We all know that styles are cyclical and, of course, the world of interior design is not exempt. The best aesthetics will be popular again and again. Right now, mid-century-modern design is making a comeback and, if you ask us, it’s for good reason.
What is it about this aesthetic that keeps us coming back for more over half a century later? We’ll tell you why mid-century modern will never really leave us — and how to work the style into your interiors while making sure they are rooted in the new millennium. After all, sometimes the old way of doing things really is the right way.
What Is Mid-Century Modern?
If you’ve ever seen an episode of Mad Men, you’re already familiar with mid-century-modern design. In fact, the term was coined in 1984 by author Cara Greenberg. She used it to discuss the signature looks of the 1960s in her book Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s.
Though the moniker has become a bit broad in the past few decades, it’s most commonly used to refer to the styles that became popular in a post-World War II landscape. While there may be a few variations, most people agree that this time period extends from 1945-1969.
Interestingly, this style doesn’t just refer to aspects of interior design. It is commonly used as a descriptor for any architecture, furniture, accessories, materials and technologies that grew in popularity after the end of the war.
It Showcases Simplicity
When you look at design projects that follow a mid-century-modern style, the one thing you won’t see is tons of excess. Rather than requiring a bunch of ornate embellishments, the mid-century look is all about stripping items down to their barest elements and letting their function become the star.
Keep this in mind when it comes to choosing the items that will fill your space. Look for furniture that has clean lines and, if needed, multiple uses. Stick to décor items that are modern or geometric in their aesthetic.
This concept should also be taken into account when it comes to designing the layout of your space. Rather than cluttering up the room, focus on choosing one strong focal area that will dictate the room’s function. For example, consider using a statement table in your dining room or creating an inviting seating area in your living room. Then, don’t be afraid to step back and allow negative space to play a key role in your design.
It Lets Us Play With Color
Of course, when you focus on bringing simplistic shapes into your space, it becomes necessary to add a layer of visual interest elsewhere. The mid-century-modern look does that by incorporating bold pops of color. Brooke Schneider, a designer based in Long Beach, Calif., explains it best:
“When homeowners think ‘color,’ they often think of the bright hues of the mid-century time period. With clear, cheerful colors, the 1950s exhibited a new American outlook of optimism that was comfortably removed from the drab war years.”
Don’t be afraid to go big with shades like blueberry, citron or fire-engine red. Just be sure to avoid mixing multiple loud colors like they did in that time period. Doing so might make your space look more outdated than retro-inspired. Instead, focus on tempering one colorful statement piece with more neutral hues to ensure a modern twist on this style of design.
It Connects Us With Nature
Since mid-century-modern design is all about simplicity, it makes sense that this school of style would harbor a strong connection to nature. In particular, those who are looking for ways to embrace sustainable design may be interested in what this aesthetic has to offer.
First, it’s important to consider how nature can affect the layout of the space. In mid-century architecture, large windows often play a key role. But anyone can work off those principles by making windows the focal point of your space whenever possible and making sure that they stay unencumbered from heavy drapery.
As for the design elements to fill your space, focus on choosing items made from natural materials such as wood, metal and leather or cotton textiles. Don’t be afraid to bring the outside in by adding greenery to accent your design.
There’s a reason why mid-century-modern design is present in our consciousness after over a half-century since its debut. Whether it’s the clean lines, bold colors or connection to nature, this school of style is currently making a big comeback in interior design.
Mario Martins Atelier designed this swimming pool at a home in Portugal, where the design intention was described as “simple with a quiet presence, and where the natural vegetation, of almond and carob trees, typical of the Algarve countryside, predominates.”
Photography by Fernando Guerra FG + SG
|Alternative names||Villa Malaparte, Malaparte House|
|Architectural style||Modern architecture|
|Location||Isle of Capri|
|Current tenants||Foundation Giorgio Ronchi |
|Design and construction|
Casa Malaparte (also Villa Malaparte) is a house on Punta Massullo, on the eastern side of the Isle of Capri, Italy. It is one of the best examples of Italian modern and contemporary architecture.
The house was conceived around 1937 by the well-known Italian architect Adalberto Libera for Curzio Malaparte. Malaparte actually rejected Libera’s design and built the home himself with the help of Adolfo Amitrano, a local stonemason.
Casa Malaparte is a red masonry box with reverse pyramidal stairs leading to the roof patio. On the roof is a freestanding curving white wall of increasing height. It sits on a dangerous cliff 32 metres above the sea overlooking the Gulf of Salerno. Access to this private property is either by foot from the Town of Capri or by boat and a staircase cut into the cliff. Casa Malaparte’s interior and exterior (particularly the rooftop patio) are prominently featured in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film, Contempt (Le Mépris).
