I Want to Update My Mid-Century Home. Where do I Start?

13 min read If you are brand new to owning a Mid-Century Home and wondering “Where do I start?” Start small. Here are the first steps to get you on the right path!

What comes first when you’re brand new to your mid-century home and wondering “Where do I start?”

It doesn’t matter if you are a brand new homeowner, someone who’s been in their house a few years and feeling ready to make some changes or you don’t even HAVE a home yet but want to start making your life look a little more MCM!

Now, you’re ready to start planning what you would like to do to make your house into your home so … where do you even begin?

How can you start the remodel process without getting in completely over your head?

Today, let’s talk about how to stick your toe into the kidney-shaped pool of mid-century home updates.

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • How to get started on making your mid-century house into your home EVEN if you don’t know where to start.
  • What levels of a home update might be right for you (now and in the future). 
  • How to tackle a curb appeal upgrade or an indoor tune up project THIS WEEKEND and break your deadlock.
  • The benefits of a slow start – and the risks of jumping in too hard too fast.
  • And a tease of next week’s episode aimed to keep your remodel on its mid-century path no matter how fast you want to take it!

Listen Now On 

Apple | Google |  Spotify | Stitcher

Resources to answer the “Where do I start?” Question

header image for mid-century style quiz

And you can always…


Which of these sounds like you? New to a mid-century house and wanting to get started, but feeling overwhelmed, wondering where do I begin with making this house my home, but keeping it mid-century? Folks like this want to get the ball rolling without getting flattened by it? Is that you, or maybe you’re on the other side of the equation. I hear from a lot of folks who are telling me they have a mid-century home that needs some love and they are ready to go. Their question is how to make tracks on their home while either A) preserving what they can of its mid-century detail or B) restoring what was lost in previous remodels. Those folks are looking for big energy and power moves. Maybe that’s you. I’m gonna be talking to each group over the next two episodes. Today, we’re going to cover starting small and next week we’ll get into how to plan a big remodel while still keeping your house mid-century.

So, 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 house host Hansmann architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast. You’re listening to season nine, episode two. Okay. Uh, let’s do the resource of the week before we get any further, the style quiz. Have you taken it? What did you score? Because look, there are a lot of different subcategories of mid-century. You might be here for the vintage time capsule effect, or maybe you just wanna make sure you don’t accidentally turn your ranch into a shiplap-covered cottage. You might be more contemporary, modern, or more retro chic there’s room for a lot of different types of style in a mid-century era home. Knowing where you fit will help you make decisions with confidence and seek out the right influencers and family, and friends for your personal home update journey.

That’s why I made the mid-century style quiz. You can take it in three minutes, no hard questions I promise. And then I’ll send you a personalized style guide for your next steps in home improvement process, go to www.midmod-midwest.com/stylequiz, or find that plus all the show notes and the links to all the references I make today. There’s gonna be a lot of them and a transcript of the podcast on my website, at midmod-midwest.com/902. Okay. So the first perspective we’re gonna talk about this two episode series is what to do when you’re brand new, to thinking about changing your home. Maybe you’re a brand new homeowner. Maybe you haven’t even gotten a mid-century home yet, but you’re feeling like you’re ready to start putting your stamp on whatever space you’re living in, or maybe you’ve been in your home for a while, but life has been kind of chaotic.

I don’t know. There’s been a global pandemic. Other things have come up for whatever reason. Now you’re ready to go. You’ve saved up. You’ve got your head on straight. You and your partner are on the same page. You wanna remodel. If any of this sounds like you, I’m here to help you start on a planning process that will help you get your home in order. Where do you begin? How can you start on a remodel without getting in completely over your head? That’s what we’re gonna talk about today, by the way, if this doesn’t sound like you, if you’re in camp two, you are ready to jump into action on your house, or if you’ve lived in your house for quite a while, and you wanna take a fresh look at the way that you’ve been living in it, I’ll be talking to you next week.

