Name Your Mid-Century Remodel Era (Part 1/4)

18 min read Quick! Name your favorite Mid-Century remodel era! Do you love 40’s fab or 50’s space-race or earthy late 60’s vibes?

What is your mid-century remodel era? 

I know you are here because you love mid century design. I know this because I love mid century design! And we all love to talk about “mid century” style…and then wonder what does that actually mean in terms of hitting that just right tone in an MCM remodel.  

What does Mid-Century Even Mean?

Mid Century is a broad term that covers anything from the immediate postwar building boom, up into the late 60s (or even the early 70s!).

When I’m planning a remodel for a design client, I need to know which end of the mid century era really lights them up in order to create a remodel that is right for them.

The Super-Simple Style Guide System

Today’s post is Part ONE of the Four part series on the Simple Style Guide System. I’m going to walk you through each step of focusing your style. Doing this will make EVERY choice you face while remodeling 100% easier!!

Make sure you listen to all four so that you can:

Today’s project: Name your SPECIFIC Mid-Century Remodel Era and Update Style!

Name your Mid-Century Style

There are two major parts to identifying the Mid-century style you want to bring to your home upgrade. Note that I did NOT use the word “update,” because some mid-century homeowners don’t want to update. They may even want to back date, or put back, the mid-century charm their home has lost!

Is this you?

Or are you more into the idea of modernizing your mid-century home. Keeping the tone and materials of the original house but updating it a bit to better fit your modern life?

Identify if you want to Preserve MCM or Update it

So step one is to figure out where you fall on that spectrum. Are you remodeling to put the Mid-Century back … or tuning it to fit better with your style?

Not sure? Take my easy Mid-Century Style Quiz to get your answer!

header image for mid-century style quiz

Pick out your Mid-Century Remodel Era

Step TWO is to pinpoint which years during the “mid-century” moment really light you up.

Are you charmed by a twee powder blue or baby pink bathroom? Or do you really groove on the late 60’s? Perhaps your heart beats for a more organic modern style with wood finishes, terra cotta tile and cream colored plaster – something a little more Usonian. The only wrong answer is not to know.

And you can certainly choose more than one option as you tune in your Mid-century remodel era.

But it pays to be precise.

Name that style

While you’re picking your mid-century remodel era, it might help to give it a name. Here’s an easy cheat code: pick the period movie or TV show that you identify with most. (Or zero in on your favorite early episode of Wanda Vision).

Say you want “Palm Springs, but more Flintstones than Jetsons.” That is going to tell me a lot about what’s going on in your mind’s eye! I can picture it quickly. Then we can fine tune from there!

Pick your Mid-Century Remodel Era and Preservation style Separately!

Remember: this answer is independent of your preservation preferences.

You can want to create a perfect time capsule of 1958 OR to just pull from the color schemes and shapes while you make a lot of updates to your style.

You also don’t HAVE to be bound by the year your home was built. It’s perfectly possible to turn the time dial back on a house built in the 60’s until it looks like a cute little post war cottage. Or to update the design of a home built in 1952 until it feels a bit more “mod.”

Here’s a quick shout out to those of you who DO love to keep the most MC style in your Mid-Century home “upgrades.”

Hello, My Vintage Mid-Century Lovers!

I’ve got some words of encouragement for you here:

First off, Lucky you! If you can manage to get your mitts on a cute little time capsule house, you can pretty much polish it up, and call your work done!

But, if you have a home that someone else has wiped of mid-century charm … don’t despair. You can put it back!

Turn your attention to the salvage world (and befriend your neighbors who love old-timey things less than you) and start piecing your Mid-Century Vintage home back together!

There’s always plenty of inspiration to be found. Get yourself invited into the home of your most venerable neighbors. Haunt local estate sales. And do a little time traveling with your local DoCoMoMo home tour! Plus … get our your library card and go hit the archives for records of House Beautiful and Sunset magazine from back in the day!