Casa Malaparte was abandoned and neglected after the death of Curzio Malaparte in 1957. It suffered from vandalism and natural elements for many years and was seriously damaged, including the desecration of a beautiful tiled stove, before the first serious renovation started in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The building was donated to the Foundation Giorgio Ronchi in 1972.
Malaparte’s great-nephew, Niccolò Rositani, is primarily responsible for restoring the house to a livable state. Much of the original furniture is still there, because it is too large to remove. The marble sunken tub in the bedroom of his mistress still exists and functions. His bedroom and book lined study are still intact. Many Italian industrialists have donated materials for the preservation.
Today the house is used for serious study and certain cultural events in Italy and is admired and hated by many architecture enthusiasts worldwide.
The house can only be reached by traversing the island. The last twenty minute walk is over private property, belonging to The Ronchi Foundation. It takes an hour and a half to walk there from Capri’s Piazzetta at the summit of the funiculare from the Marina Grande. The house can be reached by sea, on calm days only, as the waves are cast upon treacherous rocks and there has not been an official pier for many years. From the sea, one must climb 99 steps to reach the house. Malaparte gave his friend and boatman money to open a restaurant which is run by the boatman’s son today. It is the only restaurant one would pass on the path from the Piazzetta to the promontory where Tiberius built his palace, Villa Jovis.
The book Malaparte: Casa Come Me (A House Like Me) edited by Michael McDonough, includes drawings and essays by many prominent artists and architects, such as James Wines,Tom Wolfe, Robert Venturi, Emilio Ambasz, Ettore Sottsass, Michael Graves, Willem Dafoe, Peter Eisenman, Wiel Arets and many other luminaries of arts and letters. Casa Malaparte was also prominently featured in the Jean-Luc Godard film, Contempt (1963).
Casa Brutale is a geometrical translation of the landscape. It is an unclad statement on the simplicity and harmony of contemporary architecture. It is a chameleonic living space, created to serve its owner and respect the environment. It is the inverted reference to Casa Malaparte, encased and protected by the tender earth that has hosted the human civilization for millennia. It is a complete study of aesthetics, structure, function and engineering, which thoroughly detailed, awaits solely its realisation.
Casa Brutale is OPA’s challenging vision of innovative architecture, where innovation refers to long forgotten terms such as ambience and materiality. Its subtle form allows for the magnificent view and the game of light and shadow to take center stage. The residence is constructed with simple materials: wood, glass and concrete, the convergence of the surrounding earth and water. The landscape is integral to the underlying concept, since elements penetrate and prevail over the construction. The roof of Casa Brutale, a glazed bottom swimming pool, is a continuation of the poetic Aegean Sea and in perfect communication with the vast blue of the Greek sky.
In essential simplicity, Casa Brutale is defined by three thick concrete slabs with all the installations preformed. The crystalline pool, made by reinforced glass, is set between the walls to smoothen the hard materials and let the abundant natural light through, illuminating the residence. The enormous glass façade frames and extracts the beauty of the Aegean. And small details of black-coated steel and brown/red aged wood complete the composition.
In literal groundbreaking integration, Casa Brutale penetrates the landscape. The underground building benefits from a perfect homeostatic mechanism with thermal insulation from the surrounding ground, and the cooling properties of the swimming pool. The optical impact of the building on the landscape is minimal, with only one façade on the cliff side and no volume extruding from the ground level.
Light penetrates the transparent or semi-transparent surfaces of Casa Brutale, bringing it to life. The dynamic light patterns caress the bare concrete with refractions and shadows. Bare concrete, or beton brut, is the finishing technique that gave the name to both brutalism and Casa Brutale. Raw, unpretentious, monolithic, marked by the wooden planks used to mold the casting.
After descending 50 stairs to the Aegean, under the shadows of epic concrete beams, you reach the entrance (also accessible by elevator). The tall, rotating door of aged wood (with the axis at ¾ lengths) opens to a breathtaking sea view, through the glass façade. The remaining space is bare, pure and simple; minimalism at its best. A concrete cast dining table is combined with concrete benches, clad with warm wood. Smooth curves sculpture the fireplace on the wall next to the bench. Behind the dining table, the guest room is formed under an old-fashioned Zoellner slab with a glass corner. Next to the guest room, there is a small passage to the utility rooms (storage room, bathroom and WC).
