Mid-Century Modern(ization)

Redefining modern for a family-friendly home

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It’s Moving Week!

I remember when we moved into our first house we did it all in a single day.  We were fortunate to have tons of help:  Kirk’s family came to move boxes and furniture and my family came to help unpack and get us settled.  It’s no exaggeration when I say that by the end of the day our beds were made, the art was hung on the walls, and there was not a single box left to be unpacked.

That, of course, was before we had a child.

Children and packing are about as incompatible as you might imagine.  The moment I place an item in a box, Logan pulls it back out.  If I place the box out of reach, he stomps his little feet and pleads pitifully to be involved. Life revolves around this child and he will have it no other way.


We’ve adapted to this new reality by packing one or two boxes at a time–mostly while the tiny person sleeps–over the past month or so.  The benefit to this drawn-out process is that we’ve finally been able to get organized.  Our first home has only three closets which meant that a single drawer in the sideboard in our dining room housed bed linens, Christmas decorations, and the kitchen spatulas.  I wish I was kidding.

So, it’s been nice to take the time to get everything in its rightful place which will hopefully make unpacking a bit easier.  The only downside to all this productivity is that my chocolate stash already disappeared into one of the 9 boxes labeled “Pantry Items”.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…


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Sectional Shopping

For the first time we are moving into a home with two living spaces; a living room and a den.  The den is where I’ve told Kirk he can display his plethora of Orioles memorabilia and so it will certainly be the more relaxed of the two spaces.  It’s the perfect size for our current furniture–a modest 7′ couch and matching club chair–and so we’ll need to do minimal furniture shopping, if any at all for that room.

However, since we sold the two heinous second-hand couches that have been occupying our basement ($65 dollars! Holla!), we’re now looking at a very empty and massive living room space.  And you know what that means–sectional shopping!

While we’d like to stick with a style that reflects the home, we don’t need every piece of furniture in our home to be from the mad men era.  One or two pieces would be fun, but we think any more than that would feel forced and cliché.  That said, we don’t want pieces that are overtly traditional either–we think they would stick out like a sore thumb.  With that in mind, we have a few options when it comes to furnishing this enormous space.

We could go trendy:
grey stuffed

We could go retro:

We could go disco (not a sectional, but imagine a set of two facing one another). I secretly love this option!:

Or we could go crazy:


We really only have two criteria.  It must be comfortable and it must have arms for (maximum lounging potential).  I also love the idea of a dark grey couch.  Our current sofa set is off white and now that we have a little one I know its days are limited.

Our wallet has us considering the Ikea Karlstad.  I’m a little hesitant to purchase what will no doubt be a very well-used piece of furniture from a store not necessarily know for quality, but it has great reviews which makes me think we should at least go check it out and see how it feels under our tushies.  Plus it’s completely slipcovered for easy washing.

Behold the Ikea Karlstad:
YHL Karl

And check out this Ikea hack I found over at Our Mid Century.  They dyed their once white Karl dark grey to disguise stains,  tufted the cushions, and added tapered legs.  Pretty slick!
sofa grey

UPDATED TO ADD:  I went and checked out Karl in person and was saddened to realize that the sectional option (with the corner piece) doesn’t come in leather — which was far more comfortable than the cloth cover in my opinion.


Acclimation…Three Tons of Fun?

It’s time for the male perspective on this here blog, and that’s where I come in. My wife Olivia is the designer, refinisher, and brains of this operation.  She is also the more handy of us two, a statement it pains me as a man to admit. That said, I am most definitely the brawn.  And while my strength was never exactly in question, last weekend more than solidified my place as The Muscle.

We got the call early last week that the bamboo flooring we ordered was in and it needed to get acclimated with its new environment.  Sounds easy, but there was a catch…ok, a few catches.  First, we don’t own the house yet. Second, we don’t own a truck.  And third, we didn’t have a babysitter.