Don’t miss these essential Mid-Century Vintage Resources: Make it Mid-century, Retro Renovation, and US Modernist Radio’s Architecture Magazine Library! Oh and don’t miss my two part interview with Atom Stevens! Get more fun on Becoming your Home’s Historian and Cliff May Homes right here.

And don’t forget to send me pictures of your darling pink, peach, blue or yellow bathroom!

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  •  Why you need to think about your Mid-century style in TWO distinct ways: if you are more into preserving or updating your MCM home AND what were the peak years of your mid-century remodel era
  •  How coming up with a nick name for your upgrade style will help you
  • Some specific advice to the Mid-Century Vintage lovers in the room!

Listen Now On 

Apple | Google |  Spotify | Stitcher

Resources to find your Mid-Century Remodel Era

More Episodes Devoted to your Style Guide

And you can always…

Read the Full Episode Transcript

Della Hansmann  00:00

Hey, what do you call your mid-century remodel style? If you’ve taken my mid century style quiz, you know where you fall along the line from preservation to someone who just appreciates the mid century era and wants to nod to it and your home improvement projects. But what do you call your mid-century remodel era? Do you know the decade, the year that you’re dialing the knob back to in your mind? Knowing this is going to help you out!

Today is the first of a four part series on my style guide system that keeps your mid century home improvement projects looking great, and your sanity intact while you make it happen.

Hey there. Welcome back to Mid Mod Remodel. This is a 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 Episode 1201.

Okay, first things first, have you taken my style quiz? What did you score? I’m going to be talking about the importance of nailing down your personal mid century style over the next four episodes. And today, I also have some specific advice for people who identify as mid century vintage lovers. If you’re trying to preserve or put back the mid century original charm, or create a little bit of a time capsule out of your house, we will get to you. And I have some very clear advice for you in a minute. We’re going to be talking about the style guide for this entire next month. And that’s great news because this is your secret weapon.

This is how you keep the mid century in your mid century home while you upgrade it to meet your modern code standards your life and do all the things you want to do to turn this house into your home.

A style guide can do so much for you, my simple style guide system can transform the way you feel about your remodel. And how it comes out. You can end up with a home that looks like it was pulled together by a professional, all while spending less time and less stress in your decision making process when you follow this logical focusing process. But even though this is not rocket science, it does fly a little bit counter to our instincts.

Della Hansmann  01:55

So I’m going to be talking about this for the next four weeks, and then giving a clinic that I am maybe the most excited about for this entire year, how you can make a style guide for one room or for your entire home. And I’m gonna have you do it with me live in real time on a Saturday workshop. So go to mid mod dash midwest.com/clinic To save your seat at the early bird price. It’s a steal.

Now, if the idea of four weeks of podcast episodes of identifying and simplifying and protecting your mid century style seemed like not enough on the topic of style guides, well then dig back into the Mid Mod Remodel archives with the following episodes. We have links to all of these on the show notes page. And for each of the four part series will be pointing you back towards previous episodes where I’ve demonstrated the style guides importance to a mid mod kitchen upgrade, showing you how to gather and organize your inspiration on Instagram and on Pinterest.

Della Hansmann  02:46

Those are two separate episodes, how to develop your general style information all the way through to your final product selection, and how picking just one element like a faucet can help you focus and kickstart an entire style guide endeavor. Today’s episode is about how you can zero in on your style. And I’m going to be talking about something I have not told you before, which is how to think about that focusing in two distinct ways.

Della Hansmann  03:10

The first – which we’ve talked about before, if you think about your mid century style as a graph chart like a scatterplot. In one axis, you’ve got the question of how interested you are in preserving or returning to the exact moment in time you’re aiming at to create a little time capsule house. That’s on one side of the spectrum. On the other end of the spectrum, I have people I often help who want to make sure what they’re doing in their home is nodding to the mid century era, but not necessarily preserving the building completely.

