Have fun doing your MCM research

Undertaking a home remodel can be stressful, but dreaming and planning for one shouldn’t have to be.  Today let’s talk about some really fun ways to learn about Mid-Century design.  Dip your toe into our favorite era … and get home improvement ideas at the same time!

We all like to absorb new information in different ways.  

You might learn about mid-century history best from a book or maybe you learn by seeing a building in person.  

I’ve got a fun starting point for every learning style in my UPDATED Mid-Century Ranch Resources list.  

Learn about mid-century design with my updated resources list - now with 89 of my favorite resources

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • A few of my favorite movies and TV shows for MCM design
  • The instagram accounts you SHOULD BE following to learn mid-century architecture history and get fun DIY tips
  • Where to go on vacation to see the best of MCM all around you
  • And how to spot and learn about mid-century buildings from your own neighborhood

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Resources to Learn about Mid-Century design

Read the Full Episode Transcript

Undertaking a home remodel can be stressful, but dreaming about it and planning for it shouldn’t be.

Today let’s talk about some fun ways to dip your toe into the waters of Mid-century design and get great ideas for your home update.

Hey there, welcome back to Mid Mod Remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes, helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host Della Hansmann architect, and mid-century ranch enthusiast. You’re listening to season eight, episode two.

Here’s the sad fact: so many parts of planning a remodel are complicated, expensive, and stressful. No matter how you slice it, you’re going to have to spend money, agree with your spouse or partner, negotiate judging between multiple contractor bids, choosing materials and setting your priorities. It’s a lot, but it doesn’t all have to be stressful. Trying to combat that stress is why I came up with the Mid-century Master Plan method to try to short circuit some of the most crazy-making elements of planning a remodel.

In the process of creating a Master Plan you take the time to examine your hopes and dreams; so you can set real priorities. You learn about your home so you can become the expert in what your house actually needs. You set up a Style Guide to simplify the infinite product decisions that come along the way; and you workshop multiple options so that when you look at your final house, when it’s all done, you know, you chose the right schemes for yourself. In short, you take a big picture approach to the project . You can set your scale, your priorities, and keep an eye on the bottom line as you plan. Now, those elements of the Master Plan process are all about making hard things a little less difficult.

So today we’re gonna talk about how to let your planning process your research/the time you spend to learn about mid-century design, be fun. Whether you like to read about history or walk past it on the street, I bet we can find some fun sources of information for you in this episode. We don’t all learn the same way so one size, one method of learning doesn’t fit all.

In putting together this episode, I’ve added some new resources to my super useful must have mid-century ranch resources list. This download the last time I updated, it had 56 articles, books, magazines, product suppliers, and more to check out. I’ve just been updating it as I put this together. And I’ve added a few new books that have come out since my previous publishing plus added categories for movies and TV shows even YouTube videos and re-upped my list of product suppliers.

Plus I’ve add a few more internet accounts you might wanna be following. If you love mid-century design.

In short, the list has grown.

As of right now, it’s swelled past 80 items. Um, and I think I’m gonna think of a few more before this podcast goes to air. But don’t worry, this isn’t homework. This resource list is broken down into bite-sized categories so you can skip right to the medium or subject of your choice.

Grab it at midmod-midwest.com/resources to get started on learning more about mid-century design however you like to learn. You can find it also in the show notes. Get links to the references I’ll make throughout the episode and an outline of the conversation at midmod-midwest.com/802.

All right, so let’s talk about, to my mind, one of the most relaxing ways to learn about mid-century design. That is to take it in while you relax over Netflix in the evening. You could go hunting specifically for mid-century type entertainment, or just appreciate it when it pops up on your screen. If you are hunting for a few mid-century oriented films and TV shows, I’ll give you a list someplace to get started.

North by Northwest, which came out in 1959. This is a classic Hitchcock thriller and it was set in a Wright inspired house. Jutting out dramatically over a cliff. It’s not actually a real place. It was a film set designed by MCM for the movie, but it is absolutely chock-a-block of mid-century design glory.

If you’d rather watch a more modern movie set in a mid-century time, check out The Big Lebowski. The chill factor of the dude abiding while he bowls in a classic vintage bowling alley ,sits in Saarinen Tulip chairs and relaxes under the stunning triangular vaulted roof of the Sheats Goldstein Residence designed by John Lautner.

For more John Lautner architecture, you might check out A Single Man. This movie builds the entire character around the architecture. It uses the house as a metaphor for its owner’s sense of the dissolution of the life he had after he loses his partner.

To see mid-century design on the small screen. Of course the classic everyone has to recommend it. Mad Men. I love the sets, but kind of can’t stand the show. I’m not an anti hero person. You could alternate that with the marvelous Mrs. Maisel. And this is mid-century modern as it slots into New York apartment living. So it’s more about interiors than architecture, but the set and costume design give you everything you could want about mid-century high life in the era we love.

