How to Give Your Midcentury Modern House a Stunning Renovation

Do you dream of owning a picture-perfect midcentury modern home? If so, you're not alone. These iconic homes are beloved for their timeless style and unique charm. But if you're lucky enough to own one,...

Do you dream of owning a picture-perfect midcentury modern home? If so, you're not alone. These iconic homes are beloved for their timeless style and unique charm. But if you're lucky enough to own one, you know that sometimes a little renovation work is necessary to bring it back to its former glory.

Many midcentury homes from the '50s and '60s have undergone less-than-ideal renovations in the '80s and '90s. Balancing modern conveniences with midcentury authenticity can be a challenge. But fear not, we've got you covered. We've consulted with Denver-based real estate agent and investor Adrian Kinney, who specializes in midcentury real estate and has an impressive portfolio of midcentury renovations. Here are his top tips for renovating your midcentury modern house.

Know your midcentury history

One mistake many homeowners make is mistaking midcentury style for the true midcentury aesthetic. Kinney advises starting any renovation project with thorough research. Look for inspiration from the time period, paying attention to common materials, colors, shapes, and textures. By understanding the true essence of midcentury design, you can create a home that is not just inspired by the era but fully embodies its spirit.

Start with the essentials

Renovating the systems of your home might not be the most glamorous aspect of the project, but it is essential. Many midcentury homes have outdated roofs, electrical systems, HVAC, plumbing, and sewer lines. Updating these systems can be costly, but it's a necessary step to ensure the safety and functionality of your home.

Pay attention to the details

When it comes to renovating a midcentury modern house, the devil is in the details. Kinney advises focusing on materials and details that match the original design. Opt for brick, metals like brass and chrome, and genuine wood elements. Avoid trendy materials that may clash with the midcentury aesthetic. Kinney particularly recommends walnut for wood paneling because of its rich and elegant look. However, be mindful of potential clashes with original oak floors commonly found in midcentury homes. You can stain the floors or adjust your color palette to accommodate both.

Preserve the time capsule

If you're fortunate enough to own a time-capsule home that hasn't been heavily renovated, preserving its original details is key. Kinney suggests keeping as much of the original charm as possible, including cabinets and hardware. Upgrading appliances with retro-style options can breathe new life into an old kitchen. Kinney also recommends using geometric, repeating pattern backsplash tiles to add flair while maintaining the home's authenticity.

Embrace wood panel walls

For purists like Kinney, wood panel walls are a cherished feature of midcentury modern homes. If your home has well-preserved wood paneling, consider keeping it. To avoid an overly dark and dated feel, you can add brightly colored paintings, extra lighting, or additional windows to create a fresh and modern look.

Hunt down the perfect pieces

Whether your home is a time capsule or in need of a style upgrade, authentic midcentury furniture and decor can enhance its aesthetic. Kinney suggests scouring online platforms like eBay, Craigslist, and estate sales for original pieces. If you can't find what you're looking for, reach out to local craftsmen or look to Etsy for custom-made items. By incorporating original designs, you'll create a unique and conversation-worthy space.

Update the windows, if possible

Updating the windows of a midcentury home can be a significant investment, but it comes with long-term benefits. Kinney recommends replacing single-pane windows with double-paned ones for improved energy efficiency. If cost is a concern, look for a local window company that can glaze in double-pane windows. Focus on replacing windows in critical areas while leaving unique and architectural windows untouched.

Make it tech-friendly

Midcentury modern homes were designed to be homes of the future. Embrace this spirit by incorporating modern technology into your renovation. Add connected switches, plugs, lights, shades, and drapes to create a truly futuristic living experience. With today's advancements, you can easily install and connect these devices to create a smart home that complements your midcentury style.

Don't neglect your exterior spaces

The outdoor spaces of midcentury modern homes are an extension of the indoor areas. Kinney emphasizes the importance of making them usable, livable, and easily accessible from the home. Consider adding more doors or sliding glass doors to connect your home to the outdoor spaces. Integrate geometric shapes and various materials like flagstone, slate, concrete pads, and wood to create a seamless transition between indoors and outdoors.

With these tips from Adrian Kinney, you can confidently renovate your midcentury modern house while preserving its unique charm and character. Embrace the history of the era, pay attention to the details, and incorporate authentic pieces to create a timeless and stunning home. Your midcentury modern dream awaits!

Image Citations:

  1. The exterior of a midcentury modern house. Source

    • Caption: Kinney’s latest project is this 1956 Eichler-inspired located in Lynwood—a popular Denver midcentury neighborhood. When he purchased it in 2016, the home was a mishmash of ill-conceived updates begging for a refresh.
  2. The interior of a midcentury modern home. Source

    • Caption: In the Lynwood home’s kitchen, Kinney used Corian countertops, brass detailing, and Ikea cabinets with custom finished fronts.
  3. The interior of a midcentury modern home. Source

    • Caption: In his Cliff May prefab restoration, Kinney embraced wood paneling and opted for simple, small details—like authentic light fixtures—to add character.
  4. A bathroom in a midcentury modern home. Source

    • Caption: The master bathroom in the Lynwood home. Notice the terrazzo floors, walnut and brass detailing, and a period-specific vanity with light pink counters.
  5. The backyard of a midcentury modern home. Source

    • Caption: The outdoor spaces at the Lynwood property offer room for dining and a fire pit.