Della Hansmann  03:40

Often what I hear from people on that end of the spectrum is “I’m not trying to live in a museum.” And that’s just fine. You can still create a pretty timeless, beautiful remodel for a mid century home. As long as you choose some of your style references in the mid century remodel era, the right woodgrain the right tone some of the shapes you’re choosing. You’ve heard me talk about this before. And if you want to identify where you fall on that spectrum, take a mid century style quiz. It’ll take you less than three minutes. And you can do it right on my website at midmod-midwest.com/style quiz.

Della Hansmann  04:08

But what about the other access of that chart? This is where the mid-century remodel era comes in. Because we love to say the word mid century. And then we have to wonder what does that mean? It’s a broad term. It covers anything from the immediate postwar building boom, until up into the late 60s or even the early 70s. If I’m planning a remodel for someone, I need to know which end of the mid century era really lights them up. And do you know this? Do you know if you’re more drawn to the early or later designs and mid century homes. We’ll get into that today. And at the end of the episode I’m going to have a few things to say just for the vintage lovers out there.

Della Hansmann  04:48

By the way, here’s a quick outline of the next three episodes, I’ll have a special shout out to each of the mid century Home Upgrade styles. Next week, I’ll be talking to those of you who scored mid mod fusion on the style quiz. I’ll give every listener some advice about how to find the right inspiration for your project. And whether you should or should not copy someone else’s design homework. In part three of the style guide system series, I’ll be talking about how a style guide is and is not like a mood board.

And why you absolutely want to plan a remodel that looks good and fits a budget. Seriously, this can really be a cost saving measure. I’ll also have words for people on the modern mid century end of the spectrum. Those who want to update their mid century homes in a lot of ways, but still keep it feeling timeless rather than trendy. And then in our fourth installment, I’m going to walk you through the style guide process from start to finish.

Della Hansmann  05:39

It’s a warm up for our next weekend workshop when we will be going all in on style guides. So if you have any interest in a remodel that comes together more smoothly looks exactly how you imagined it. And save stress and dollars on the way sign up for that clinic. Do that and get all the other resources today at midmod-midwest.com/1201.

Della Hansmann  05:57

My thoughts on this second axis of your mid century style chart came up recently for me in a client call. This client is interested in buying a forever home in the mid century style. The thing is, they already had what they thought of as their forever home. They loved it. And they put together perfectly a blend of their own family and style. Unfortunately, though, it’s in the city they had to leave. This is the reality for a lot of Americans. We fall in love with the place we fall in love with a house, we make it our home and then work commitments or family commitments pull us to another place. So these folks are not alone. But she has a huge advantage because she knows what she wants to achieve.

Della Hansmann  06:35

Even though she’s starting over. I asked her as I often do, what were the results of her style quiz. And she told me she had scored mid century vintage. Great. So far, so good. I love bringing back that original charm to a house. It’s fun to do, and it requires a particular type of care. But I could already see she was absolutely going to bring to the table. But then she wanted to clarify something else for me, which is that her color style and her other choices of design that she loves most come more from the late 60s than the twee cuteness of the early 50s and late 40s. This is a very important distinction to make. And a good thing to know about yourself.

Della Hansmann  07:09

It got me thinking about how you can take my style quiz, the results of which are really helped design to help you focus your choices. But they don’t actually identify where within the mid century history you fall, what is your mid-century remodel era. And that’s the other end of the axis. It really helps you to identify your mid-century remodel era, and where along that timeline you fall, are you really charmed by the early designs, do you love those baby pink and powder blue bathrooms? Or do you more prefer them slightly more sophisticated developed style of the late 60s early 70s.

Della Hansmann  07:44

So I’ll have a graph an image of this sketch on the show notes page if you’re having a hard time visualizing it. But basically, I want you to think about where these fall. Honestly, I’m only interested in a small part of this graph. I’m interested in the era of history that includes mid century. So if you scroll back too far in time, you’re getting into the cottage style. Which I have no problem with, it’s just not what I specialize in. And not why you’re listening to this podcast. If you scroll too far forward in history, you hit the 70s and then the 80s. And you start to lose some of the design features that really identify a mid century home.

