Mid-Century Magic! – Part 4

In this last installment of the 4-part miniseries, Julie Campbell, AIA, one of the principal Architects here at CTA, offers additional insights and suggestions for embracing and enhancing the Mid-Century Modern Architectural Style.
The topic of today’s post is:  BATH REMODELS and STORAGE SOLUTIONS – it’s personal.

We’ve talked about Mid-Century history, design elements worth cherishing, exteriors, interiors, and the most used room in the house, the kitchen. This issue, we will tackle the more intimate areas of the remodeled home: Bathrooms and… storage space.

The original bathrooms in houses of the ‘50s and ‘60s are really tiny by today’s standards… And dark! So here are a few tips that can make your bathroom feel more spacious, light-filled and luxurious. The main trick is to keep the space simple. And again, limit your palette of materials and colors.

Bathroom Tip: Keep Bath Cabinets simple and lightweight.

Contemporary “mid-century-modern” cabinets should be flat, without any paneling or fussy details. Trick: Install the vanity 10 – 12” up off the floor so that it has the appearance of floating above the floor; the space will seem much larger. Go even further in by extending the countertop beyond the vanity, that long stretch of counter will really make the room seem expansive. If space is tight, use small-scale plumbing fixtures. Semi-encastre sinks are great space-savers; they require only a 12 or 15” deep vanity cabinet. To increase light in the bathroom, consider putting a large window in the exterior wall of the tub or shower; install a vinyl window unit with frosted glass to ensure against rot and provide visual privacy. The result is a lovely calm, diffuse quality of light in a very personal space!

CTA Design Builders P4 Kit 1

CTA Design Builders P4 Kit 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photo at left shows a floating vanity, semi-encastre sink and a countertop that continues behind the end of the tub. Note the limited palette. Photo at right also shows a semi-encastre sink, and limited palette, but using more wood throughout.

Storage tip: Built-in Cabinets strategically placed are a wise investment.

Storage is the ongoing battle to be waged in making these homes more functional for today’s world; somehow we all accumulate a lot of stuff! From sentimental tchotchke to that backpack stuffed to the gills with daily necessities, there’s always a call to organize stuff better.  Our strategy is to design built-in cabinetry wherever there’s an opportunity, especially at key mess areas like entry zones and kitchen junk corners. Custom designed cabinetry that maximizes storage space in a range of types (i.e. drawers, shelves, cubbies, hooks, etc…) goes a long way in helping you keep the daily drop & clutter organized and in its proper place. Added benefit: Custom cabinetry also enhances the overall continuity and architectural harmony; after all, Mid-Century Modern is DEFINED by clean geometric forms, so we just can’t go muddling it up with clutter, even if it is our FAVORITE clutter.

So as a wrap up to our four-part series, keep in mind CTA’s Five Magic Points as you consider your Mid-Century remodel project:

5 GOALS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MID-CENTURY REMODEL:

1.  Think “SIMPLIFY!”
2. Remove superfluous ornament, especially anything from other styles and eras.
3. Express the structure.
4. Open up rooms with space and light… create larger social areas and connect to the outside.
5. Limit your palette of materials and colors to enhance continuity and spaciousness throughout.

And, of course, if you would like help with your Mid-Century Modern project, we’d be delighted to meet you at your house for a consultation!

Seattle Architects perform Mid-Century Magic! – Part 3

Part 3 of the series featuring Julie Campbell, one of the Architects at CTA Design Builders Inc., focusing on Mid-Century design and architectural history. She has given lectures on this topic around the region. This series of four articles will discuss strategies for remodeling your Mid-Century home in ways that respect the original architectural intention, capture the contemporary appreciation for Mid-Century design and integrate those classic elements with today’s modern lifestyle. With a little contemporizing and a healthy respect for Mid-Century style, you can give your home another 50 great years!

 Remodeling Strategies for Mid-Century Homes: The Kitchen

 The first two issues gave some architectural history behind this radically different housing style known as Mid-Century design, and an overview of typical architectural features. We went on to offer suggestions for appropriate exterior and interior improvements. This issue will focus on Kitchens. CTA Design Builders remodels many homes of this style, so we’ve become very familiar with the issues typically encountered, and truly enjoy breathing new life into these classics!

Almost every client comes to us with the same challenge: “Open up the kitchen so it creates a larger family gathering space and becomes the real ‘heart’ of our home!

