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Architecture basics: Midcentury modern homes

by Jackie Edwards 06/08/2024

If you enjoy open concept floor plans and a plethora of windows, mid-century modern homes might hold the key to your dream design. Mid-century modern design emphasizes simple yet functional spaces, a healthy integration with nature, and appeals to a wide variety of homeowners.

Here is a guide to the basic elements of mid-century modern architecture to help you recognize it and incorporate it into your own plans:

Building with flat planes & mixed elevation

You can recognize most mid-century modern designs by their clean lines and geometric shapes. Flat lines are prevalent over curved lines, and appear both in perpendicular and parallel at multiple elevations. 

Asymmetrical, flat roofs with varying heights are peak modernist architecture style. Indoors, you’ll find mixed elevations in the form of partial walls, sunken living rooms and cabinets arranged in varying heights.

Illuminating with large windows & glass walls

Natural light is essential to modern home design. Mid-century modern homes often include sliding-glass doors or floor-to-ceiling windows that blend the interior and exterior living spaces. Skylights or ceiling windows are also popular choices for bringing natural light into the living space.

A light, neutral color palette helps take the natural light further inside the home. White walls are common backdrops for mid-century modern interior design, which also include very minimal window decorations.

Combining natural materials & natural surroundings

Another hallmark of mid-century modern home design is the use of natural building materials, both inside and outside. Modern kitchens use granite countertops and natural stone for clean, functional surfaces. Wood furniture and architectural elements are unstained to show off the natural grain. 

Architects also use wood outdoors to create contrast with materials like concrete while still keeping a minimalist aesthetic. Other traditional materials are used to help the home and other structures blend in to the natural surroundings and blur the lines between interior and exterior.

The emphasis on function over form and the clean, simple feel of mid-century modern spaces are enduring aspects of this design style. While architectural trends blend and change over time, knowing these mid-century modern characteristics can help you recognize them anywhere you go.

About the Author

Jackie Edwards

Originally from Statesville, NC I grew up vacationing in the Myrtle Beach area and have been blessed to call it home for the last 21 years. An alumni of Appalachian State University, I have been a Realtor for 11-years in the Grand Strand area, and am licensed in both South and North Carolina. I hold several distinguished Realtor designations, including ARB, MRP, SRES, RSPS, SFR, and XCL. I love being involved in the Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors, having served on the Young Professionals Network committee, the Community Outreach committee, and am a 2022 graduate of Leadership CCAR. As a proud member of the Women's Council of Realtors Grand Strand, I had a role as the events committee chair for 2023 and now hold the current position as the 2024 WCR events director. I have also contributed as a board member for the last 9 years for the Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach and currently serve as treasurer. In my spare time, I love traveling, shopping, and spending time with her family, friends, and 3 cats.