Midcentury modern homes were small out of necessity. Money was in short supply after World War II, so architects and builders had to keep houses compact yet functional to stay within homeowners’ budgets. At the same time, lifestyles were changing. Smart architects took on a new approach and designed homes with an open feel, which differed greatly from the boxy designs of the previous era.
Midcentury Modern 1: Flavin Architects, original photo on Houzz
I’ve been enamored with midcentury modern homes since my childhood in California, where I was privileged to spend time in the intimate houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice Mark Mills. Mills was the on-site architect for Wright’s famous Walker House, or Cabin on the Rocks, in Carmel, California, pictured. It was during this time that Mills learned an important lesson from Wright: Reject a larger house in favor of a modest home with flowing spaces and no excess.
The following ideas show how midcentury modern homes beautifully make the most of their space in ways that can easily be incorporated in homes today.
Midcentury Modern 2: Wheeler Kearns Architects, original photo on Houzz
1. Open floor plan.
Above all else, the open floor plan is the defining characteristic of midcentury modern homes. Closed-off rooms gave way to flowing spaces that strung one room to the next to form fluid kitchen, living and dining areas.
In a small home, the key to making the open floor plan work is to understand which rooms need privacy, and when. Of course, bedrooms and bathrooms need separation from the main areas of the home, but it’s also good to consider other areas that need privacy: for example, a study where a parent can work without interruption while the kids play nearby.
In this lake house by Wheeler Kearns Architects, the common areas are located in a centralized area, while the more private areas are off to the side or tucked away on another level.
Midcentury Modern 3: Balodemas Architects, original photo on Houzz
2. Expanded sightlines.
The tendency of midcentury modern homes to have open floor plans speaks to the elegant details often seen within these houses. Without trying to be too sparse, midcentury designers included functional details in their homes that were as uncomplicated as they were beautiful. Finding the balance between sophistication and openness was in the hands of the architect.
Take, for example, the stairs in midcentury modern homes. In this remodel of a midcentury home by Balodemas Architects, they preserved much of the original stair and design. The riser, or the vertical part that connects the stair treads, was simply left out for a lighter appearance. The stair was no longer in a hall but fully opened up and integrated into a room. Walls were often dispensed with entirely. Instead, partial-height screens inspired by Japanese shoji were used to subtly separate spaces.
Midcentury Modern 4: Steinbomer, Bramwell & Vrazel Architects, original photo on Houzz
3. An instance to avoid “open.”
While photographs of midcentury modern homes often feature great walls of glass, what’s often not shown, perhaps because they are not as photogenic, are the equally generous opaque walls.
These walls are key to the home’s aesthetic success. They provide a protective backing to the composition, since the opaque side of the home often faces the road, as with this house by Steinbomer, Bramwell & Vrazel Architects. Although the back of the house is open, with lots of glass and a sense of ease between inside and out, the street-facing side would never give that away. An opaque wall creates a boundary to the outside world while extending the perceived size of the home. Walls of glass are expensive, so opaque walls are also an economical design move.
Midcentury Modern 5: Flavin Architects, original photo on Houzz
4. Everything in its place.
Thoughtful storage is a another key aspect of what makes a small midcentury home completely livable. Most midcentury modern homes, particularly those on the West Coast, had no basements or attics, so storage closets needed to be located among the main living spaces. In part, the answer was to do more with less by having well-designed storage throughout and daily items close at hand, as in this kitchen. This has to be married to an ethic of keeping only what you need and having periodic yard sales.
Midcentury Modern 6: Koch Architects, Inc. Joanee Koch, original photo on Houzz
5. Display with a purpose.
In a small home with innovative but limited storage, it’s important to have display areas for the pieces that don’t need to be tucked away in drawers or closets. This was done beautifully in midcentury modern homes by integrating display areas as a means of aiding with the potential conundrum of scarce storage.
This restoration by Koch Architects shows this exact notion at work. Every other step in the stair has an integrated bookshelf. This would make a perfect rotating library with a range of titles easily seen while ascending the stair.
By Colin Flavin, Houzz
Sleek design, open floor plans, and great natural lighting are all appealing characteristics of modern architecture. Over the years, modern design concepts in home building have become more popular, as is the resurgence of interest in modern real estate. More companies, like 360 modern, are specializing in modern properties. Modern homes vary greatly in style; however, they have some unifying qualities that distinguish them from other properties built over the last 60 years. Here are some characteristics often found in modern homes:
Clean geometric lines: The core of modernist values is the simplification of form. Modernist homes have a very ‘linear’ feel with straight lines and exposed building materials. Furnishings and adornment reflect this value, incorporating vibrant, geometric and abstract designs.