We’ll get into how to plan and take on a big picture action plan for a mid-century house while keeping the mid-century part intact. So stay tuned. Today, though, let’s talk about how to stick your toe into the kidney shaped pool of mid-century home updates. And by the way, if you know someone who’s just getting into their first mid-century home, uh, and is planning to start making some changes, tweaks transformations. This episode is gonna be a great start to think about planning, a home update, whether it’s large or small, the right way to get started, right from the start. If you’ve never remodeled before here is my best advice. Remember to give yourself grace, every step from planning to execution will take a little longer, may cost a little more than you expect. Actually, it will take a lot longer. There’s this thing called the remodeling X factor.

And basically you take however long you hope or anticipate that some project will take. If it takes twice that a two X factor you’re doing great, it might take three X or four X or five X. What you were hoping it would take. But I don’t say that to scare you just to give you a sense of realism. It’s okay. If you’re just moving into a house, I actually don’t recommend you jump right into making changes. Unless you feel you must living in a house for just a little while, can give you insight into what it’s like to be there. That can’t be replaced any other way. So this is your permission slip to start small, to take your time. Sometimes you feel that for other life reasons you really have to get going. The house is unlivable. You must execute a remodel before you move in.

But in an ideal world, I recommend that you take time to put your feet in the water slowly, take on one or two small, but satisfying progress projects to make the house your own. What does small mean? Well, that depends on your experience, your budget, your ambition. It could be a weekend DIY project that’s starting small, or it could be having the house painted and updating the exterior. What spa means is up to you, but definitely it will be a level one or a level, two project. If you’re a regular listener to the podcast, you might already know what that means, but here’s a thumbnail reminder. Most of the time, when you hear someone talk about home improvement, or if you see it on social media or TV, it’s a big project. I call these level three remodels, big honking level three remodels are what people think of and what they’re afraid of when they realize they wanna make some changes to their home.

You’re planning a level three. If you are gonna totally gut the house or part of it on start over. If you’re adding on an addition, or if you’re generally planning a project that will take a general contractor to manage, that’s a level three, but for us today instantly reduce your sense of overwhelm around your remodeling plans. By realizing that you don’t have to take on that much work in order to plan a remodel, you wanna figure out what level of a remodel you actually have in mind and have the capacity for today, this year. So the next step down is a level two remodel. They can be almost as transformative as the previous type, but they’re broken down into smaller, more bite size chunks. So you can undertake them yourself or manage them as the homeowner hiring in subcontracts to do various work. You can entirely overhaul your house.

One project at a time, one or two projects a year with a level two remodel, but then there are also level one, remodels. Yes, these are remodels. They generally involve tweaking a pretty close house with simply purchased or easily DIY-able projects that literally anyone can take on with basic skills and tools. It might mean finding great furniture, painting the walls, your favorite color, hanging art. If you wanna learn more about the levels, check out, uh, episodes 1 0 6 and three 12 from a lot more detail, but here’s the bottom line home improvement doesn’t have to mean a contractor remodel. I’m gonna say that again. Home improvement does not have to mean a contractor remodel. It just means improving your home. So if you really wanna start small, you might be setting yourself up with some lovely mid-century furniture to compliment the house you have. Or like I said, at the top of the episode, if you aren’t even quite to the homeowner stage yet the home you hope to have in fact for not yet, mid-century homeowners starting with level one furniture.

Acquisitions is your very best and most, uh, moveable bet. So in episode 203, I talk about a recipe to add quick and easy mid-century style upgrades to any room in your house. It’s as simple as starting with a centerpiece for the room. If it’s your living room that might be a coffee table in the bedroom, a bedside table, um, outside, it might be your front door and you make that piece shine. You can source vintage or modern reproductions, according to your budget, whatever makes you smile. Then the next step is to add some mid-century friendly color. And as I talked about last week color, that’s, mid-century friendly covers the waterfront. Um, but basically you just wanna decide what’s your color palette. Are you going like early vintage baby pink, powder blue, sixties mod orange, yellow, bright green. Find the colors that work for you. And then draw from that palette.

