In Rancho Mirage, California, a tired 1960s house is completely transformed with new features and materials that blend midcentury charm with contemporary taste.
Despite a 1984 remodel, the desert midcentury that a couple recently purchased as their vacation home near Palm Springs had long suffered signs of aging with outdated finishes, deferred maintenance, and ill-proportioned rooms. Eager to breathe new life into the 1960s dwelling, the homeowners looked to Seattle–based Stuart Silk Architects for a gut renovation to bring their holiday home to modern standards.
“Our clients wanted to create an updated, midcentury modern home that isn’t too modern,” the architects explain of the project, dubbed Thunderbird Heights. “Our goal was to capture the feel of a home that could have been built in the 1950s but also has elements of today. We wanted to integrate fresh ideas alongside design elements popular in the 1950s in Southern California.”
Starting with a reconfiguration of the entire floor plan, the architects removed and replaced “90 percent” of the original house with new construction; most of the existing foundation and roof structure were reused.
Thermally broken windows replaced all original glazing while large expanses of floor-to-ceiling glass were installed to open the home up to greater natural light and views of the outdoors.
Further enhancing the indoor/outdoor living experience are two new open-air terraces attached to the living room and kitchen. To accommodate a growing family, the architects also added an extra bedroom for a total of five bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms.
Midcentury influences abound in the updated architecture, from the home’s long horizontal forms and flat roof to custom-made details like the geometrically inspired entrance door and metal screens.
Yet the home is far from a 1960s time capsule. Blending together midcentury elements, contemporary surfaces, and the couple’s individual tastes, Thunderbird Heights has a vivacious character that’s uniquely its own.
It doesn’t seem possible, but midcentury modern design likely became even more popular in 2018 than before. The meteoric rise of the architectural and design style has been aided by shows like Mad Men and pushed into homes through big-box retailers like Target. But a good Eames chair aside, nothing quite compares to a midcentury modern building.
Designed by AIA Gold Medal architect JosephEsherick, this multi-level wood-framed home towers above a sloped site in Montclair Hills and frames breathtaking views of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Almost treehouse like in its aesthetics, the 2,391-square-foot four-bedroom boasts a series of decks, balconies, walkways, cantilevers, and staircases that creates a dynamic space both inside and out.
A boxy one-bedroom, one-bath home where you can live out your Farnsworth House dreams. Built by longtime University of Tennessee architecture professor William Starke Shell, the 1,600-square-foot home features a flat roof, 40-by-40 steel beams, and huge glass panels. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Shell earned a master’s of architecture from Columbia University before working with Mies in Chicago.
Not every home we loved this year was a starchitect-designed multi-million dollar listing. This modest home in Bayside, Wisconsin, listed for a reasonable $410,000 but boasted original details. The flat-roofed wooden construction unfurls across 2,100 square feet, with an open-concept living, a teal kitchen, and a dining area running the entire length of the house. Here, walls of glass frame views of the yard, while new cork flooring complements a double-faced stone fireplace and wood paneling.
Here’s another fantastic midcentury home from the Sarasota School of Architecture, a regional modernist style that emerged after the war in and around Sarasota, Florida, and which counts Paul Rudolph and William Rupp among its notable architects. What sets this one apart is its completely circular design. Measuring approximately 2,714 square feet, the home features 18-foot ceilings, a cantilevering flat roof, clerestory windows circling the top of the curved walls, and soaring, double-height spaces.
The 2,522-square-foot house was built in 1962 by Verne Lars Solberg, a successful commercial architect in northern Illinois. While at the University of Oklahoma, Solberg met Ross and Eleanor Graves—whose father worked Wright’s land in Wisconsin—and it was Ross Graves who introduced Solberg to Wright’s organic style. When a doctor in Polo asked Solberg to design a house, the architect was given free range to design whatever he saw fit; this Usonian-style, three-bedroom, two-bath stunner was the result.
Designed in 1965 for Jack Christiansen, the pioneering engineer behind Seattle’s Kingdome roof and many other iconic buildings throughout the state, the post-and-beam waterfront residence appears to be virtually untouched and beautifully maintained over the years. The structure features an expansive deck propped on a concrete dais with a plethora of midcentury details—think glass and wood construction, Japanese-inspired beams, wood screens, and glazed expanses that frame stunning water and mountain views.
Located in Armonk, New York, about 50 minutes north of the city, this four-bedroom, two-bath midcentury was built in 1957 by architect Arthur Witthoefft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The home is a 25-by-95 foot rectangle featuring a black exposed-steel frame, white glazed brick, and huge floor-to-ceiling glass sliders. It sits on a sloping site, surrounded by the forrest of Westchester County, and multi-year renovations overseen by Witthoefft in 2007 brought the home back to its glory days.
This four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home was designed by E. Fay Jones in 1964 to respect and highlight the serene forest on the 1.27-acre property. A Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice with a lengthy career of his own, Jones made a name for himself building airy structures in forested areas, many in the Ozarks. It’s a masterclass in the Prairie style; an interior of cypress wood, Arkansas field stone, and flagstone floors is carefully balanced with giant floor-to-ceiling glass windows that provides views into the trees outside.
Built by prolific Portland builder Robert Rummer in 1969, the house boasts Rummer’s classic post-and-beam design with a soaring atrium. The high-pitched, double-gable design anchors a floor plan that wraps around the central atrium, resulting in rooms flooded with light. Giant skylights also create an airy ambiance, but the home feels cozy thanks to Rummer’s use of wood and paneling.
This groovy midcentury modern home located in the Twin Palms neighborhood of Palm Springs starts with an unforgettable facade of stone “isosceles trapezoidal piers” and aquamarine double doors and culminates in impressive outdoor spaces that include a pool and multiple patios.
Sitting on the top of a hill on a one acre lot about 45 minutes from Atlanta, this four-bedroom Eichler-inspired house maintains most of its original features. The large and open living room area boasts soaring tongue and groove ceilings with a massive crab orchard stacked stone fireplace. East facing clerestory windows and a glassed sunroom extends the length of the rear of the home to let in light, contrasting with the warm wood-paneled interiors.