Or if you wanna go hopscotching through history, check out WandaVision. Not only for Marvel fans, this oddball Disney plus show that came out last winter just about a year ago. It’s time for a rewatch from me. You get to watch this show hop through the fifties, the sixties, the seventies, and the eighties recreating classic sets. Look for the I Love Lucy show set and the one they used in the Brady Bunch.

Another one of my go-to favorite mid-century movies, not actually from the mid century is Down with Love. This is a modern sendup of the classic MCM sex comedy. You get all the glory of the colorful costumes, the wood paneled, New York office buildings, and the crazy bachelor pad of the pillow talk style man trap apartment. And none of the creep factor of the door that locks when you push a light switch button on the inside, uh, not for me.

Um, and then here’s an unexpected choice. Get Over It. This is a 2001 teen comedy loosely reprising Shakespeare’s Midsummer night’s dream. It is set in a series of California (they’re actually Canadian) modernist houses that I can’t get enough of. From the homes to the high school. It’s a nice reminder that we still live in and appreciate the buildings of the past.

So when you’re thinking about what you wanna watch this weekend, think about something that’s set in the mid century era. If none of the things I’ve mentioned here grab, ok. Check out a million internet lists of mid-century inspired films and TV, or we watch a few movies or shows that filmed actually in mid-century times. I hope you don’t share this bad habit with me, but honestly, in these days you might. Do you ever scroll on social media while the TV’s on? I, I hate to admit that I do. You can tune the algorithms of your various social media feeds. I’m gonna talk about Instagram here. If you follow the right kinds of accounts, you’ll eventually start to see mostly what you want to see.

In addition to keeping up on our friends’ lives and cute puppies and children, we can follow mid-century accounts. There’s of course, the sort of mid mod “Greats.” Off the top of my head, you might wanna be follow modernist Tim Ross’s account where he posts just stunning pictures of modernist architecture from all over using his own photos. And occasionally has videos where he talks about his love for mid-century design classic buildings and occasionally cars it’s total eye candy. Let’s see what else.

Of course The Atomic Ranch is just a smorgasbord of amazing graphic design and interiors, as well as architecture from all over the country. Although mostly the west coast. They also feature the work of some of my favorite mid-century designers, Ellen Waters at Exactly Designs and Aletha VanderMaas of True Home Restorations have both shown up on their website.

If you wanna do some armchair traveling, check out the account of @modtraveler. Ken McIntyre is a writer who travels and photographs amazing architecture, Vancouver, Vegas, Palm Springs, and more. He’s always highlighting the glorious breeze block, signage, cars, and dramatic buildings of the mid-century era we love.

And then there’s Mid-century Home, which is an online magazine that, uh, features stunning interiors, mostly of mid-century buildings. The account has 300,000 followers. If you’re not one of them, I don’t know why you’re not, but there are also smaller counts. You can check out. For example, I really love the eye of @designexplorers. Marilette Makia is an architecture or enthusiast in California. Her photos in her feed are stunningly captured. Mid-century buildings she’s visited. And then she also has great stories where she just walks around places she’s been and shows off slices of life in mid-century residential neighborhoods. Definitely give her account a follow. Now, in addition to that, popcorn off the top of my head list of capital A Architecture accounts.

If you’re planning to update your mid-century home, I highly recommend that you follow the Instagram accounts of other mid-century homeowners who are working on updates of their own. You can actually learn more from regular folks who are tuning and transforming their mid-century era homes. Their ideas and projects may be more useful and more accessible than the gorgeous magazine spread type ideas you’ll find in Atomic Ranch and more.

The reason is the kind of projects that get featured in magazines have budgets and bones. The beginning building that people were starting with that are often not what we have access to if we are owners of a regular mid-century ranch. So if you’re looking for ways to tune up your own home, you might be best off by following the accounts of people with houses just like yours. These folks aren’t necessarily designers, but they are lovers and curators of their own mid-century houses.

I’m gonna rattle off a list really quickly here, but you can go to my Instagram account or check the link in the show notes to grab each and every one of these accounts to follow. You might wanna check out the Cohen Fumero House, which was a gorgeous architecturally significant house in Charlotte, North Carolina that was the victim of a tragic, uh, rebuttal that basically threw it into the nineties. And now it’s being slowly brought back by owners who appreciate the stunning paneling and the other many fine features.

This house is done, but was really lovingly done up. If you follow the @wildwoodmodern account, you can see all of the ongoing home improvements and sort of magical DIY projects that have made this house go from mid-century bland to modern amazing.