Bring one color or several from that range into your room or to the outside of your house. A rug, a pillow, a painted wall, a mailbox. And the third step is a conversation piece. Walmart, some decorations, a fun clock, a table center piece house numbers for the outside. With those three elements in place, you can clap your hands and call your work done, or keep on going with a sense of progress. Grab the room recipe guide my free workbook that walks you through these steps with fun visuals at midmod-midwest.com/roomrecipe, no spaces. Okay. If you wanna start by having something done to your house by other people, nothing makes a house feel more like it belongs to you faster than a quick exterior update. This kind of curb appeal change can often be done without regard to what you might do on the inside later.

So you don’t end up stepping on your own future selves toes by giving the house a new coat of paint. Even though you wanna redo the kitchen later, other interior updates, you might take on, have the risk of you do something quickly now, and then a couple years down the line, you find yourself undoing your own work. So it’s usually a safe bet to start on the exterior. A lot of my one-to-one design work, the exterior update, visualization packages end up coming from people. Who’ve just moved to the house and they want to do more work in the future. But for now they wanna make the house look like theirs. From the outside. I was just taking a consultation call the other day, where people were settling into their home, which we all about getting new siding, a new front door, picking colors and pulling those other fun details.

Like light fixtures, mailbox, house numbers together. That’s them saying, here we are neighborhood. This is our house later. They’re gonna come back and focus on the interior, but that’s their start. Small move. As you start here at the beginning of your design thinking process, one thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to start walking through the first three steps of the master plan process. A master plan remember takes you through five steps, dream discover, distill, draft, and develop. Now this doesn’t have to be onerous. The first three steps for you when you’re just trying to get started can be easy. I should note these are the same steps I would recommend to someone who wants to switch into high gear during a remodel. But if you’re starting small, take a more leisurely approach. For example, taking on the dream phase might be as simple as having a few chats with your friends or your partner about what kind of a life you hope to live in your new house.

Some of this will have already come up when you were house hunting, probably do you wanna be social or private? Should your house feel energizing or relaxing? Maybe both in different areas. Fill in the blanks. The more you know about these things, the more you have the gears you need in process to tweak or transform the house and the steps you wanna take will occur to you organically. Likewise, you are in the discover process. If you’re getting settled into a new home. So why not take it a little further, take a more intentional approach to learning how your systems work when the water softener needs to be replaced, um, how long you’ve got on your roof. As you learn these things, write them down, start to document the important need to know items of your house so that you can start to feel more confident, more in charge of the process as you deal with basic home maintenance or those initial remodeling questions, pulling together these pieces of data into an archive, into a Google doc, into a notes file on your phone is easy to do or easy to skip, but if you’ve done it, you’ll have set yourself up for future success.

And you won’t have to discover these things over and over through your lifetime in the house. And then the third step distill. Even before you have any intentions of making changes to your house, you can start to nail down what you like. This is where, uh, the resources guide can come in handy. Also the style quiz that I mentioned at the top of the episode, but it can also just show up in your daily life. If you walk past a house in the neighborhood and think it’s really cool, snap, a picture of it and put it in an album of house ideas while you’re scrolling on Instagram, checking out who your friends’ kids are doing. If you see someone’s front door, that looks cute, save the post and put it into a collection. Start a basic Pinterest board for your ideas, collect anything from across the internet there, you don’t need to do anything more than just capture these ideas when they occur to you rather than having to hunt them down later.