A typical strategy is to remove a wall or two to open the kitchen up to the living/dining area and make it even more of a “great room.” As we mentioned earlier, these houses typically are well built, so removing walls is often very easily accomplished. But opening up the kitchen requires a lot of attention to the details…

Problem #1: Open, but not too open.  One particular challenge of creating any open “great room” space incorporating the kitchen is how to conceal the reality of kitchen mess, keeping it out of view from the adjacent spaces. We know everyone loves to gather around food prep, but when all that’s left of a lovely evening are the dirty dishes…

Solution #1: Screening elements. A good trick to achieve view protection against kitchen mess and other “necessarily cluttered working areas” of open space living is to create a screening element. We have found that a raised bar on the living room or dining room side of an island works very well to temporarily hide those dirty dishes.

Problem #2: Space – is this a great room or a bowling alley? Just opening up an area without considering visual and contextual continuity can create a feeling of cavernous uneasiness, not unlike sitting at a bistro table in a warehouse. It is our belief that you should never hear your friends say “oh look, I see where you ripped out that wall.”

Solution #2: Selective cabinetry for continuity.  Cabinetry that is open on one or two sides creates a feeling of some separation from the living-dining area, yet at the same time preserves the feeling of connectedness to the rest of the great room space. As there is so much cabinetry in a kitchen, it helps if other smaller pieces of the same cabinet style are also placed in the living and dining areas, such as a dining credenza, sideboard or window seat. This creates an overall feel of continuity in the larger overall space, filling it with the warmth of wood. And of course, adding windows in the kitchen and wherever else you can enables the now-bigger room to feel lighter, more airy, and better-connected to the outside. Put in doors to a deck – the bigger the better!

Here are some examples:

Look for the raised bar in both these kitchens. The beam above is where a former wall existed. Big new windows or doors to a deck create great light and connection to the outdoors.

Richlite kitchen Design CTA DEsign Build

Dwellized Dining Room 2 | CTA Design Builds

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two kitchens incorporate cabinetry that is partially open to living areas, creating a greater degree of screening, but still allowing for a sense of openness and connection. The non-kitchen side of the cabinets is designed for display or media functions on the living area side!

Urban Basecamp 3 | CTA Design Builds | Seattle ArchitectsMid-Century Sanctuary 4 | CTA Design Builders

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the Mid-Century remodel design goals of CTA Design Builders is to simplify the architecture and express the structure wherever possible. We suggest keeping the selection of materials and finishes to a minimum, as this will enhance the feeling of continuity throughout the house.

Next up: CTA Design Builders’ Mid-Century Magic – Bath and Storage Solutions!

Seattle Architects perform Mid-Century Magic! (PART 2 of the mini-series)

Part 2 of the series featuring: Julie Campbell, one of the Architects at CTA Design Builders Inc., specializing in Mid-Century design and architectural history. She has given lectures on this topic around the region. This series of four articles will discuss strategies for remodeling your Mid-Century home in ways that respect the original architectural intention, capture the contemporary appreciation for Mid-Century design and integrate those classic elements with today’s modern lifestyle. With a little contemporizing and a healthy respect for Mid-Century style, you can give your home another 50 great years!  

Remodeling Strategies for Mid-Century INTERIORS
Previously, we discussed how Mid-Century homes are enjoying a great surge of renewed appreciation these days; many home-owners are remodeling in a very contemporary manner, but keeping the mid-century “bones” intact for their inherent architectural appeal. This is the second article of four that will discuss strategies for remodeling a Mid-Century home. So what is it about these houses that made them so popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and now again today?! Well, back then for the first time in housing design, the floor plan was “opened up.” Interiors were suddenly more spacious and allowed for a completely different way of inhabiting a home. No longer did separate enclosed rooms divide the house up into small spaces; living, dining and kitchen areas were more connected, which encouraged a more communal family lifestyle. That was a HUGE shift that had repercussions in many other aspects of our culture, like cooking becoming entertainment! Other features that emerged – and stayed… Large windows allowing for more light in and great views out;

  • Simple palette of materials + lack of ornamentation = less maintenance and  more personalization
  • Less expensive building details meant the cost per-square-foot of a home was cheaper, so you could do more with less.

The same benefits are being rediscovered today, but with a 21st century twist! In our last 10 years of remodeling mid-century homes, the design challenges we receive from our clients are similar in nature: kitchens are still too small, not enough bathrooms, the front entry is narrow and tight, and never, ever enough storage. A typical strategy would begin with removing a wall or two to open a kitchen up to the living and dining area and make it even more of a “great room.” Enlarging the kitchen and incorporating an island or bar counter often is all that is necessary. For the most part, Mid-Century houses are well built, so removing a wall or two is often very easily accomplished. Check out this eye-opening transformation with just the removal of a wall:

Before and After

Dwellized Dining Kitchen | CTA Design Builds

We constantly look for opportunities to add more windows or openings to the outside in an effort to increase connection between indoors and outdoors. And getting more light into the house is always a good thing!

