Southern California is home to so many iconic midcentury buildings thanks in large part to the Case Study House Program, an Arts & Architecture sponsored experiment in American residential architecture. From 1945 to 1966, the magazine commissioned some of the major, cutting-edge architects working at that time, like Richard Neutra, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, A. Quincy Jones, and Joseph Eichler, among others, to design and build inexpensive, easily replicated, and efficient model homes for the postwar housing boom caused by millions of WWII soldiers returning home to the U.S.
Not all of the original 36 Case Study designs were actually built, but most of those that were constructed are in Los Angeles, aka Hunker territory (another in San Rafael, Northern California, and one in Phoenix, Arizona, for good measure). Not all of those lucky enough to acquire such architectural gems know to carefully preserve the history of their home but when they do, the magic of simple post-and-beam construction may live and be passed on to the next generation, and the next, and the next. From California to Poland, here are 17 pristine examples of how to honor midcentury architecture.
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1. Pasadena Paradise
TAKE THE TOUR: Through this Pasadena, California, home's baby-blue front door to find a post-and-beam vision that truly takes your breath away, all set against the San Gabriel Mountains as the ultimate otherworldly backdrop.
2. Scandinavia Meets Santa Monica
TAKE THE TOUR: Inside this interior designer's updated midcentury in Santa Monica, California, where Scandi-style white oak flooring with a lye finish is a serious upgrade from the old wall-to-wall carpeting.
3. A Midcentury Icon
TAKE THE TOUR: Calling all Eichler superfans — the atrium, a common feature in Eichler homes, in this house has floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors, adding to its indoor-outdoor feel (and that dreamy Concrete Collaborative terrazzo tile flooring also helps).
4. It's All About the Furniture
TAKE THE TOUR: A midcentury lover's dream in the form of a ... 100-year-old flat in Szczecin, Poland? With access to rare vintage furnishings sourced from Poland, Denmark, and the Czech Republic, now it's all starting to make sense.
5. Proof: Drama Leads to Good Architecture
TAKE THE TOUR: Through this long-forgotten, totally hidden modernist gem by famed architect Albert Frey, who was hired while working nearby at the Racquet Club of Palm Springs in 1966 just to spite its overzealous property owner (juicy!).
6. Minimal, Earthy, and Amazing in NorCal
TAKE THE TOUR: "In this redesign, we aimed to have a reinterpretation of paneling: echoing the original concept, but making it more strategic," said the building Lab principal whose team optimized original wood paneling with better lighting, more natural materials, and less of a barrier to the outside world.
7. Detroit Home Returns to Its Former Glory
TAKE THE TOUR: Built in 1962, this Detroit home went practically untouched for decades, and while it had a generous footprint, the layout rendered awkward in a modern setting, so, you guessed it, they remodeled and brought it back to former glory.
8. 360-Degree Desert Views, Anyone?
TAKE THE TOUR: Bet you can't guess the shape of this epic, midcentury Palm Springs property in the Coachella Valley (the only hint you get is this puzzle of triangular and trapezoid-shaped windows, all custom created we might add).
9. Odd (and Useful) Objects
TAKE THE TOUR: Artist Julie Burton filled her midcentury Los Feliz home with useful curios, like, oh I don't know, a steel specimen cabinet and what looks like some tall, old-timey torture device but is actually a well-designed rowing machine by WaterRower.
10. How to Work with Midcentury Browns
TAKE THE TOUR: When fine artist Maureen Meyer first visited her future home, there was one word that came to mind: brown. Well, they kept the brown but see how chic it can become when fully embraced and adorned with crisp, modern furnishings.
11. Indoor Pool: A True Midcentury Must-Have
12. Texas Americana
13. Midcentury-Style Prefab Set in the Rocks
14. Always Keep the Midcentury Fireplace
TAKE THE TOUR: And see how this Portland couple made a classic midcentury property their own, while keeping gems like this double-sided brick fireplace that heats both the living room and kitchen, and adding in trendy elements like geometric tile backsplash.
15. Windows Galore!
TAKE THE TOUR: A creative director bought this once tired midcentury house close to L.A.'s gothic-style Shakespeare Bridge in Los Feliz and soon realized it wasn't reaching its potential, so they brought it up to snuff by adding huge windows for a better view of the iconic 1926 bridge.
16. West Elm Does Midcentury ... and It Works
TAKE THE TOUR: Palm Springs proves an ideal match for West Elm's modern, clean lines, with its midcentury modern architecture and vivid colors: Welcome inside the 2018 West Elm Pool House, a 2,700-square-foot pad built in the 1970s and ready for your next pool party (with a minimum 29-night rental and rates around $650 per night, no big).