And you’ve already set yourself up for success. Okay? Temperature check. How are you feeling? You might be thinking, okay, that sounds like a lot. I just wanted one simple project I can do so I can feel happy about my home. If that’s you, I recommend you tackle your front door or for something even less permanent take steps to make a more mid-century vibe in your living room with the room recipe guide that I mentioned earlier, if you’re gonna tackle the front door, then I’ve got a free guide for that. A checklist of front door update ideas that you can get at midmod-midwest.com/front door. And if you’re tipping the other way and you’re thinking, oh no, I might be new to this whole home own and remodeling business, but I want to go. I plan to transform my house before I even move into it. Okay. That is totally doable.

Although I have a few caveats, it is possible to jump at a project with all your energy right off the back and make tremendous changes happen very quickly. It’s a little unrealistic, but if you’ve ever seen an episode of HGTV, you’ll watch how quickly someone can transform an entire house in a short amount of time. But there’s a risk involved in that. Sometimes changes made quickly end up not having the result you want. And I also have to call your attention to the classic design venn diagram. There are three qualities of any remodel and you can pick two time, cost and quality. If you prioritize shortening the time scale of your remodel, you need to watch out for a rise in cost or a dip in quality. Ideally not both for more on this or to see the venn diagram that I’m talking about. Check out the show notes page for episode 6 0 2 design your remodel before you set the budget.

Yeah, you heard me, right? I’ll tell you why in that episode. Uh, but basically just know that you can do things quickly, but it will cost a little more and you wanna be particularly on guard for losing out on mid-century charm while you do. If you’re hoping to dive in and update your new home right away, as quickly as possible, you’re going to have to be prepared to spend. And you wanna watch out for the risk factor of losing out a mid-century charm. Here’s one more reason to wait a little while. I often hear from new homeowners that even when they buy a mid-century era home, they often think of certain parts of it as pretty uncool. Then they do a little research into the broader history of the mid-century movement. And once they start to dig in, they find out they’re at their house.

Even if modest has some really charming features and some potential to expand on its mid-century qualities. So for example, if you’ve got a picture window anywhere in your house, that’s the sort of flightless bird version of a glass walled, California high midcentury home that separates the living part of the house from the exterior fence to pull backyard with just retractable wall. Obviously a picture window is not a wall of glass, but if you’ve got a picture window facing your backyard, it’s a perfect, no brainer opportunity to replace it with a sliding door. So as you start to learn a little bit more about the era of your house, it’s not only fun, but it starts to set up the ideas for where you can turn up the volume on the mid-century features you already have, or bring more features to the house. I’ve got resources that you can use no matter what your idea of fun is.

If you wanna watch movies, read blog posts, read books, check out shopping examples. I’ve got 89 of my favorite mid-century resources, all bundled together in a PDF checklist that you can grab after listening to the episode, go to midmod-midwest.com/resources to get yours. All right. So if there’s one thing I want you to take away from today, it’s that you can start small. In fact, I recommend that you do live in your house for a little while, figure out what you love about it and what you don’t. And you’ll be all the more prepared to plan your remodeling style. If you do wanna get started, then what you’re gonna want. My friend is a master plan to keep you on track. If you need help, even with starting small and the free resources I’ve shared, just aren’t cutting through your mental chaos, then I’d love to chat with you about what’s going on in your mind about your house.

Schedule a design consultation call with me by heading to midmod-midwest.com/services to our work with us page. You’ll find all of the links I just mentioned, and a transcript of the episode at midmod-midwest.com/902. All right, next week on the podcast, we’re gonna be talking about how to keep a mid model remodel on track using design principles of good mid-century remodels. You can use these ideas in large and small ways, but I’m gonna be talking about how you can play up asymmetry balance, a mix of new and organic materials, how you can identify the right simple shapes that highlight the mid-century style and how you can play up that essential inside, outside connection. We’ll be going through these key elements next week in the podcast. And the week after next, I’m gonna be doing a design series live on Instagram, where I walk through each of these steps in greater detail. I hope to see you there for that until next week. I hope you’re thinking about what you can do to start small or dreaming about how you’re going to jump into high gear and plan a perfect big remodel using of course the master plan method till then.