Before and After

Blue Ridge Living Room | CTA Design Builders

In our remodels we strive to simplify the architecture and express the structure wherever possible. We suggest keeping the selection of materials & finishes to a minimum, as this will enhance the feeling of continuity throughout the house. In a house where there is lots of open, contiguous space, this goes for color palettes as well.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Mid-Century Magic: Remodeling Strategies for The Kitchen!

Blue Ridge Dining Room Remodel | CTA Design Builders 2

Seattle Architects perform Mid-Century Magic! – Part 1

Julie Campbell, one of the Architects at CTA Design Builders Inc., specializes in Mid-Century design and architectural history and has given lectures on this topic around the region. This series of four articles will discuss strategies for remodeling your Mid-Century home in ways that respect the original architectural intention, capture the contemporary appreciation for Mid-Century design and integrate those classic elements with today’s modern lifestyle. With a little contemporizing and a healthy respect for Mid-Century style, you can give your home another 50 great years!

MID-CENTURY MODERN HISTORY

Some historical background is helpful to understand the radical change in architectural thinking that led to the Mid-Century style. Post-war design advances catapulted our world out of traditional architectural styles and into modernism. Contemporary residential architecture began playing by a whole new set of rules: buildings were functional, rational and devoid of ornament; designs incorporated clarity of structure, clean geometric forms, large expanses of glass, and very little ornamentation. Floor plans were simple and more open than the traditional home; decks became large and windows became even larger! Here in the Pacific Northwest, local architects embraced that bold new approach. Our vast stands of timber became their structural material of choice. Big views led to big decks, expanses of glass and big cantilevers. Constant rain (or relentless sun) led to deep overhanging eaves. Many of these innovative architects designed homes in the Somerset neighborhood of Bellevue that still grace its hillside today: Gene Zima, Lionel Pries, and Paul Kirk to name a few. Most mid-century homes in our region, however, were built in great quantities during the post-war housing boom by contractors who followed the design and building trends. You can see the similarities with the architect-designed homes once you start looking for the same simple design features – take a look.

Custom residence designed by Gene Zema, circa 1955

Custom residence designed by Gene Zema, circa 1955

Builder's Spec house in Somerset, circa 1961

Builder’s Spec house in Somerset, circa 1961

Unfortunately, Mid-Century Architecture hasn’t always been well-loved.

Sometime around the late ‘70s to early ‘80s, homeowners became conflicted between the memory of traditional design and the new modernism of their homes. Many residences underwent “updates” in ways that today in fact, make the home appear even more tired and outdated than if nothing had been altered in the first place.

How Mid-Century Architecture is setting current trends

Fortunately for these well-built gems, the architectural style of the ‘50s and ‘60s is enjoying a great surge of renewed appreciation.  “Mid-Century” is definitely a hot trend in both architecture and interiors these days!  Bellevue’s Somerset neighborhood is a very unique mid-century enclave, perfect for this study in Mid-Century Design. Developed in the 1950s, most all of the Somerset homes showcase some of the most well-preserved typical “Mid-Century Modern” residences in the Greater Seattle area. But many that succumbed to the “updates” of 40 years ago are crying for design relief, or should we call it contemporary restoration?  

Contemplating Contemporizing your Mid-Century Modern?

The first word of advice: SIMPLIFY!

Many homes were retrofitted with “traditional” elements such as shutters, divided light windows, stained glass doors, and craftsman light fixtures, in an attempt to make these homes look cozier or friendlier. These elements were totally out of character with their original style, however, causing the overall effect 40 years later to be even more disjointed and dated-looking. These things have to go.

Next step:  Analyze the Exterior.

Check your house for those typically Mid-Century features: clarity of structure, clean geometric forms, large expanses of glass, big decks, big cantilevers, deeply overhanging eaves. Usually these elements are worth preserving as-is and can be enhanced to good effect with a new paint scheme. Sometimes the only additional element needed to contemporize a mid-century exterior is to add a more obvious entry feature emphasizing the front door area. Finally, Mid-Century floor plans are usually simple and structurally sound enough to remove a few walls and create a more open spatial quality that resonates with today’s lifestyle.

More on this will follow in the next installment of Mid-Century Magic: Remodeling Strategies for Mid-Century Interiors!

1963 Spec house before remodel.

1963 Spec house before remodel.

The same house recently remodeled including a new entry canopy

The same house recently remodeled including a new entry canopy