Della Hansmann  08:20

Likewise, while full perfect preservation is the far end the zero line of the preservation to update axis, you can go further than I generally do. You can try to fully remove the original character of the house and transform it into an entirely different contemporary home. And that’s a choice you can make. But not necessarily what I recommend and certainly not what I specialize in helping people do. So we focus on one little area, one intersection of your preservation to update choices and your time in history.

Della Hansmann  08:55

In my bones, I’m an architect. And that means I believe that a certain honesty of materials is great. I believe you should listen to the essential structure of a building before you ask yourself what you’re going to do with it. So if your home was built during the mid century years, I want to help you listen to that style legacy. Whether you choose to turn it all the way back and have a perfect preservation project.

Or it might be something you want to take a very polished approach to, but you still want to route your choices in the original design era. Most of the clients that mid Midwest works with fall on the vintage or the fusion side of that chart. We do good work, improvements in layouts for people whose style ends up being more modern than mid century. But we always keep the mid century style alive for our clients.

Della Hansmann  09:40

Here’s the thing I want you to remember. This are part of two interrelated but largely separate aspects of design, the style and the layout. The closer you’re staying to a mid century home, the closer you’re going to keep track of original mid century layout choices that the homeowners might have made. You likely can’t do a perfect preservationists style on a home with a very modern contemporary open plan layout. On the other hand, you can take any vintage to modern layout, and then you can apply sort of vintage to contemporary finished choices to it. This is something we might talk about in future episodes.

Della Hansmann  10:18

But the other thing I want to talk to you about is as you’re trying to identify your mid-century remodel era. For our mid century masterplan clients, we put together a style guide document. It has a number of components and right at the top, we suggest our clients name their own mid century style.

Thinking of inspiration points like Nordic modern atomic interiors, Usonian homes, something more like Bauhaus minimalism, you can also get a little bit more pop culture with it, it can help to pick a classic TV show, or if you really liked one division, a particular episode. Knowing whether you’re thinking of the 60s in terms of Jetsons or Flintstones really makes a difference. And for example, when you go to the city of Palm Springs in California, you’ll find those two. there is a pretty consistent Palm Springs style. But even if you just say Palm Springs Modern, you might still need to break it down. say, I really like the more natural boulder based Flintstone style . Or I’m looking for the Space Age, the Googie style.

Della Hansmann  11:16

Now the name you choose for your version of mid-century style can be cutesy or clever, that’s fine. It’s meant for you to help you clarify what you’re looking for. But it does help if you can sum up your style and share it with someone else. A contractor for example, or someone who’s helping you to identify the finishes, you want to point out in a showroom. So do give some thought to knowing how to easily tell someone whether you’re trying to make a time capsule or make some updates to your upgrade. And where in the mid century decades or years specifically, or style feelings generally, are you going to fall?

Della Hansmann  11:55

Okay. I promise today I would speak directly to those of you who already know you are mid century vintage lovers. What do you need to know specifically about your style before you get started? Well, in many ways you have it the easiest. Especially if you were lucky enough to get your hands on kind of a time capsule house. And even if you didn’t, you can look at photos, visit estate sales, get invited over the homes of your most long lived neighbors. Just soak up inspiration.

Della Hansmann  12:22

It’s always best to house hunt your way into a home that has had relatively little done to it. So you don’t have to undo too many choices of previous owners. And really the best choice for anyone in this position is to find themselves what’s often known to realtors as a granny house. Thats a house that’s basically had one or two homeowners for all the decades it’s been around. Then you can just come in and shine up finishes. And if you need to replace something, you can be replacing one vintage item with another. Choose one that happens to be in better shape.

Della Hansmann  12:51

Of course it is possible to totally recreate a vintage home, even if your house has been pretty thoroughly scraped of the mid century style. When you are doing this you definitely want to know what is your mid-century remodel era. One example that comes to mind is a past client. The house was originally quite glorious, not an architect designed but a builder’s show house. And it had a beautiful turned on 45 degree angle, kitchen area with a big high ceilinged open air patio that was just really glorious.