An inner staircase consists of thin, steel steps that allow the optical continuity from the kitchen to the glass façade. The staircase leads you to the mezzanine floor, where the master bedroom is exposed to the same overpowering vision of the Aegean. The bed is cast of concrete with wood finishing, while the walls are covered with mirror to enhance the play between light and shadows.
Casa Brutale redefines the harmonious coexistence of human and nature in a poetic homage to pure Brutalism.
Atlanta-based design firm, Pyramd Design Co., have created their first offering, The Puphaus.
The designer’s description
Emerging from the musings of two designers who were disenchanted with their respective industries, dog-loving founders Roy Fleeman and Zach Griggs set out to create products they had a personal connection to and could see through from initial conception to final production.
With backgrounds in graphic and industrial design, the multi-disciplinary duo decided to design & build something for man’s best friend: the Puphaus. Time to ditch the plastic igloos and give our pups some stylish new digs.
Taking queues from modern home design, naturally-derived materials were chosen that would look and feel at home in any outdoor setting, while coming together to make a head-turning architectural statement. Staying true to form-follows-function, stainless steel food & water bowls are incorporated into the floor panel while a floating roof design enhances air circulation on those hot summer days.
Once Western red cedar and Portland cement board were selected as the primary materials, Pyramd fell in love with the combination and began drawing up different designs, ultimately manufacturing Puphaus in their hometown of Atlanta.
Puphaus’ unique construction allows it to flatpack for affordable shipping, and once unboxed it can be easily assembled in five steps without any tools. Now Spike and Leo have a sweet new place to rest their paws – and their humans have barely broken a sweat.
From the very first time you enter the Long Dune Residence, you know it will surprise you with a modern floor plan enhanced by carefully designed details. The architects warn that “little is revealed until entering the house through a tall glass door that emerges as one approaches the house“. Imagined by Hammer Architects, the modern summer home rises in a summer vacation community in Massachusetts, known as Truro.
Perched on a coastal bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, interiors absorb panoramas of natural surroundings from behind revealing floor-to-ceiling windows and doors. This permanent visual connection to the outdoors brings glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean deep inside and encourages owners to relax and enjoy their modern summer home.
Photos by Peter Vanderwarker reveal how the abundance of natural light filters through framed windows. Gleaming water views mirroring the atmosphere outside are captured like live transmissions from nature. Additional views of the Pamet River and a fresh water pond, together with tall trees complete the inspiring natural setting. Mirrored on the inside, this natural order appears mingled with the home’s sleek design lines.
According to the architects, “the entry side of the house appears very solid with its wood clad walls and narrow strip windows enclosing the bathrooms, outdoor showers, stair, and laundry room. Little is revealed until entering the house through a tall glass door that emerges as one approaches the house. Once inside, the living and dining rooms, which occupy the building’s center, open to the dramatic water views through a floor to ceiling glass wall that features large sliding doors connecting to a multi-level outdoor deck.”
The contemporary architecture is spiced up with a linear floor-plan “broken” by a screened porch where owners and their guests enjoy meals with a view. “One wing of the house provides the guest bedrooms, while the other wing, which is rotated forty-five degrees in plan, contains the master bedroom suite. A screened porch with a referential kite shaped roof occupies the intersection of the two geometries providing views in all directions.”
Embedding active and passive solar design, the modern summer home supports and encourages a healthy lifestyle. Once you know how to plan home activities for your summer guests, a modern summer home will make its way to your summer wish list.
23o5Studio completed the design of BQ-17 Residence, a contemporary home located in an uncrowded neighborhood of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The design was adapted to the living needs of a couple and their three children, while taking in consideration the laws of urban planning. Local legislation required to leave 2.5m (8ft) front and 2m (6.6ft) behind the house, which somewhat challenged the initial plan of developing the construction more horizontally. According to the project developers, the solution was to “build interleaving spaces, which have different foolproof, placed around a central vertical space”, thus creating voids and connections between rooms.
Minimalism is the key feature of this residence; yet, quite a few elements stand out: “Seen from outside, the house has simple lines, yet strong enough to combine cubes as a sculpture. Lot of squares, with different sizes and free layout, joined with graceful greenery to attract people and make them curious about entering inside. The squares become highlighted from the front door to the central block. They do not only get natural light for the house, but also create an aesthetic effect at night.” By employing wood extensively for the furniture elements, doors, floors and central staircase, the designers achieved a welcoming family atmosphere-have a look! [Photography by Quang Tran]