“The urge to remodel is stronger than the sex drive" – Gene Leedy, American architect, describing "improvements" made to his mid-century houses.
ELEMENTS OF MODERN DESIGN
Modernist architecture is a bit like motorcycling: you either like it or you don't. There rarely is an in-between.
Do you belong to the former and ask yourself if the home you own – or the one you consider buying – is actually modernist? This list of some common modern architectural elements may help you along:
TYPICAL DESIGN ELEMENTS
flat or shed (slightly angled) roof, no shingles
pronounced roof overhang
extensive use of glazing
clerestory and/or corner windows
geometric, angular appearance; often interlocking cubes or horizontal planes
smooth stucco, brick, stone or wood as exterior finish
subtle color contrasts, often using a subdued natural palette (if not repainted)
planters under breezeways and inside walls, or used as separators
open, flowing floor-plans with room partitioning sometimes by planters, half-walls or screens
unified central area, including living and dining room
exposed wooden or steel posts and beams
uncluttered, rather sparse interiors
flooring materials such as hardwood, cork, linoleum or terrazzo; no carpeting
lots of glass to create a connection between in- and outside
use of laminates, formica, aluminum, stainless steel, flagstone or concrete
Because of climate conditions, Southeast Florida architects brought their own flavors to Mid-Century Modernism, creating a derivative sometimes referred to as MiMo or Miami Modern. Forms were borrowed from Space Age, and colors sometimes from the Art Deco palette. Elements typical of Mid-Century Modern in Southeast Florida often follow functional necessities, such as to collect cooling breezes and to allow cross-ventilation:
floor-to-ceiling jalousie windows
cantilevered canopies and overhangs
walls punctuated by cutouts, so-called brise-soleils
Not too frequently in contemporary, but often in mid-century modern homes you encounter a mishmash of elements which have been added to the property over time. This is especially true if you deal with a property that has to be de-renovated - think Home Depot-front doors with fake Tiffany-style glass inserts, or wrought-iron gates.
If you consider restoring a modern home, researching the original building specifications, consulting with a specialist and identifying previous remodeling attempts will be tremendously helpful in returning the building to its original greatness. Think of the rewards: the daily pleasure and quality of life of not only looking at, but living in an architectural gem.