In the 20th century, home design and real estate both took a turn for the different. Mid-century homes were the result of advances in building and the desire to create something new and different. Instead of bringing art into the house like previous design movements, the mid-century modern style movement aimed to remodel the home itself into a work of art.
Instead of closing things into boxes, the mid-century modern style aimed to unbind the definitions of a traditional home. It introduced more open floor plans, better natural light, and more organic shapes.
Instead of closing things into boxes, the mid-century modern style aimed to unbind the definitions of a traditional home. It introduced more open floor plans, greater natural light, and more organic shapes.
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The History of Mid-Century Modern
Despite being introduced in the early 20th century, the mid-century modern style remains popular today. It was inspired by several movements, the leading players being International artists, Bauhaus artists, and Frank Lloyd Wright himself. The mid-century modern style tempers the severity of Bauhaus and reigns in the wild nature of Wright’s designs. Together, the result is an organic yet modern style that is both hard and soft.
As the war came to a close, mid-century modern styling came about to embrace the materials that were plentiful at the time. Things like plywood, metal, and glass gained new roles while traditional materials saw less use. Local materials that were in steady supply saw use, too.
Part of the purpose of the mid-century modern style was to bring the outdoors inside. In the aftermath of the war, thousands of veterans returned home, many with both mental and physical scars. The open style of these homes encouraged both veterans and their families to go outdoors and experience the outside.
Characteristics of the Modern Home
Mid-century modern homes, like any other housing style, have evolved and changed over time. However, they have several basic precepts that mid-century modern homes usually abide by.
Mid-century modern style is all about flat spaces, but not necessarily angular ones. These buildings tend to be sprawling and open, and rooms should be flat and uncluttered. It’s common for mid-century modern homes to have flat roofs, as well.
Mid-century modern homes are designed with the intent of bringing in as much natural light as possible. As such, these buildings will be built with consideration for the location of the sun, trees, and even the movement of light throughout the day. To facilitate this, these homes have plenty of windows, sliding glass doors, and even skylights.
Instead of defining rooms with walls, mid-century modern homes often turned to small steps up and down to define spaces. Sunken living rooms are one of the most well-known of these trends. Partial walls and cabinets are also common ways that these homes define soft areas.
Access to Nature
Mid-century modern architecture brings nature inside with plentiful windows, but they also provide multiple access points to natural spaces, too. An excellent example of mid-century modern architecture will have plentiful balconies, walkable rooftops, and ample entrances and exits, as well as gardens and green spaces outdoors.
Form Follows Function
While form for the sake of it is all well and good, the mid-century modern style appears to try and avoid this. Modern designs are intended to be simple, fuss-free, and easily distinguishable by their intended functions.
While minimalism is its own architectural and design movement, minimalism in the home is essential in mid-century modern designs. There is no such thing as a cluttered room or floor in a well-kept mid-century modern house, as opposed to rooms that can fill with all sorts of clutter.
Organic and Geometric Forms
Look at enough mid-century modern buildings, and you’ll quickly see that they utilize both geometric and organic shapes. It’s more common to see geometric exteriors on mid-century modern homes, of course, but not required. Consider Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, for example.
Traditional vs. Non-traditional
One of the most refreshing aspects of mid-century modern styling is that it is not afraid to embrace non-standard materials. While wood paneling, molding, and decoration are acceptable in some traditional ways, mid-century modern dwellings are just as likely to use a material you would never expect. Plastic, steel, and recycled products are all excellent examples.
Not only is mid-century modern style concerned with using new and different materials, but its purpose is also to compare the new with the old. For example, a mid-century modern garden might utilize plant pots made of steel or plastic. Tulip chairs, for example, use both plastic and cloth to create the final product.
That being said, mid-century modern homes can come in virtually any size and style. Often, single-level ranch-type homes are called “ranches” (or “sprawlers”), while multi-level homes are called “split-level” homes.
Mid-Century Modern and Nature
Mid-century modern homes have an interesting and sometimes confusing relationship with nature. On the one hand, mid-century modern architecture tends to be hard, cold, man-made materials. They also tend to be flat and angular rather than soft and organic (though this is not an ironclad rule).
Despite this, many great examples of mid-century modern homes are nestled into nature around them. Instead of cutting down swathes of trees to make room for the structure, some of these homes are built to fit between and around them.
Even though they’re built to be allies of nature, they stand out like sore thumbs from the environment around them. This is an odd yet endearing aspect of the style itself. Some mid-century modern homes feature local materials to help them blend into the world around them, such as stone walls and veneers.
Some mid-century modern homes integrate gardens into the exterior design of the house to further combine with the green space around them.
Mid-century modern homes are some of the most common to support smart technologies, however – especially if they relate to energy and environmental conservation. Solar panels are a particularly common addition to environmentally-minded homes.
Unfortunately, this abundance of windows creates an increased need for window cleaning, too.
Efficiency in Mid-Century Modern Homes
Mid-century modern homes are nothing if not efficient. On both the outside and inside, these homes are designed to make the most flexible use of both space and materials. Fewer walls mean more space in the house itself, as well as more room to reconfigure layouts as you see fit.
Rather than being concerned with premium materials, the mid-century style was more preoccupied with using what was on hand. While the materials themselves might not have been environmentally-friendly, it was better to put what was available to use rather than, for example, cutting down more trees to use.
Unfortunately, one drawback of mid-century modern homes is that they are not always the most energy-efficient. While walls do serve to separate spaces in a way that’s opposite of mid-century modern style, they also retain heat and cold. This means that a house with walls will maintain and distribute heat and cold more evenly than a large, open house would.
Another drawback of these homes is the maintenance that comes with them. Since mid-century modern homes are slightly-more artistically leaning than most homes, the material choice often comes down to personal preference (or convenience) rather than effectiveness.
An excellent example is how steel is used in mid-century modern homes. While steel is an attractive modern building material, it tends to corrode, warp, or otherwise end up affected by both weather and temperature over time. Mid-century modern homes with significant wood accents require polishing and protecting on a regular basis.
Flat roofs, in particular, can cause problems here. Flat roofs are notorious for collecting water and allowing it to seep through. Any debris left to collect on the roof of the building could be prone to causing leaks or damage.
Why Is It So Popular?
While mid-century modern homes aren’t necessarily the most affordable options out there today, they still are immensely popular. Even if the jagged, blocky exteriors of mid-century modern homes have fallen out of style (at least for the masses), the interior design philosophies continue to flourish and prosper.
Many current design trends tend to liken back to mid-century modern style. Open floor plans, for example, are the layout of choice among modern new-construction homes. Environmental consciousness and natural light are popular among today’s home buyers as well.
Like any housing style or movement, mid-century modern style has its drawbacks and benefits, but it’s still incredibly popular despite its relatively young age. Take a look at the modern exterior and interior design, and you will see mid-century influences alive and well.