Ways to Modernize Your Home

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Mid-century modern design had its heyday from the mid-1940s until the mid-1960s, when architecture and design were infused with the relaxed, yet utilitarian, ethos of the era. Designers did away with the formal filigree of yesteryear and instead sought balance between form and function by using man-made materials like plastic, molded plywood, wire mesh, plexiglass, fiberglass and Lucite in everything from chairs and tables to clocks. Glass and wood were also key materials of the era.

Apparently the style wasn’t actually coined “mid-century modern design” until Cara Greenburg published “Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s” in 1983. And it was sometimes known as “California modern style,” since so many living in L.A. and San Francisco enthusiastically embraced the style.

Today, people still love this design aesthetic for its comfortable, clean and uncluttered look, so read on to find out the top 10 ways to easily incorporate this style into your home:

1. Monochromatic Shade Color for Walls

To turn your home into a haven that exudes the sleek functionality of mid-century modern design, the best place to begin is with the walls. The goal is to brush on a color that makes the room feel calm and clean — think crème, beige, taupe or off-white. But if a simple white wall is too vanilla for you, don’t be afraid to paint an accent wall in lime, tangerine or chocolate. Color evokes optimism, which is why it was used in the ’50s and ’60s after two consecutive World Wars. It was a time of celebration.

2. Make a Statement

With mid-century modern design, less is more. This is especially true when it comes to choosing furniture. Instead of cluttering a room with countless items from the era, choose one statement piece that will serve as the room’s focal point. Perhaps you can splurge on an original Eames chair or set of Eero Saarinen tulip chairs? If those are too much for your budget, head to a local antiques store or garage sale and try to find a triangular glass coffee table with rounded edges, or flat rectangular couch. You can also incorporate artwork that is reflective of the period.

3. Shedding Light on Mid-century Modern Design

Changing a room’s lighting is a simple way to make a large impact. Hang a lamp on a chain to draw on the period’s use of form and function. Or try adding a couple of pole lamps topped with cone-shaped shades. Simple lines with a geometric futuristic feel characterize lamps of the era. George Nelson and Associates created the Bubble lampshade in 1952, which looks like a blimp turned on its head and placed on a simple steel wire base. It can also be hung from a pendant. Paul Henningsen also received accolades for his progressive retooling of the classic chandelier. Henningsen’s hanging lamp looked like a series of white concentric bowls hanging upside down from a wire.

4. Let the Sun Shine In

When it comes to windows, bigger is better. Large, expansive windows with simple or no window coverings allow the vistas of the gardens and fountains that have frequently been built into the floor plans of mid-century modern homes to be seen. They also add color and openness. In fact, the houses designed and built by Joseph Eichler were characterized by their post-and-beam construction, which placed support beams in the rooms so that the back walls could be turned into gigantic windows. Re-create this idea and let the sun shine in by eliminating window treatments and treating yourself to a full view of the outdoors.

5. Add a Wall Clock

Ever heard of George Nelson? When it comes to clocks of the period, he stands above the rest. He made clocks that looked like sunbursts, others whose hands pointed to colored balls on thin pins, and even others that resembled human eyes with the hour and minute hands stemming from the center of the iris. A number of other clock makers imitated his works, including Elgin, Lux, Westclox and Seth Thomas. You’ll probably pay about $400 for an original George Nelson today, but could pay as little as $10 for one of the imitations.

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