The one thing going for us was that the current homeowner has been nothing but accommodating and invited us to move the floors into the home ten days prior to installation (and settlement), per product specifications.  Sunday was the day, 12:30pm was the time, and every able bodied man we knew was busy.   No worries, I thought.  I had Olivia for help and it was only 2,000 pounds.

Here are the floors we ended up going with.  We originally wanted to go a bit darker but then we realized that might match too well with the paneled wall in the living room and den areas.  We decided to lighten it up for better contrast.


5/8″ natural strand solid bamboo

Enter catch #2.  We borrowed a full-ton pick-up to haul the wood thinking we had it covered, but the lumber warehouse had their own ideas.  Our flooring was not 2000 pounds, it was 5500 pounds.  And the nine 4-gallon buckets of adhesive were another 500 pounds.  That’s three tons.  My muscles and joints screamed at the sight of two huge pallets being fork-lifted toward us.  I instantly started to sweat, a reaction I attribute to the weight before me, not the 95 degree heat.

Two and a half times more wood posed a problem, a big one.  Making two trips was not an option due to time constraints and the warehouse was unable to deliver on a Sunday on such short notice–even if the weight snafu was their mistake.  We had to borrow another one-ton truck and fully load them both.  I spent 30 minutes in the parking lot carefully distributing the weight of the payload in the overloaded trucks to eliminate any issues.  The ten minute drive took 15, but there were no mishaps en route and the shocks held up.  I wish we had stopped to take a picture of the load in those trucks.

We were just a couple with a toddler in tow and knew unloading all this flooring would be interesting.  Grandma had just been down for two days so we could have a yard-sale and go to a wedding.  A third day of babysitting was not in the cards. The plan was to have our son with us and we could take turns watching him.  What were we thinking?

When we arrived at our new home we realized not having a babysitter was a big mistake.  Our well-behaved son soon turned into our extremely bored son.  He was not going to be cooped up in a room with Mom as she opened 88 boxes of wood flooring and he certainly was not going to roam free in the yard (remember the bomb shelter?) semi-supervised while I made trips back and forth to the house.  He would however, get into everything and try to escape his parents as soon as a back was turned.  We did the best we could and made a little progress before his meltdown.  The realization that little boys need naps and don’t like doing so in strange houses or pick-up trucks quickly settled in.

After an hour we decided that Olivia would take the baby home for a nap so I could maybe get this job finished. Of course, as this had not been the original plan, we had spent the last hour unloading the wrong truck.   The pick-up with the car seat in it still had over a ton of wood in its bed.  In a last ditch effort to get the baby home ASAP, Olivia hopped up into the truck bed and hoisted each box to me so I could move it onto a pallet in the driveway.  Not as productive as actually getting it into the house, but after 15 minutes at least she was free to take the truck.  The little one just stood there watching and eating his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Miracle of miracles.
2013-0620 (2)
When I returned to hauling the boxes inside (so thankful for those short bursts of AC) the current owners were watching the Orioles game.  I got to catch glimpses of the early innings with each trip and they shouted updates to me as I worked which was appreciated.  The hardwood boxes were easy to move one at a time for maneuverability.  Carrying two at a time came with the added risk of slippage and dropping a box so I made 88 trips in all, 62 pounds apiece.

2013-07-14 15.07.27

Bamboo, meet the master bedroom.
We’ll leave you two to get better acquainted.

The only issue with the wood was the sheer volume.  The real pain came from the “handles of death” on the nine 45 pound adhesive buckets.  My meaty paws constantly slid from the petite plastic handle pinching at every turn.   There were a few trips two at a time, until I nearly dropped a bucket in the slate hallway. My machismo took a back seat to common sense and I finished up one at a time.
I did a little dance when I was done moving the buckets, but I wasn’t finished.  The boxes were sealed in plastic and tape that would not allow for proper acclimation.  I finished up where Olivia left off and opened each end of every box so the wood could actually acclimate to its new environment. Using an Exacto blade with jelly arms made for some super crooked cuts, but the job got done.