Modern materials: Large windows are abundant in modern architecture, allowing light to fill and expand the interior space, bringing the natural world indoors. Generally all exposed building materials are kept close to their natural state, including exposed wood beams, poured concrete floors or counter tops, stone walls and stainless steel.
Modern homes are well suited for technological and green upgrades, as well including eco-friendly building materials and energy efficient practices. Flat roofs accommodate solar power. Energy efficient appliances work with the aesthetics of modern homes. Modernist landscaping need not require water-thirsty lawns, but instead can reflect local flora.
Post-and-beam structure: One classic element in modern architecture is the exposed wood posts and ceiling beams. This style of building has been around for thousands of years; however, modern homes really emphasize the structure, rather than hiding the bones behind drywall. In new modern homes the post-and-beam structure can be made out of concrete, iron or other materials. The highly visible horizontal and vertical beams reinforce the clean geometric lines of the space.
Low-pitched gable or shed roof: One of the most differential characteristics of modern homes than more traditional home design is the shape of the roof. Classic modern homes on the west coast generally have a flat or low-pitched roof, highly influenced by architect Joseph Eichler. New urban homes also leverage roof tops for outdoor entertaining space.
Open floor plan: Modern design strives to “open” the space by eliminating enclosed rooms. For example opening the kitchen and dining room into an open living space, allowing the ‘rooms’ to flow into one another.
Large windows: Natural light and the incorporation of natural elements are important aspects of modern home design. Large, floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate the open space and highlight the natural landscape. Some new modern homes have adjusted the large windows to open, diminishing the barrier between the indoors and out.
Incorporation of outdoor elements: Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the pioneering modernist architects, incorporated the natural setting into his architecture, most famously with Falling Water. Outdoor elements are incorporated into modern architecture in many ways; through large windows, landscaped terraces, and patios, and through use of natural and organic materials in building including stone walls, and more.
Minimalism: With open and connected modernist spaces, careful curation of furniture, adornments, and household objects is important to preserving the modernist aesthetic. Generally, modernist homes have art and furniture that reflects the clean geometric lines and the natural materials of the architecture, leaving less space for clutter. Minimalist philosophies of few household items that serve both form and function work well within this design and architectural style.
Every chef’s kitchen should have a style that matches the delicious food that comes out of it. But even if you’re doing little more than making mac and cheese out of a box, your kitchen still can be a place of color and creativity. Kitchen backsplashes are nothing new, but they’ve seen a recent surge in popularity. We’re fortunate to see homes every day with creative takes on this tiling trend, so we decided to showcase some popular backsplash designs to serve as inspiration.
Image Rights – Better Homes & Gardens
- When designing a kitchen, function and flair should work hand in hand. The appeal of glass tiling is that it’s easy to clean.
- Backing up the functionality is affordability. While glass tiling runs more expensive than ceramic, the cost is typically below stainless steel, and even some stones.
- Glass tiling is perfect for those with an artistic flair. Whether it’s simply a splash of color, a full mosaic, or even an intricate design, glass tile lets your inner artist shine.
- While the initial cost may be greater, glass tiling can more easily be found in pre-set sheets, making DIY installation far easier than many other types of tiles.
Image Rights – Kitchen-Design-Ideas.org
- If you need a backsplash that can hold up to consistent use, ceramic tile is a great fit.
- The most cost-effective tile to professionally install, ceramic tiling offers a glazed shine with a variety of color options.
- Creating a clear, simple, ceramic backsplash is a great way to add a colorful flair to your kitchen.
- Between the cost-effectiveness and its low-maintenance nature, ceramic is unsurprisingly the most common type of kitchen tiling.
Image Rights – Architecture Art Designs
- Stainless steel is one of the more popular backsplash options for those interested in a metallic finish, but we’re also seeing more aluminum, copper, and bronze tiles.
- The range in metal type obviously impacts the cost, but most metal tiles are much more expensive than their ceramic counterparts – at least $10 per square foot more.
- For that extra cost, however, you’ll receive a sturdy backsplash with a modern sheen that is easy to clean.
- With stainless steel in particular, consistent maintenance is necessary to avoid a dulling of the backsplash’s shine.
Image Rights – Houzz.com
- Sturdy? Check. Waterproof? Check. Classy? Check. From soapstone to marble to granite to good old-fashioned brick, there is no more low-maintenance backsplash base than stone.
- For the pleasure of acquiring a stone backsplash, you’ll typically pay more than most other materials. Between installation and material cost, the up-front payment can approach $1,000 for less than 30 square feet of wall space.
- With a wide range of stone to choose from, a number of color options are available at varying costs.
- If that upfront payment is manageable, the results will blend both aesthetics and function, and stone’s resiliency makes any follow-up costs minimal.
