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Respectfully Remodeling your Mid Century Modern Kitchen

POSTED BY katherine mcbride COMMENTS

The lasting influence of mid-century modern design, coupled with the sheer volume of homes built during the 1950s & 1960s across the US means that there is an abundance of materials, finishes, and supplies available to help today’s homeowners reproduce an authentic retro look for their mid-century abode.

When people undertake home renovation projects, often the kitchen is a top priority. Finding resources to help create a period appropriate look for your home has never been easier. By taking your home’s best features into careful consideration, and finding a successful way to highlight them, you can create a cohesive look for the overall feel of your home. By being conscious of how, and why your home was originally designed the way that it was, you can arrive at a better understanding of the significant architectural era in which it was built.

Photo Source: dituttiicolori.net

Photo Source: dituttiicolori.net

If your mid century modern home has a kitchen in decent original condition, it can be a tough decision to update or make even the smallest changes. Conventional wisdom would tell you it’s best for you to leave it undisturbed, and for many reasons, this is true. Especially if you are planning on selling your home, or considering long term resale value. There are, however, valid reasons why it might be the right choice for your family, or your lifestyle to make changes to your home’s kitchen regardless of its condition.

In some cases, maintaining your kitchen’s original condition can come at the cost of functionality for your household. Like many lovers of modern architecture and design, the preservationist in me will be quick to tell you to leave well enough alone. But it’s not always this black and white. For many homeowners, function takes precedence over form when it comes to day-to-day living. Thankfully there are strategies for creating a respectful modern update to a mid-century kitchen regardless of its condition.

So, when it comes to renovation, how can you make sure that you are careful to maintain your home’s original character while at the same time make upgrades that will accommodate your modern life?

Photo Source: 360modern

Photo Source: 360modern

In the case of a mid century modern kitchen in the rare ‘pristine’ condition, taking a delicate and intentional approach to renovations go along way towards helping you achieve your goals, without taking a way too much from your homes original luster. Exercising caution and making only changes that you deem necessary to suit your modern sensibilities may be the most responsible approach.

Replacing outdated or obsolete appliances just makes good sense. Who could blame you for wanting to replace an energy consuming, water wasting old dishwasher in exchange for a newer more environmentally friendly, and efficient model? Swapping out inexpensive laminate countertops for more aesthetically pleasing and manageable stone countertops could make a world of difference in food prep, and clean up, so if it is within your means, why not?

Source: 360modern

Photo Source: 360modern

Making minor cosmetic changes can be a wonderful way to generate a significant impact, too. We have a host of building materials available to us today that weren’t available in the mid-century era. These resources are often higher quality, and more environmentally friendly than their mid-century counterparts. Truth be told, you may want to think twice before ripping out pristine solid oak cabinets in your kitchen. However, if your cabinets are made of particle board and beginning to show signs of age, or painted and not worth refinishing, installing something new may not be too outrageous of a notion.

If you are attempting only to make subtle changes to your kitchen, try adding a complimentary backsplash that incorporates a classic mid-century color scheme or motif. This can be a great, non-labor intensive way to add a fresh new feel, without compromising the overall integrity of your kitchen’s visual appeal. The addition of new pendant lighting with a mid-century look can be another appropriate choice.

Photo Source: Destination Eichler

Photo Source: Destination Eichler

There is one aspect of living with a mid century modern kitchen that even the most tasteful cosmetic makeover can’t fix. Dealing with a small, inefficient kitchen can be a huge burden that compromises livability. Layouts of kitchens built in the mid century era don’t always lend themselves well to the way that we live our lives today.

It’s no secret that kitchens of yesteryear have a tough time meeting the demands of today’s modern lifestyle. Even the most pristine and architecturally interesting mid century modern home on the market can be overlooked by potential buyers if it lacks it a kitchen with room to spread out.

In the 1950s & 1960s kitchens were not seen as the gathering place that they are in modern times. They were meant to be hidden away and out of sight. Kitchens were more of a service area than a central meeting hub of activity. Therefore, many kitchens in homes of the 1950s & 1960s feel cut off, tucked away behind walls, or offer only a minor glimpse into the dining areas if you peek down under suspended cabinets or through a small serving hatch.

Current design trends reflect continuously changing attitudes towards the role of the kitchen in the household. Today’s family views the kitchen as the nucleus of the home. A place to come together at the end of a busy day and connect. In addition to requiring more room to congregate, homeowners of today also require increased storage options for all our new gizmos and gadgets. Unfortunately, it is not always cost effective to alter a home’s original footprint to gain extra storage space, nor is it always a feasible option to expand.

Photo Source: 360modern

Photo Source: 360modern

Such is the case in my own 1963 house. Overall the home is perfectly functional for our lives, with one minor exception. Our tiny galley style kitchen, which is suitable for only one person to use at a time, makes preparing meals a constant dilemma for our family.

When purchasing our mid century home, we knew that the 1990s kitchen didn’t jive with the overall feel of the house.  We were determined to replace it as soon as possible.  During the planning phase, when we discussed whether we would consider altering the original footprint of our kitchen to make a more usable space, the preservationist in me stood firmly against the idea. After all, aside from our kitchen, the rest of our home was in such excellent original condition, who were we to mess with what wasn’t broke?

This is a decision I am always reminded of, as my husband and I fight for space every morning trying to prepare meals in a cramped space, while our toddler bangs pots on the floor. At the time when our home was built, the kitchen was not designed to serve as the hub of the home, and yet because of the way we live within the space, it still does. For this reason, my stance on altering a kitchen’s layout has eased up, to say the least.

The galley kitchen in my 1963 home.

The galley kitchen in my 1963 home.

Another typical dilemma the mid-century modern home owner faces, myself included, is that you have a home with a kitchen that has seen so many updates throughout the years, that it bears no resemblance to its originally intended appearance. If this is the case and you find yourself about to embark on a major renovation process, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. You are essentially starting with a blank canvas, and the sky is the limit. How you chose to move forward on this path can have a lasting impact on the value of your home and the livability of your space.

Taking a mindful approach and choosing to update your kitchen in a way that honors the roots of your home’s age can be just the ticket to adding long-term appeal. When deciding to choose a design aesthetic that reflects the era in which your home was built, you don’t run the risk of having your design choices becoming outdated. People won’t walk into your home in 10 years and think to themselves, ‘this kitchen is SO 2017’. Instead, you will be creating an aesthetic that is harmonious with the rest of your home’s best interior and architectural features that can be celebrated and appreciated for years to come.

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