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
LABor Studio transformed this historic office building in Chihuahua City, Mexico, by maintaining the facade and adding a contemporary addition to the home.
The designer’s description
This house is located in the historic center of Chihuahua City, in north-central Mexico. This district displays a deteriorated urban fabric due to the demolition of a great number of old buildings being replaced by surface parking lots. The population has migrated to the fringes leaving an empty housing stock.
The project was aware of the importance of both the restoration and integration of architectures while demonstrating the possibilities of contemporary housing in the urban center.
The old building is a two story structure built in the early twentieth century in a 40 square meter footprint. The construction system includes adobe walls, wood beams, a limestone facade, and an earthen roof.
The project and construction began in 2010 working with an office program. Restoration started by eliminating all of the non-original additions and rebuilding the earthen roof. The frontal facade was stabilized since it was detaching from the main structure. The neighboring 300 square meter property was added to the program while during this first construction stage. Therefore the program changed from office to a house.
The old and new construction was articulated by a vertical stair cube. The stair provides access to the two stories and the rooftop terrace where views of downtown Chihuahua can be enjoyed.
Access from the street happens in between the old and new constructions in a sequence that first goes through a patio-zaguan before penetrating to the interior. This access patio allows for additional light and ventilation for the old building while allowing for the concentration of rainwater collected from the rooftops.
Once through the threshold in the ground floor one can access a painting studio in the old building or the social area in the new building. The latter is a double height space composed of the living room and the kitchen. Both areas are divided by a bar and joined in the exterior by a patio. The garage can be added to the expansion of the social areas spilling to the exterior.
The second story contains the family room in the old building while the new construction has two bedrooms separated by a library-bridge. One bedroom is related to the street in the front and the other looks to the backyard.
The third and top level is a rooftop terrace with a steel plaque grill. The floor is a ceramic tile which allows the earthen roof to breathe out excess moisture. Plant pots and a light-well complete the arrangement with patio furniture.
The backyard has hardscape and softscape areas. The grasses, shrubs, and trees are a selection of native plants. Concrete modular pavers allow for the absorption of rainwater in order to help support the plants.
In the back of the property there is a water fountain framed by recovered timber from the construction’s scaffolding. Other recovered materials include the original limestone flooring, some of which was reinstalled while another part was crushed and used as ground cover to reduce the loss of moisture.
|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).