For an expert DIY challenge, there are many other ways to create a satisfying backsplash that fits your fancy, including vinyl wallpaper, wood, and even beadboard. What’s your dream backsplash style?
When dissatisfaction with your current home strikes, it can be exciting to launch into a plan for a new addition. A new living room, bedroom, or more can add value to your home while improving your quality of life.
On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost-per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.
Define your needs
To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.
If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”
If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.
Types of additions
Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one or more walls to make a first-floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.
First-floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.
Dormer addition—For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.
Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.
Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.
You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.
Requirements for a legal apartment
While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:
- Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it or zone-approval requirements.
- Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
- ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.
In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.
The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square foot if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area or about $100 per foot in a lower-priced market.
You might be wondering how much of that money your efforts might return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details, but the average “recoup” rate for a family room addition is typically more than 80 percent.
The bottom line
While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.
None of us want to admit it, but Winter is Coming. The new season of Game of Thrones might not be until 2019, but your home will need preparation before then. As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your investment from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep your home safe and warm for you and your loved ones throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple Sundays should be more than enough to knock this out:
Getting started: Check your toolbox to make sure you have all the materials you need for home maintenance in one place. This NY Times article provides a good list of the tools you’ll really need to maintain your home. After your toolbox is put together, you can confidently begin the maintenance on your home.
Insulation: Insulating a home can reduce your energy bill by up to 50%. For the best results, your home should be properly insulated from the ceilings to the basement. By starting in your attic and progressively adding insulation to other areas of your home over time, you will avoid spending a large sum of money up-front.
Cracks & Leaks: Do a run-through of your entire house for cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards. Winter weather is unpredictable. Whether your area gets rain, wind or snow, cracks in your house can lead to cold drafts or leaks that cause water damage. Depending on your house type, most cracks can be easily filled with supplies from your local hardware store in a do-it-yourself fashion. Use caulk to seal any cracks in the permanent building materials.
Windows & Doors: Another common place for heat leakage is in your windows and exterior doorways. Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Don’t underestimate the difference some weatherstrips and a door sweep can provide in preventing drafts and keeping the heat in.
Rain Gutters: Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak. Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.
Pipes: Pipes are a number one risk in winter climates. A burst pipe can become a winter disaster in a matter of seconds. Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.
Heating System: What’s one thing gas fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and central air heating systems all have in common? They all need to be cleaned and maintained. Annual checks of are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. If you use an old-fashioned wood stove, make sure there are no leaks and that all soot build up or nests are removed. If a furnace is what you have, remember to change the filters as recommended or clean out your reusable filters.
Fireplace & Wood burning stoves: Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%.
Outside: As we mentioned before, make sure you bring your patio furniture inside (or cover) for the winter- but don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including a hose and small planting pot. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season. If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any items that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.
Emergency Kit: Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up-to-date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids, etc- especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.
By John Trupin
Much of the Western United States is grappling with the same issue this summer – the specter of smoke and fire from some of the largest forest fires in recent memory. For individuals, even the decreased air quality can be a threat, while the destruction that the fires themselves can wreak is devastating. Homeowners living near impacted areas are often left with an impossible choice – pack up what they can and evacuate or remain in a dangerous location and hope for the best. Thankfully, homes needn’t be defenseless against the heat. To help fortify your home against damage stemming from fires, we brought together advice from a few experts.
Opt for Flame-Resistant Walls and Roofing
- It may be obvious but building a home out of non-flammable materials like brick, stucco, metal, or concrete is a key way to prevent a fire from taking hold initially.
- The troublesome spaces tend to be beyond the core of the home. Decks, balconies, and overhangs all commonly include wooden components that can be easy points of egress for embers.
- Replacing or coating these accent points with fireproof materials is a short-term expense that, much like insurance, prevents far greater financial strains in the future.
No Space is Too Small to Protect
- Think that little vent in the attic is too small to be an issue? Think again!
- Even vents built into kitchens and dryers should be considered as potential problem areas. Protecting these can allow continued circulation of air without incurring an excess fire risk.
- Wire screens with 1/8th” to 1/4th” between screen bars are typically enough to keep treacherous embers from sneaking into your home.
Fortify Your Windows
- The most vulnerable spots in most homes are glassy exterior windows. While their views are understandably gorgeous, they can be easy pressure points for fires to overpower.
- If you have the means to replace single-plane glass with wire glass or fireproof safety glass, that’s a worthwhile expense to ensure neither flames themselves nor radiant heat can shatter into your home.
- Beyond simply upgrading the glass, installing retractable fireproof exterior panels is the safest route to fire protection. And don’t forget your skylights!