Della Hansmann  13:25

Over the years this house had been added on to and remodeled multiple times by someone who fancied themselves a designer but in my opinion, didn’t have great taste. It had turned into a really a model of post modernism. Not just beige vinyl siding, but details cut into drywall returns. An honest to God for armed copper patinaed Victorian lamppost in the front yard. Really, it had lost its mid-century origins entirely. But the couple that bought it wanted to bring it right back to its origins. They were in the process when they came to me of wanting to redo the basement as a game room and a party area with dark wood paneling. On our initial call. They said to me, they were trying to recreate a James Bond basement. And I instantly pictured what they were talking about.

Della Hansmann  14:14

Upstairs, hey have been meticulously recreating monochromatic bathrooms. They had just sourced all of the pieces for a pink bathroom, finding b&w new tile but original fixtures, a sink a toilet, and I believe a shower unit and have even found the little details like the toilet paper roll and the little flip around cup and toothpaste holder to mount by the sink. It was divine. And honestly, you would never have known that it hadn’t been original if they didn’t tell you. They had a story of how they found every piece and installed them perfectly back into the space.

Della Hansmann  14:50

Now if this lights you up, seek out people who also love preservation and recreation, re-creation as much as you do. So you’re going to be hunting for estate sales. You’re going to be looking for preservation experts,. You’re going to be visiting the archives of retro renovation, you’re going to look into Adam Stephens on Instagram, check out the two podcast episodes series we did earlier this year. I’ll put the link to those in the show notes as well. You’re going to find Facebook marketplace and hunt down people dumping their despised vintage appliances and bathroom fixtures. Snap them up, sometimes at a discount.

Della Hansmann  15:26

If this is you, then I encourage you to go all in Haunt the archives of retro renovation. Start hanging out actually, if you’ve got a local architecture school, in their design library. Look at the old magazines, trying to find advertising literature, and marketing materials that really highlight the features of an original vintage house and bringing the back into yours. This is the Lord’s work. It’s really fun stuff. And I’m always excited to hear about these projects. Even though these aren’t the choices I make for my own home, they’re choices I totally support. I’m always delighted to work with clients who really want to bring back their house to a time capsule peak.

Della Hansmann  16:04

And this is also a choice you don’t have to make for your entire house. Some people want to make more contemporary updates to the main living areas of their house. And then have a time capsule basement or create one or two rooms in the house that really keep. Or put back the originalist charm of their home. So whatever you want to do on that level, Godspeed my friend.

Della Hansmann  16:25

Today we talked about the value of zeroing in on your mid mod upgrade to your mid century home what that means to you personally, and to your partner. Sometimes you may find that there’s some compromise to be made there. This means both how firmly you want to fall in with the details of your mid-century remodel era versus updating them. And knowing which exact moment in mid century history you’re aiming to hit. What is your mid-century remodel era?

Della Hansmann  16:49

Okay, over the next couple of weeks, we’re gonna go further touching on where to go beyond magazines and Pinterest for inspiration to get you excited in next week’s episode. I’ll be speaking directly to those who scored mid mod fusion on the mid century style quiz. Is that you?

Della Hansmann  17:02

And in part three, I’ll be showing how a style guide is not a mood board. It’s better. And how you can use yours to save money as well as stress in your remodel. I’ll be giving specific advice to those who got modern mid century on their style quiz. Sometimes one member of the household gets when the other partner gets something a little bit more retro. We’ll talk about bridging that gap which is something that I see with my clients a lot.

Della Hansmann  17:25

And finally, part four, I’ll take you on a quick speed run through the entire style guide process. We’ll go from start to finish using the example of a very small bathroom, same layout. See one room: three very different outcomes.

Della Hansmann  17:37

All right, my friends, you will find the show notes and all of this information at midmod-midwest.com/ 1201. And I hope you have already taken the style quiz and are signing yourself up for the style guide clinic. Next week on the podcast. I’ll have those words for my fellow mid mod fusion folks and universal advice on where to find inspiration and simplifying your inspiration finding process. Go sign up for the style guide clinic now and I’ll see you next Thursday.