Mid century modern homes – the ultimate design guide (2024)

Mid century modern homes have appeared everywhere from Slim Aarons famous photographs of backyard parties to noir films from the 1960s. But mid century modern homes are the most recent style of architecture and house design to be given an iconic status among design historians.

The angular forms and signature elements of any mid century modern house goes behind the stone masonry of a Georgian home or the joinery used in Craftsman cottages; this most distinctive of house styles remains memorable for a different reason – the modernist lens that broke traditional barriers in the mid-20th century.

What are mid century modern homes?

Mid century modern homes are residential, single-family homes built using modernist principles and design tactics like cantilevered walls, flat-facing surfaces, and simple lines.

While the style is still used today in new structures, the name comes from the period in which the style emerged, between 1945 and 1970, though primarily between 1947 and 1957.

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(Image credit: Bob Osias/Unsplash)

Where did the mid century modern style originate?

Because this style is pegged more to time than geography, there are a few answers that could be plausible. Depending on your preferred versions of modernism from this era, some might say that the Bauhaus school led to mid century modern design in America.

Within the US though, the style largely stems from California, where architects and designers like Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, Arne Jacobsen, and so many other pioneered the style by bucking the traditions of more formal, ornate styles.

In cities like Chicago and in Europe, designers like Le Corbusier, or Mies van der Rohe were working on modernist structures, building large, monolithic structures that made the most of flat surfaces and curtain-glass windows for a sleek, minimalist approach.

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(Image credit: Alamy)

What are the characteristics of mid century modern homes?

Mid century modern homes are characterized by the geometric lines of the architecture, flat, angled roofs that extend beyond the walls, and flat surfaces without ornamentation. Large windows that often slide open on to similarly geometric inner courtyards, patios or decks – integrating indoors with outdoors is an important design feature – are the main feature of rooms that often have changes in level. These rooms are often wood-panelled, boxy and flooded with light.

Where other homes might have a sloping mansard roof or jutting bay windows, mid century modern buildings catch the eye for their lack of grandeur. Aesthetically, mid century modern homes are so simple that they read as sophisticated. They are, almost literally, a box.

Rather than deal with the ornate exteriors and ornamented molding that inhibited designs previously in architectural trends, mid century design throws all that away and lets fewer lines, broader spaces, and the openness do the talking for the rest of the architectural plan, which people find refreshingly open.

People gravitate toward the style for several reasons. Unlike other home styles like Victorian or Colonial homes, which are old too, but feel more antiquated than retro, mid century modern homes aren’t so old that there are people today who still remember when they came to prominence. Like when your grandfather tells you about how he remembers seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

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(Image credit: Alamy)

Where are most mid century modern homes?

You can find mid century modern homes just about anywhere in America, with slightly different variations. The originals are mostly tucked into the hillsides of Southern California – notably Palm Springs – and you'll find everything from bungalow style homes and stilted silhouettes are dotted all along the streets of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Across the country, other formats of mid century modern house design came to prominence, but using more winter-worthy materials like brick to construct their signature looks. A few hours north of New York City, for example, pupils of the legendary modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright built an entire town of case study homes using mid century modern design, dubbed 'Usonia'.

Original mid century modern homes sell for millions of dollars in California – even for just a one-bedroom home. New builds have become expansive, sprawling properties with thousands of square feet to show off and angular, clean shapes that stand out on any street in America.

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(Image credit: Sterling Davis/Unsplash)

How to decorate a mid century modern home

Luckily, there’s a whole interior design style under mid century modern interiors.

Most interiors are open floor plans in these homes, so less is more. Use rugs or plants or bookshelves to create your own dividers that suit you and your family’s needs in these architectural floor plans.

As for what furniture to bring into the space, there are plenty of examples of classic, mid century designs to use, such as tulip chairs from Eero Saarinen, Eames lounge chairs, Barcelona seating from van der Rohe, and plenty more alternatives that use chrome plating and minimalist lines to make the same simplicity outdoors work inside.

Mid century modern interiors also lend themselves to new design styles and trends, such as the retro revival trend or the Organic Modern trend, offering new styles timeless appeal.

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Mid-Century Modern

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert in architecture and design, I can provide you with information related to the concepts mentioned in the article about mid-century modern homes. Let's delve into each topic:

Mid-Century Modern Homes

Mid-century modern homes are residential, single-family houses built using modernist principles and design tactics. This style is characterized by angular forms, signature elements, and a modernist lens that broke traditional barriers in the mid-20th century. The houses feature cantilevered walls, flat-facing surfaces, and simple lines. While the style is still used in new structures today, it emerged between 1945 and 1970, with its peak period being between 1947 and 1957.

Origin of Mid-Century Modern Style

The origin of the mid-century modern style can be attributed to various factors. While the Bauhaus school in Germany influenced modernism in America, the style largely stems from California in the United States. Architects and designers like Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, and Arne Jacobsen played a significant role in pioneering this style by challenging more formal and ornate architectural traditions. In cities like Chicago and in Europe, designers like Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe also contributed to the development of mid-century modern structures.

Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Homes

Mid-century modern homes are characterized by their geometric lines, flat and angled roofs that extend beyond the walls, and flat surfaces without ornamentation. These houses often have large windows that slide open onto geometric inner courtyards, patios, or decks, integrating the indoors with the outdoors. The rooms are typically wood-paneled, boxy, and flooded with light. Unlike other architectural styles, mid-century modern homes stand out for their simplicity and lack of grandeur.

Locations of Mid-Century Modern Homes

Mid-century modern homes can be found throughout the United States, with slight variations in different regions. The original homes are mostly located in the hillsides of Southern California, particularly in Palm Springs. In cities like Los Angeles and Long Beach, you'll find a mix of bungalow-style homes and stilted silhouettes. Other variations of mid-century modern design gained prominence across the country, often using materials like brick for winter durability. For example, in New York, there is a town called 'Usonia' where pupils of Frank Lloyd Wright built an entire community of mid-century modern case study homes.

Decorating a Mid-Century Modern Home

When it comes to decorating a mid-century modern home, less is more. The open floor plans in these homes allow for a minimalist approach. You can use rugs, plants, or bookshelves to create your own dividers that suit your needs. Furniture plays a crucial role in mid-century modern interiors. Classic mid-century designs like tulip chairs by Eero Saarinen, Eames lounge chairs, and Barcelona seating by Mies van der Rohe are popular choices. These designs often feature chrome plating and minimalist lines that complement the simplicity of mid-century modern style. Additionally, mid-century modern interiors can also incorporate new design styles and trends, such as the retro revival trend or the Organic Modern trend.

I hope this information provides a comprehensive understanding of mid-century modern homes and related concepts. If you have any further questions or need more specific information, feel free to ask!

Mid century modern homes – the ultimate design guide (2024)
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