modern

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After nearly a half century has passed, America’s fascination with Mid Century Modern house plans continues to surge. This style consistently remains an influence for designers and architects while enduring as a homeowner favorite, in part as a nod to nostalgia, and in part, as an affection for simple designs with dramatic touches and infinite possibilities; a place where the past meets the present.

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The term “Mid Century Modern” is a term coined by Cara Greenberg in her book Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s, in celebration of a style wholly recognizable by people worldwide. This design style was not just recognized in architecture but rather as a complete movement that included interior design, furniture and accessories. The post WWII years experienced phenomenal changes, across the board, in American society; soldiers returning home, a booming economy, an increase in stable and inexpensive housing needs and the creation of new highways across America. One of the largest changes in home design was the inclusion of a garage to house vehicles. Although, this new addition had become popular around the 1920’s, it wasn’t until large amounts of housing was needed, especially in suburbia, as people began to build out of the city, that garage designs became a popular need.

Palm Springs, California, the quintessential image of Mid Century Modern design; can anyone think of Mid Century Modern without conjuring images of early Hollywood, the desert and the indispensable indoor/outdoor living afforded by its hot, arid climate? While Mid Century Modern homes can and are built across the U.S., this is where the movement first began in America as soldiers returned home from war. This new housing style blended perfectly with what Americans were looking for post war – modern, a hopeful future and an environment that was bright, sunny and full of possibilities.

Joseph Eichler

As one of many who built the suburbs, Joseph Eichler, who was neither an architect or designer, but rather a developer, who influenced the American landscape by hiring architects to design houses. These stunning modern homes met climate conditions, appealed to a large segment of the population and incorporated the landscape into home designs to create low cost and quality homes to serve the masses. Generally, these homes were one story, open concept plans with massive amounts of glass inserts to highlight an indoor/outdoor style of living, especially in sunny California, where he built in excess of 11,000 Mid Century Modern homes. Many of these homes still stand today and represent a way of life with their unique and iconic design symbols of a minimalist aesthetic.

Vintage

While, thankfully, not all that goes around, comes around in the world of architecture; the Mid Century Modern with its vintage vibe is alive and doing well with its throwback, nostalgic nod that celebrates sleek and simple styling. Continuity connects these different decades through the use of natural materials, open floor plans and massive amounts of glass intended to maximize garden views and a close relationship with “Mother Nature.” Vintage furnishings remain easily attainable and unless an original, quite affordable, as homeowners style their interiors from past and present magazine pages, scores of television ads and even extending to the set of Mad Men. These items continue to be popular because they seamlessly occupy space in contemporary/modern homes and still feel fresh and relevant today.

Also, in this case, familiarity does not breed contempt. Baby boomers who still represent a large segment of the American population, grew up with Mid Century designs; in their homes, in businesses, and on television, etc. and these continue to provide a direct link to their youth. The Brady Bunch, an iconic television program, which aired from late September of 1969 until March of 1974, is the second most photographed home in the United States, after the White House, so clearly there is much social and personal importance attached to this stylish architectural period.

L-shaped, One story, Ranch homes

These mostly, Ranch, one story homes may meander in many different directions and; oftentimes, resemble an L-shaped low slung home with complementary rooflines. They can appear to be at ease with their surroundings through the extensive use of glass and while open, the floor plans, can be differentiated for playing, living, cooking and sleeping. Grand living spaces with overhead and vertical light sources incorporated through the use of skylights and large window panels reveal bright and airy spaces where family and friends connect with ease. Large, sliding glass doors and panels minimize the lines between the indoor and outdoor space further adding to a close connected feeling. Finally, a large open deck or interior courtyard can bring the family together to enjoy the outdoors whether playing, grilling or relaxing under a canopy of evening stars.

Truly fashioned to enjoy family life and highlighted with erasable wall lines, these homes foster a sense of well-being and offer numerous health benefits to all that enjoy them. The floor plans of these homes offer an organic flow and multi-purpose spaces where one room simply seems to meld into another. Natural design materials such as stone, wood and metal along with tons of natural light involving vast glass walls heighten the outdoor experience. Although more prominent in sunny California and more temperate climates years ago, the advances in construction methods and materials make it possible for these homes to be built and enjoyed from one end of the country to the other today.

Courtyards

Courtyards are an essential part of Mid Century Modern living and continues to be; albeit, with modern touches. In an effort to provide relief from modern pressures and lifestyles, courtyard living offers green space, luxurious gardens and, at times, shelter for homeowners. Oftentimes, these outdoor spaces are centrally located and generally include some type of wood exterior making them as much a part of the house as the interior rooms. Even today, a sense of calm and peace can be incorporated into the interior spaces with massive glass panels, clerestory windows and flexible, open floor plans overlooking the courtyard and the L-shaped layouts really heighten the potential to include a courtyard view from almost every space in the house.

Narrow lots with two stories and/or basements

A key feature of Mid Century Modern homes is its horizontal, low flat roof, that can become like a Kansas horizon, endless and stretching out seemingly forever. This can become tedious if one isn’t careful to complement the home with either different room orientations, staggered heights/split or tri-level spaces or a lower level integration with garage or carport space. The addition of different floors is also cost conscious as it’s typically more affordable to build up rather than out, especially today, with those postage size urban property lots. Brick or metal exteriors featuring glass panels, low pitched gables and roof overhangs are featured in these “close to the ground” plans along with awnings and large picture windows located in the main living space that add a spacious quality to the home’s living areas.

As with any home style, basements offer a way to expand your personal living space to suit your family’s needs; however, Mid Century Modern homes instantly conjure an image of dance parties, sleep overs, pool tables/game rooms and television room all combined in a comfortable and relaxing lower level atmosphere. While maybe some of those purposes are no longer relevant, certainly the basement area, itself, is as use for any number of purposes – to house teen-agers in modern recreation rooms with enormous wall-to-wall televisions, up-to-date music systems and/or gaming systems or conversely, they may include an in-law suite for aging parents or simply more bedrooms and baths for family members. No matter the need or use, basements remain a favorite way to include more square footage in homes today. Although, Mid Century Moderns homes and narrow lots may seem contradictory, they can live together harmoniously with their innovative layouts and numerous outdoor spaces that are all about connections.

Small homes and varying square footage

A small footprint and less square footage can certainly be incorporated into a Mid Century Modern layout and comfortable home environment. As evidenced during the early stages of the Modernist movement, in the 20th century, homes did not need to be massive to be open and comfortable. Even today, these Ranch style and Split level homes offer simple floor plans with an openness to them that allow for pleasurable entertaining spaces and comfortable sleeping quarters. America’s Best House Plans offer Mid Century floor plans in a wide assortment of square footage amounts that feature modern amenities, both on the interior and exterior, making these homes popular, inviting and valuable.