Whether you have a fascination with vintage design or just love imagining Don Draper sipping bourbon in your living room, your desire for a mid century modern home means you value property with serious personality and style.
Between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s, architects adopted new technology, organic forms, and a keen blend of natural and industrial materials into their designs. The sleek and sustainable features of mid century modern homes are still sought after by Hollywood celebrities and design buffs today.
Any house hunt’s best approached with lots of research along with professional consultation. From factoring in needed renovations to finding complementary décor, here are a few things to consider when searching for a mid century modern home.
How to find your mid century modern home
Your selection of mid century modern homes will depend on your location. While California’s home to many of these architectural masterpieces, you can also find them dotted throughout the rest of the country. Some regions may require a little more digging than others. A simple Google search for mid century modern homes in a particular city can turn up individual listings and realtors who specialize in selling these types of homes.
Circa is a dedicated site for historic real estate, including mid century modern styles. You can use its national database to search for property by state.
If design’s the most important factor and you’re flexible on location, research your favorite architect. Notable mid century modern architects include Frank Lloyd Wright, Joseph Eichler, and Richard Neutra. Perusing their “portfolios” can be a great starting point to see which features to look for in your new home.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to glimpse the gold mine of gorgeous mid century modern properties across the U.S., simply search “mid century modern MLS” on Pinterest and scroll away! MLS means Multiple Listing Service®, which allows you to browse homes from multiple sellers. When you find a pin that you like, search the MLS number on Google and the listing should pop up.
Factor in renovation costs
While shopping for a mid century modern home, renovations should be considered carefully. An “out with the old” mentality could strip away the fine lines and textures that make the home so desirable. On the other hand, you may want to update some features with a fresh take to achieve modern comfort.
Renovations to consider
Installing double-pane windows
Mid century modern architects were heavy on glass with the intention of letting the outside in, but this design concept could have a negative effect on interior temps. Single-pane windows found in most of these homes aren’t an effective insulator, meaning it’s expensive to keep the house warm during winter and cool in the summer.
Luckily, there’s a solution. Double-pane windows have multiple sealed glass planes that are structured to maintain desired temperatures from season to season. In addition, double-pane windows can also save you money by reducing energy consumption.
Restoring wood features
Next to glass, natural wood’s one of the most prominent design elements in mid century modern homes. From wood-paneled walls to exposed wooden beams, preserving these features is essential in maintaining mid century modern appeal. If wood details have stood the test of time, great! If not, consider restoring the wood to its rightful glow by sanding and restaining it rather than painting over or replacing it.
Renovations you may regret
Ditching original cabinets, fixtures, and hardware
In the same way you’ll want to salvage modern elements like wood paneling, you should also consider keeping original cabinets, lighting fixtures, latches, and doorknobs. Much of your home’s beauty will be in the sleek and subtle details that defined the mid century modern aesthetic. If interior renovations are absolutely necessary, find local architects and interior designers who specialize in mid century modern design. That way, any replacement cabinetry and lighting will align with the intended design of your home.
Covering up natural floors with carpet
If your home has natural stone or hardwood flooring, avoid covering it up with carpet! Natural stone and hardwood floors were intentionally used to bring the outdoors in. While wall-to-wall carpeting isn’t recommended, you can add a touch of color, texture, and warmth by adding a funky area rug.
Once renovations are complete, it’ll be time to furnish that open floor plan (which is common in these homes). Even if you’re stocked with mid century modern furniture from your previous place, you’ll probably find room for some new gems. Luckily, there are lots of options for your taste, shopping preference, and budget.
Source retro décor
Are you hoping to give your place a complete makeover or are you looking to polish up what you’ve got? Does your current décor jive with the mid century modern aesthetic or will you be on the hunt for new or new-to-you vintage furniture?
You could score mid century style for a serious deal by periodically stopping at your local thrift shop. While thrift shops are usually hit or miss, there’s always a chance of finding an enormously underpriced piece of design history. Many antique dealers who charge top dollar source part of their stock with exceptional pieces they’ve uncovered at the likes of Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and other unlikely secondhand stores.
For those who don’t have the patience to wait for that perfect piece, there are reproductions galore to fit any budget. Search “mid century modern reproductions” online and you’ll find lots of designs. If you’d rather check out the goods in person, see if your local Ikea stocks any stylish and affordable replicas.
For the crème de la crème of vintage furniture, fashion, and art, look no further than 1stdibs’s selection of rare and designer finds. Curating pieces from galleries, boutiques, and private dealers across the country, 1stdibs offers thousands of mid century treasures. Among them you’ll find Pierre Cardin’s futuristic chrome dining tables, Charles Eames’s iconic fiberglass chairs, George Nelson’s stylish wall clocks, and an eclectic assortment of modernist décor collected from far-flung locales and preserved for a lucky buyer.
Once you set your budget for renovations, furniture, and décor, you’ll be ready to start house hunting for your perfect piece of history.
Wherever your search brings you, protect your investments with top-notch homeowners insurance so that your mid century modern home and the timeless treasures inside it will be covered.
Don’t get so caught up in the details that you forget to enjoy the process! The design of your home says a lot about your personality, so choose what’s right for you.
If you’re inspired to travel even further back in time — think colonial farmhouses and quaint turn-of-the-century cottages — you might want to consider the pros and cons of owning a historic home.