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.
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.
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.
Built on a coconut plantation outside of Mumbai, India, on the Arabian Sea, Studio Mumbai’s Palmyra House is a place of refuge, not only from the city but also from people (houseguests possibly included). The 3,000-square-foot setup is split into two wooden louvered structures, each constructed using local traditional methods and wood. One building contains the living room, study, and master bedroom; the other houses the kitchen, dining room, and guest bedrooms. And should the occupants be feeling convivial, there’s a long, thin pool, perfect for swims together while sharing the expansive views out to the sea.
Hanway, C. (2015, May 27). Architect Visit: A Louvered Beach House on the Arabian Sea: Remodelista. Retrieved June 3, 2015, from http://www.remodelista.com/posts/architect-visit-a-louvered-beach-house-on-the-arabian-sea-studio-mumbai-palmyra-house