Category Archives: What is MCM?

So What IS Mid Century Modern and How do I Search Online?

Suzanne wonderingIMG_1574

The problem is twofold – When I was first trying to not only nail down a description of the style to buy the kind of house I wanted to buy, I found it very challenging to convey what I was looking for in both searches and with realtors.  Is it Mid-Century?  Is it Modern?  Is it Contemporary, Ranch, or is it Mid Century Modern (MCM)?  What’s Atomic Ranch?

Trying to isolate Mid Century Mod homes for sale on the internet is taxing at best, although the popularity of the style has made it a bit better recently.  Trying to find things with which to feather that new nest with can be complicated as well.  There are 3 different but similar sounding categories; Modern, Contemporary and Mid Century Modern.     I want to state right here that there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these styles, it is simply a matter of preference.  That stated, this site is geared toward Mid-Century Modern which is its very own design aesthetic which pulls together designs from prairie to ranch. Form, function and melding with the environment.  Some call it Atomic and if you envision the space age we were dreaming about, rebounding from WWII, starting families where the emphasis was on hope for our futures filled with leisure activities and alot more FUN.  En Voila, you had these great home designs catering to young families that could, on a reasonable budget, live the dream!

First let’s review what MCM is not by briefly describing what Contemporary, Modern, Ranch, Mid Century and Mid Century Modern are.  Contemporary is today, what most home buyers are wanting, what is popular right now and as such, it is not limited stylistically.  It’s a clean look, unfettered by a lot of detail, rooted in the now and using the latest materials.  Here you may see Vessel sinks above counters, Dekton or Granite counters in the kitchen and baths.   The landscaping could lean more lushly or have none at all.  Sustainability and recycling materials is also showcased.   A modern home is similar in that it is newer construction. But here you will see a bent on taking what was done back in the 50’s and 60’s in the way of the best funkiness of the period and putting that great style into a newly minted showcase, all LEED certified, best new materials, xeriscaped and perfect.

Mid Century simply means the home was built during that time (40’s, 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s perhaps).  It contains period details relevant to that era, with retro colours on appliances, formica counter tops, alot of wood veneers and paneling.  The home may be a ranch style, (one story and  long) or it could be considered MCM,  depending upon additional elements, some of which are hard to place, but it’s a vibe thing.  A rancher can be ‘atomic’ or ‘modern’ because it has design elements that give it pop.

Mid Century Modern pop, has much to do with funky cantilevered planters, low slung roofs, window walls and car ports in the front, rather than a garage.  it is a bit industrial, commercial, with metal support beams,  window walls, atriums and patios.  Many homes, like mine, were  built around an Atrium or Patio.  For flooring, there was hardwood and cork used but also a lot of stone, such as bluestone and slate, particularly at entryways and  terrazzo.

The very best way to locate these homes online and learn them, is to google MidCenturyModern homes but also when searching available homes on the market, narrow the search to the era, i.e. 50’s, 60’s,  because otherwise you will miss out on opportunities to find a great home that has been miss-classified.  For example, one home I looked at, advertised ‘Early 60’s home with tile floors.’  The pictures told me it was Terrazzo on those floors and seeing it confirmed whether  it was ranch or Atomic/Mod.  Many are classified as ‘Traditional’ when the funky roof-line tells you otherwise.  A wise realtor is going to show case the home as MCM but if you are seriously searching, you will be doing a ton of legwork yourself and this will help you find your dream home.

For my searches, I also put in contemporary and Modern as well as narrowing searches by year/decade.  Try not to limit your search to say, ‘Terrazzo’, because while that may pull up homes that have it, it may also leave some out that have it too.

You’ve found said dream home but are not sure what to do with it, where to start the remodel etc, check out  Also check yourself….yes, put yourself on pause and let the vibe become absorbed into you for a good 6+ months.  Every home lives differently.  You will live differently in this home than you did in your last home or apartment so just chill and let the house tell you what it really needs over time.  If you are more experienced, the same thing can still apply here.  Do what is critical, such as an uneven atrium floor maybe, or if you know you are doing quartz counter tops in the kitchen, the laminate is shot, and you don’t want to redo with laminate, then perhaps  you proceed with those things you know and wait on the rest.  It is VERY easy to mess up a remodel on these homes which will cost you cool vibe now and resale later.  Some of the items in your home, the hardware, for example, bathroom consoles and the general woodwork for another, are hard or impossible to duplicate readily.  So breath, relax, pour a glass of wine and ponder a while.  I don’t mean to sound critical but dear God in heaven do not do above counter top vessel sinks in an MCM home.  The first problem at the hardware store is when something is too en vogue and everybody is doing it.  MCM is not that kind of house where every new and cool style of today, of contemporary, works well with it.  Don’t crush the vibe.  Watch some cool 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s films to set your mood.  Think linear, simplistic and natural in both landscape and interior.  Think marrying the outside with the indoors with uncovered (or carefully fitted with shades) floor to ceiling window walls, atriums and large patios with a few mod planters.  Think simple and private garden areas off the master, off the den, etc.  Don’t be in a rush.  It took me nearly 3 freaking years to locate my MCM dream home.  I got out bid, found the perfect home that was too far for my husband to drive to work from, or was way out of my price range.  Frustrating doesn’t even suggest the level of pain finding this home was for me.  But along the way I learned so much and by the time I located this Atomic Modern with Terrazzo floors and window walls, I knew exactly what to do to bring out its very best!  Cheers to your search! Keep watching for groovy finds and ideas here!  🙂