Nearly three hours after I began to unload our floors I was exhausted, sunburnt, and proud.  I had won this battle; the flooring had succumbed to my strength.  I have pictures and a Slurpee to prove it.

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A Death Trap?

The more I’ve read about MCM homes, the more I’ve come to learn that they have a reputation for being hazardous for children. By design, these homes strive to bring the outside in, or at the very least make the segue between indoors and outdoors as transparent as possible. Sometimes this means glass railings, sometimes it means no railings at all.


Read this post over at projectophile for a good laugh on the subject. I almost peed my pants at least twice.

When we were looking to purchase our second house, we did see a number of homes for sale in the neighborhood with questionable safety elements. One actually had a giant hole in the middle of the living room floor that, upon closer inspection, was the staircase to the lower level. As you can imagine, with a one-year-old tottering about that was a deal breaker for us.

As for our home, there are two things that we will need to address immediately after moving in. One is the indoor planting bed. Yes, just inside the front door is a 5x3x1 brick planter currently filled with bark and silk foliage. Here are two photos from the MRIS listing before we moved in:



I like the idea of having greenery in the house, but we will have to teach the little one not to eat the bark. What can I say? He’s got a hearty appetite.

From a design standpoint, I’d love to swap the bark out for smooth grey stones like these (although that has nothing to do with safety–we’d probably have to teach him not to eat those too):


I’ve considered swapping the faux plants out with some real ones, but I don’t exactly have a green thumb. In fact, I think I may have already killed a potted plant gifted to us from a friend two weeks ago (sorry, Nicole!).

The second hazard is the bomb shelter out back. Oh, yes. We are now the proud owners of not only an MCM, but a bomb shelter complete with bunk beds for 24 of our closest friends (sorry, the application period is now closed). You know, for when the world ends. We’ll definitely share more on this later–Kirk has already imparted to me that he wants to write that post–but for now let me show you what has us concerned.


What you can’t see from this angle is that the top of this door is just below grass level at the end of our yard–meaning you can stand directly overtop this door and look down on the stairs below. I immediately envisioned our child chasing a ball across the yard and falling over the edge–landing hard on the concrete steps 8 feet below. We will likely put a fence around the entire thing, but at the very least we will plant some shrubbery above the door to stop anyone from accidentally hurdling themselves over and down.


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The Lay of the Land

I’ve never been a fan of the of a typical rancher–at least not judging from one’s curb appeal (or lack thereof).  But spend an afternoon with my husband’s aging grandmother who doesn’t have a bathroom on the main floor of her house and you will see how I began to see their appeal.  Feast your eyes on all that one-level living space. 2D Floorplan Lables
Since we haven’t had a chance to take a decent camera around the place, these floor plans I whipped up along with the listing photos will have to do for a few more weeks.  Eventually we’d like to give you a nice, official photo (or video?!) tour.  For now, we hope you will enjoy this little two-dimensional tour to tide you over.

Our new place has what our flooring installer calls the Great Room–a living room/dining room combination right off the entry with an entire wall of glass and three sliding doors leading out to the rear yard.  We love the windows because it lets in tons of light, but sadly, this is the one place in the house that doesn’t have replacement widows.living room

Sneak peek–complete with the previous owner’s furniture!
The bedrooms are all grouped conveniently together at one end of the house.  This is great for now as we want to be close to our young son at night.  Will we still feel this way in 10 years when his stereo is shaking the walls?  I suppose time will tell.
A master ensuite and walk-in closets galore sell the master bedroom space.  Just pretend you don’t see that blue toilet perched over there in the corner, m’kay?  Oh, and there’s certainly not a matching yellow one across the hall.  No siree.

Note: The bathrooms in this house deserve a post all their own.  We’ll get to that in time.