I love the work in progress that is the Long Acre House. This is a place to go if you love the color apple green. This homeowner is committed to the original choice of the house which has these great apple green cabinets in the kitchen and they have just leaned into that color choice and they’re doing wonderful updates in and around the house as they have time and resources, plus they also do house logos so they’re really fun.

The Boychuk Project is a 1963 raised ranch in Saskatchewan that had a definite nineties flavor when the new owners took it over, but they’ve been slowly transforming it back to its mid-century era with Verve and beautiful details.

Hello Refuge is a great homeowner account. Also a blog with documentation of very enthusiastic first time homeowner with an eye for design and can make happen. This should be an inspiration for anyone who wants to DIY the most in their mid-century home.

And then if you’re a collector of mid-century items, you should be following Farre11Cat. It’s a mid-century house actually built from scratch in our own era. Mid-century style, not mid-century origin, but it is a microcosm of the mid-century style and the account is filled with wonderful vintage object collections that are always increasing. I always enjoy an update from this account.

So that’s just a few, I keep this list up to date so I’m always adding new homeowner accounts when I find them. I hope you’ll give it a follow up because really there’s nothing more confidence inspiring than watching someone else with a house that looks a lot like yours start to make updates to it in a really conscious way.

It would be so wrong of me not to give you any ideas for how to learn about mid-century design concepts without getting away from screens. So if you’re planning a vacation, you can plan your trip around, or just take a little side trip along to explore mid-century design, wherever you go.

I’m a firm believer that you can find mid-century houses, civic buildings, roadside stops all around you just by looking. But if you want more assistance, why not get a guide to the mid-century icons? You could be visiting.

One of the books I’ve added to my resources list is mid-century modern architecture travel guides, one for the east coast and one for the west by Sam Lubell and Darren Bradley. Basically they take you on a town by town guide to finding the mid-century architecture icons in the places you might already be going. I hope they do the Midwest next, but until they do, don’t worry. You can actually go and find mid-century stuff to look at all around. If you want some help, you can actually use this for both travel and for staying at home. I’m gonna talk you through a couple of the ways that I use to hunt for mid-century neighborhoods wherever I go.

If you’re looking else ideas specifically, dart by just taking a spin through Zillow listings. Yeah, I know we’re back on screens again, but this is the easiest way and you can actually use search terms for mid-century or mid mod when you search your recent listings. If you find one mid-century style house in a neighborhood, chances are, you can just go to that neighborhood and find a whole lot more of them.

You can also use Google maps to help you in your search. If you practice, you can spot a ranch neighborhood from the air. I tend to run a quick calculation of whether the town I’m looking at my own or another one had any major growth opportunities since the postwar. In manufacturing towns are smaller, Midwestern cities surrounded by farmland, the mid-century neighborhoods are sometimes the outer ring of development. In Madison there’s a heavy ring of mid-century era, surrounded by more concentric rings, sort of blobby shaped of 70s and 80s years contractor specials, and then mid Mansons on larger lots from the nineties to the two thousands.

Another way to look is to check out elementary schools. If you can find a mid-century elementary school, the mid-century neighborhood will be around it. The mid-century building boom went hand in hand with a baby boom. So the new neighborhoods filled up with families of kids who needed to go to school. You can tell at a street view on Google maps. If you found a school from the mid-century era, and then you’ll find the mid-century neighborhood around it.

Over time, you can build a mid-century treasure map of your own town and also wherever you travel, you can just keep your eye peeled for either mid century infill houses in older neighborhoods or the mid-century parts of town that you wanna visit. Even when I’m going to visit friends or family I always take a little bit of time out of every trip to go strolling sometimes while chatting with those same friends and family, uh, through the mid-century neighborhoods with my camera handy.

It’s amazing the ideas you can find, especially if you’re traveling outside of your own region to cross pollinate back into your home place with cool ideas for front door updates, fences, landscaping, color schemes, and more. Even if the only vacation you’re planning right now is a staycation. Take a new look at your own hometown. If you keep your eyes peeled for mid-century design, you’ll find it all around you. You don’t have to assign yourself homework to learn about mid-century design and get great ideas for your home improvement.

Just let mid-century obsession seep into your day to day activities. Come on in the water’s fine.

Movies, TV shows, your scroll time, your vacations, and just running errands around town can all provide fodder for your planning and dreaming.

So if you want to grab the updated resource list, go to midmod-midwest.com/resources. If you already downloaded a copy in the past and want that update, I’ll be sending out that updated list to my whole email subscriber list this morning, check your inbox. You’ll find links to those in Instagram guides and the blog post I’ve written about hunting down mid-century neighborhoods to explore all at midmod-midwest.com/802. That’s all for now folks. I’ll leave you this question. How are you going to have fun boning up on mid-century design ideas this weekend?