I recently fell down the extremely enjoyable rabbit hole of researching this piece and after reveling in all that is Mid Century for several weeks, hardly know where to begin.
As a teen and young adult, the style was not high on my list of favorites. Two or three decades after it’s heyday, it just looked “old” or “dated” and perhaps something my parents might have liked. But “sooner or later, everything old is new again.” and I’ve come to love the mid-century style. Walls of glass, clerestory windows, flat planes, the blurring of lines from indoor to out, and organic materials in the open spaces all beckon to me as a place where I’d want to live. The style is iconic but far-reaching, and many different tastes can be satisfied within this style of homes built primarily between 1940 and 1970. Many Mid-century houses utilized then-groundbreaking post and beam architectural design that eliminated bulky support walls in favor of walls seemingly made of glass. Mid Century Modern is not just a trend popularized by Mad Men, although the show definitely sparked new interest as well as reminding many of their love for this style. It is a significant design movement, propelled by the amazing minds and talents of designers and architects such as Charles & Ray Eames, George Fred Keck, his brother Willam Keck, Henry P. Glass, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and developer Joseph Eichler. Oh, so much to share with you, so much to learn! If you have a few weeks to spare, I highly recommend venturing into your own research of this style.
A house properly designed will have a certain intangible “feel” to it. When the proportions of a room are correct, you know it without knowing it. When the site is thoughtfully considered to the building itself, it makes such a huge difference as opposed to “Plan B-reversed” plopped down every 4th house, regardless of where the sun rises or the breezes come from. One home that I really enjoyed spending time in recently was 44 Palermo Walk on Naples Island in Long Beach. Designed by architects Power and Daniel, this original Mid Century is elegant by design. The clean lines and soaring great room ceiling have the perfect feel to them. The house is on a slightly wedge-shaped lot, which adds interest to the focal-point courtyard. The house is L-shaped with the garage at the rear, accessed by an alley. The water is super close and there’s a little park just a block away as well. The neighborhood is typical beach-tight but missing all of the frantic-ness of a tourist-destination type of beach. Inside the house or in the courtyard, all you feel is a peaceful oasis. The lack of clutter, both architecturally and possession-wise is refreshing and calming. I loved the bar and it’s original accouterments (built in blender base!) and immediately began planning my next cocktail party, but I would want to change out the countertops and appliances. The layout was great, with the kitchen accessible and open to the great room, but just a little tucked away in case it isn’t super tidy. One wall of the kitchen was a sliding glass door to the courtyard, making barbecues a breeze. One of my favorite features of this house was the bigger of the two master suites upstairs. This room could look over the great room in a loft-style way, or have privacy simply by sliding the built-in shoji screens to open or close one wall of the room! I loved this feature! If I had a magic wand to wave to make this home a perfect 10 hearts, I’d be adding a fireplace in the living room, bringing the laundry in from the garage (there’s a perfect storage hallway behind the kitchen right next to the downstairs bathroom). updating the kitchen counters and appliances, and modernizing some of the behind-the-scenes things like plumbing and electrical, just to ensure a long and happy future with this dream home of the 60’s. As it currently stands, 44 Palermo Walk is a swanky 8-1/2 hearts.
Mid Century Modern homes do not have to be campy time capsules, full of shag carpeting and kitchens wallpapered with pictures of mushrooms or sunbursts. True, some are lovingly preserved in their original splendor. That seems especially prevalent in areas where there are entire tracts of these architectural gems and the owners tend to fiercely protect the originality of the home and the neighborhood, such as the Cliff May Ranchos in Long Beach or the Fairhaven Eichlers in Orange. MCMs who don’t share that same safety in numbers are often more updated over time to keep up with the Joneses. They keep their mid-century roots but may be more modern in amenities or finishes. Many are fresh, crisp and feel as new as the day their first family pulled up in a brand-new 1964 Plymouth station wagon.
Below are a few of my favorite Mid Century Moderns on the market today.
31741 Grand Canyon Drive in Laguna Niguel. Very classic, well maintained, and plenty of room in the price to do even more updates.
2867 Belden Drive in Los Angeles. Commercial-looking from the outside, (which I loved), modern, yet classic inside.
7536 Kimdale Lane in Los Angeles. Taking a page straight out of Palm Springs architecture with flat roof lines, a gorgeous yard and pool, and a fabulous turquoise front door. This house was a well-executed mix of current and classic.
4720 Cortland Drive in Corona del Mar. This home is has the classic clerestory windows to grab your attention from the street as well as a turquoise dutch door into the courtyard. Do you know what I love more than a courtyard? That’s right, a courtyard with a pool! This house has it all, with a fresh, fun, welcoming feel and abundant space and light.
Mid Century Modern is honest and sophisticated, but never pretentious. One of the defining tenets of this style of architecture is that a fulfilling, healthy life begins at home. The very design of the homes encourages you to connect with your environment as well as those you share the home with; ideas that may have been ahead of their time in the middle of the 20th century, but are so crucial to healthy happy living today.
I again urge you to learn more about this fabulous style. If you really want to bathe yourself in Mid Century Modern, look into Palm Springs modern architecture.
See you at the bottom of the rabbit hole,