The kitchen and laundry rooms fill an unusually large allotment of space at the front of the house.  I suppose when this home was built a women’s place was in the kitchen, right?  There’s also a really awkward half bath through the laundry room.  Mom’s of the 50s could cook and clean the day away, but apparently had poor bladder control.  As perhaps you can tell, at least in it’s current state, I only see this as yet another bathroom to clean.

We have big plans for this area down the road, but we’ll be making only minor modifications for the time being.  With funds tight we’ll have to make do with simply replacing the pitted cabinetry hardware, removing the wall paper, and slapping up a fresh coat of paint.  Maybe we’ll even splurge on stick down laminate floor tiles that are a little easier on the eyes (it’s currently faux wood 12×12 laminate tiles that, sadly, couldn’t fool a blind man).

Luckily, the cabinetry is solid wood and in decent shape.  Yes, they’re a bit dated, but we think the original cabinetry has two things going for it: it’s true to the period and (say it with me now) they’re not laminate!  We saw so much laminate while we were house hunting it wasn’t even funny. Except when it was floor to ceiling yellow–complete with yellow range and a yellow refrigerator.  You’re right, that was pretty funny.

Sneak peek!
Eventually though, we see ourselves knocking down the wall to the laundry room and removing the return on the kitchen countertop to make one giant space with room for a long center island.  Maybe something like this:

Or, if we’re bold and brave, like this!

We’ve talked about relocating the washer and dryer to the back wall against the garage and maybe, if I get my way, adding some more cabinetry for storage (hey, after living in a house with three teeny closets wherein our toilet paper was stored under the bed, you’ll have to excuse my excitement over storage space).

The den is one of my favorite rooms.  You can see it from the foyer area and it’s wide doorway beckons.  Imagine my delight when we discovered the 4′ pocket door that closes off the space.  I don’t see us closing that door often, but I’m still tickled at the thought of stenciling a pattern on the hallways side–just to give a little surprise of color and cheer.  No photo of this yet–sorry.

The paneled wall that separates the den from the living room is one of our favorite features.  Here’s another listing photo for you.
Outside of this neighborhood we’ve never seen anything like it (though we came across two or three others when we were house hunting).  The individual squares slide up and down for either a customizable design or increased functionality.  We think it looks pretty sweet closed up tight, but I can imagine that back in the 60s and 70s those panels were often dropped to the floor for a more unobstructed space during social events and parties. This is a photo from another home with them open so you can see what I’m talking about (side note: how about that for a party couch, eh?):
Built in to the base cabinet on the den side of the wall is a turn table and vinyl storage system on one end and a dry bar for booze and glassware on the other.  These folks clearly kept it classy.

We’ll have to get hopping on that housewarming party.  Scotch anyone?

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First Look

I knew that we would buy this house from the first moment I saw the email blast sent to my phone:  “A new home is available in your preferred area!”.  The house had just come on the market and the listing didn’t even have  photos yet, but I had toured enough of these homes to know the layout from the description.  The price was on point, and …what was that toward the end of the blurb?  Replacement windows?  That’s $30k saved right there. Hook, line, and sinker–I was convinced this home would be ours.

I called our realtor.  I called my husband.  Then I called my mom and my uncle (moms are great for inspiration and encouragement, and if your uncle is the Director of Facilities for a local college like mine is then you know he’s handy to have around for these types of things).  An appointment was set, they would come.

We had toured about 20 homes at this point, mostly on the weekends when it was convenient for our family.  Not this time though, no, it needed to be immediately.  As soon as we got off work.  Tonight.

I pulled up to the house a few hours later, let out a “Squee!”, and snapped a picture.  It was better than I could have hoped.  The cul-de-sac was tree lined, the house was freshly painted, and the neighbor’s yards were all meticulously maintained.  Even better, the elementary school was only a few blocks away.  I posted the photo on Facebook:


The caption read: “Just pulled up and I think I’m in love! Please, House, can you and all your mid-century glory be mine?”

And that’s how it all began.