Mid-century modern stirs passions

April 29, 2014
Kephart Community: Planning: Architecture in Denver

Where do you stand on mid-century modern design? Do you love it or hate it? In the San Francisco Bay area, a resurgence of interest in Joseph Eichler homes has the lovers and the haters riled up all over again. A couple of Bay area developers are updating the iconic homes to modern building standards while remaining true to the original design aesthetic. (Read more about their efforts here.)

Between 1950 and 1973, Eichler built more than 11,000 homes in the Bay area and parts of greater Los Angeles. Fans loved the rear wall of glass to the backyard, the central atrium, the open floor plan and the skylights. Others criticized the lack of windows on the front elevation, and there were problems with the flat-top roofs and radiant heating in the concrete slab, which took forever to heat up and cool down. The rebuilt Eichlers will be lighter and brighter and much more energy efficient. Still, there will be people who just don’t like them — or any mid-century modern houses, for that matter.

Doug VanLerberghe, principal of Kephart Community: Planning: Architecture in Denver, has always been a fan of mid-century modern houses. “There’s an inventory of them across the country, and they sell faster and at a higher price than other homes—though only to a certain market segment,” VanLerberghe says. “It’s a golden opportunity for builders, especially boutique builders.” 

Designers of new mid-century modern homes don’t have to be purists, VanLerberghe points out. “You can change it up a bit. Open floor plans—that’s what it’s all about.” He’s developed a series of homes for infill sites in neighborhoods that date back to the 1950s and 1960s. Look for plans and renderings in the October issue of Professional Builder. Love it or hate it, mid-century modern isn’t going anywhere.

Photo courtesy of Kephart Community: Planning: Architecture in Denver

Senior Editor

Susan Bady has been writing about the housing industry for 30 years. She is senior editor of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines, and produces the Design Innovation e-newsletter.  Bady has also written for such consumer magazines as Cabin Life and Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas