Mid-Century Modern, Palm Springs
The Mid-Century Modern (MCM) is more a period fashion than a house style. The Classive “Federal” and the Progressive “Brutal” are styles that have qualities unique to themselves. The Classive “Federal” is handsome, neighborly, bi-laterally symmetrical, alike a human body; the Federal partakes of Vitruvius’ architectural triad, “Firmness, Commodity, Delight”, it is friendly to humane ways of life, to the traditions of civil society. The Progressive “Brutal” is aggressive toward people, most often ugly, inconvenient to the human body, assaulting to the eye, overbearing and brutal to all that might be termed, “civil”. The Mid-Century Modern partakes of both the Classive and the Progressive, it is both humanly organic and coldly mechanic, and the MCM varies by region, some MCM regions are warmly traditional, some, coldly mechanic.
To its advantage, the MCM exhibits qualities beyond style, qualities that might partake of this Progressive, or that Classive style, and assemble the whole in some nonce form, alike Palm Springs Modern, or Capital Modern, the former of the desert, the later of the woods. There is, of course, the MCM of Florida, with its machinist, Deco qualities; the MCM of the Mid-West, with its prairie, Wrightian qualities; the MCM of the East Coast megalopolis with its urban, corporate qualities. Each MCM variation Americanizes the imported, modernistic European styles, making each Mid-Century Modern variation attractive, friendly to families, serviceable to automotive transportation and gadget innovation.
The 1925, Paris World Exposition, Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.
The 1932, New York Museum of Modern Art’s “Modern Architecture: International Exhibition”.
The 1939 New York World’s Fair, “The World of Tomorrow” with its Norman Bel Geddes (General Motors) “Futurama” exhibit, a scale model of an American city with skyscrapers, superhighways, and landing pads.
In 1946, Sunset magazine advertised Western Ranch Houses, “The ability to move in and out of your house freely … makes living in it pleasant and informal.”
The American, Mid-Century Modern is inspired by the Rancho and cabins of the plains, dear to American identity, adaptable to an increasingly mobile, middle-class life. The old ranch is made young again with easy indoor-outdoor living, sliding glass-doors, patios and grills, convenient kitchens, and the freedom of an open floor plan.
Mid-Century Modern, Characteristics
Typically one story when in the desert, split or two level in the suburbs. Mostly asymmetrical, rectangular and horizontal.
A flat or low-pitched roof, often with a cantilevered overhang.
Often, floor to ceiling glass in the public rooms, horizontal glass in the private rooms.
Structure and Materials
Of block in the desert and city, of wood in the suburb. Construction is often modular, especially in “metal” houses. Glass walls in post and beam construction. Materials are often contrasted, as in the juxtaposition of bond and board directions. Substantial chimneys of stone or brick; if not a chimney, a commanding wall. The whole usually at rest upon a concrete pad.
Space and Floor Plan
An “open plan”; the kitchen, dining, and living rooms often a continuous space; bedroom groups separated from the living rooms. Carports are typical, though garages are common. Basements and attics are rare, except in the ranch variations.
Often formal in front, and glass paneled; a private entrance to utility rooms from the carport or garage; sheet or sliding-glass doors opening to pool or landscape.
Ornament is stripped, minimalized or avoided.
In the desert, predominately white, punctuated with bold, primary colors; in the woods, earthy browns and greens; in the West and Mid-West, natural tones; in the East Coast, machine colors are common.
In sympathy with nature, often intimately integrated with the landscape.
*for a detailed history, see “Your House: Style and Period, Mid-Century Modern“.
Mid-Century Modern, Palm Springs Features
This Mid-Century Modern home is suitable to desert or woods, Palm Springs or New Canaan, easy, comfortable, affordable. And private: this home, formal in front, opens in to itself and its gardens. The glass sheet-walls synthesize outdoor with indoor, wedding the built to the natural, happily. Separate zones decrease energy use, and the whole can readily be net-zero. Here, the wall between man and nature is glass-thin, a glass that can be slid aside to allow the outside, in. The master bedroom looks to the pool, opens to a generous bath with an indoor-outdoor shower. There is a garage with work-table, and a mud-room. The public room welcomes kitchen, dining, living in a single, family friendly room. The dogtrot between structures is designed for ease of grilling and serving. The twin structure might have two bedrooms, a bedroom and office, or the whole might be given over to an in-law suite, or rental. The ceilings are high, the expense in furnishings is low, the construction cost is simply, affordable, easy for first-time buyers and retiaries. Likely, you will notice of this house that the cold qualities of the modernistic Mies-machine are warmed by the homey Appalachian tradition of the dogtrot, that breezeway that cooled hot and steamy Southern houses, a cooling welcome in both dry desert and swampy DC.
The Beautiful Home, Plan #55
1,497 Total Int. Square Feet
Concrete and Stucco
Common Room 16’-0” x 33’-6”
(Kitchen in Com-Rm 16’-0” x 10’-0”)
Master Bedroom 13’-6” x 19’-0” (incl walk-in)
Walk-in Closet 4’-8” x 6’-8”
Master Bath 13’-0” x 6’-8”
Bedroom 2 16’-0” x 12’-0” (cl. 11’-0” x 2’-8”)
Bedroom 3 / Office 16’-0” x 10’-0”
Bathroom 2 11’-0” x 6’-0”
Guest House Hall 5’-2” x 10’-10”
Bathroom / Laundry 4’-8” x 7’-6”
Mud Room 8’-0” x 7’-6”
Garage 13’-0” x 23”-6”
Dog-Trot Room 17’-6” x 34’-3”
Dipping Pool 23’-0” x 12’-0”
potential separate public entrance for home office
tech closet included
energy efficient design
open floor plan
economical to build
main floor bed & bath
main floor laundry
separate HVAC zones
Exterior Wall Construction SIP or CFR
Roof Framing beam and truss
Roof Pitch flat
Ceiling Main 9’-6”
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