The end of the year is a time to look back, and today that’s what we are doing, setting our sights on the middle of the 20th century. Midcentury modern homes are often featured in our House Calls column. The reason is simple: Great design is eternally appealing. Here are some MCM dwellings that have left a lasting impression on us.
When we wrote about the Frost House owned by Bob Coscarelli and Karen Valentine, we described it as something of a midcentury miracle. Originally a model home for a planned community, the home was purchased by Robert and Amelia Frost in the early 1960s complete with all of the Knoll furniture used to stage it. Nearly 60 years later, when Coscarellli and Valentine bought it, the home and the furniture were in pristine condition. The second owners are committed to preserving the house and its contents, calling it a “beautiful testament” to modern design.
When iconic midcentury modern architect Richard Neutra completed a teaching stint at the University of Pennsylvania, he left behind a handful of residential projects he completed in the Keystone state. Years later, when Allen Fair and Nelson Tolentino discovered one of them in an online real estate listing, they couldn’t believe their luck. Although they’ve made a few updates to the home, they’ve done so with an eye to what came before.
When Erik Allen moved into this house in Echo Park, he asked his interior designer (and girlfriend) Leanne Ford if something could be done about some of the period details—such as the red tile floor and turquoise Formica countertops. Although they weren’t her colors of choice, she urged him to not be so hasty. The result is a time capsule outfitted with the kind of character you just can’t recreate—plus a jukebox in the kitchen.
Before they moved to Silicon Valley, Sean and Amy Keeler were modern-design collectors trapped in a San Francisco Victorian. When they discovered this untouched Eichler in Palo Alto, they found the perfect setting for their midcentury modern furniture collection. The result is a period-perfect dwelling.
The Eichler influence is clear in the 1950s home of Robert and Amanda Nathan, and they loved it. So much, in fact, that when the hired architect Risa Boyer to design an addition, they asked her to make it match what was already there. Today it’s hard to discern where the old ends and the new begins. “I love the feel of midcentury homes,” Amanda says. “I can’t imagine living in any other style. I’m pretty sure I was born in the wrong era.”
Although LeeAnn Manon had envisioned buying a Craftsman, when she saw this Eichler in Northern California, she knew it was the one for her. She worked with designers at Laura Martin Bovard Interiors to create a home that could accommodate some of the classic style she favored as well as her new-found appreciation for modern design. “I think we remodeled it in a way that an Eichler might look if it were built today,” Bovard says.
When architect John Ike of Ike Kligerman Barkley opened an office in California, it allowed him to indulge in his love of West Coast Modernism. He took a San Diego home with no architectural pedigree and updated and remodeled it to his taste. Although he says it’s not a midcentury modern “temple,” he feels it calls to mind the work of earlier architects whose work he admires. "It’s evocative of the great Southern California midcentury tradition, and that’s what I’m all about."
Robert and Tami Jamieson found their midcentury dream house in a suburb of Philadelphia. That’s where they purchased a house designed by Robert McElroy, a prolific modern architect in the 1960s. The place has all the hallmarks of McElroy’s work, including soaring roof lines and ceiling planes and large floor-to-ceiling windows. As the principal and founder of Studio Robert Jamieson, Robert set out to keep the classic modern spirit, while injecting fresh elements in the mix.
When Ben Erickson and Ayana Leonard make the two-hour drive from Brooklyn to their midcentury cabin in northern New Jersey, it feels like they are leaving one world for another. Erickson (founder of Erickson Aesthetics) calls it “total country living.” However, that doesn’t mean the style is down on the farm. When the couple remodeled the rundown 1950s era cabin, they worked hard to maintain the original aesthetic while adding their own rustic notes.
Miles McDermott is so into midcentury modern design, he founded an organization called called Save the Sixties to "preserve, restore, and showcase" the style in the Phoenix area. When it came to his own apartment, he wanted to create an environment that is not inspired by the era, but completely true to it. He studied period design books to create an interior that’s composed entirely of vintage pieces.
Years ago, Coralie Langston-Jones read an article about Eichler homes and fell in love with the connection between the interior and exterior. Later her modern living dreams came true when she and her family moved into an Eichler in Northern California. The problem was that the previous owners had altered some of the hallmarks that make Eichlers beloved classics. Langston-Jones and her husband Brett Wickens carefully restored the home, bringing back the original spirit while adding nods to today’s living.